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#Company Naming #Brand Name

The Guide to Company Naming Strategy

Devon Butler

Having a recognizable company name is paramount to the long-term success of any business. Even more so, maintaining customer awareness is crucial to cementing your company in the public consciousness.

What’s in a name? (I know, every copywriter thinks they’re Shakespeare) but really, what makes the name of a company meaningful? What makes a company name unique and stand out amid a crowd? Similarly, what can a name convey to consumers? 

In October 2021, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook would be changing its name to Meta. The intention of this large-scale company name change was less about better representing their brand identity and more about distracting the world from their various misdeeds. 

That’s the beauty of a company name, it encapsulates their intentions, their goals, their values. Yet it can also prey off this idea to mislead consumers or rebrand in order to manage a PR crisis. 

In many ways, the Facebook to Meta name change is a perfect example of what not to do; how not to tackle negative press and how not to name your company. Whether you’re naming a company for the first time or considering a complete business rebrand, this process shouldn’t be rushed. 

There are many steps to ensuring a distinct brand identity and executing a successful company naming strategy. Not sure how to start? We’ve compiled a helpful guide to naming your company.

In this article we will cover:

  • Company Naming Strategy
  • Guidelines for Naming a Company
  • Process for Naming a Company
  • Best Company Names
  • Company Naming Help With ThoughtLab

So please exit the Metaverse and let’s take a closer look at how to ensure your new company name isn’t the source of endless confusion, ridicule, and memes.

Company Naming Strategy: What Does It Mean?

Having a recognizable company name is paramount to the long term success of any business. Even more so, maintaining customer awareness is crucial to cementing your company in the public consciousness. That’s why company naming, especially when not done correctly, can be tricky. 

There are numerous ways to go about naming your company, but each requires a robust strategy. In order to understand naming, we should first understand what it means to have a well defined brand. You’ll want to ask yourself several questions, like how do customers relate to your company? What sets your company apart? How do you tell your company's story? 

A successful brand encompasses all these aspects. Your brand is your logo, name, and font, yes, but also the language you use, your tone of voice, how you identify with your audience, and so much more. 

Naming (or renaming) a company, by this logic, can change the very core values of your brand. It can be small or large but regardless, it’s a refresh that requires thought, purpose, and strategy.

Guidelines for Naming a Company 

There are many things to consider when naming or renaming a company. The first place to start however, is to consider why you’re naming your company, this will fall into two categories: 

First Time Naming: This applies to you only if your business hasn’t been launched yet. Whether it’s a new offshoot or subsidiary of a larger company, or a brand new one, you need to come up with a name for your business. 

Rebranding: You already have a business that’s been operating and launched to the public but no longer want that name.

If you fall into the first time naming category, we’ll cover best practices for naming your new company below. If however, you already have a company name and are considering renaming, consider this: rebranding your business shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s a costly and time consuming process so it’s essential that you are tackling this project with the best of intentions. 

Just as there are numerous reasons to rename your company, there are plenty of reasons not to. It’s important to first ask yourself why. Why are you looking for a new name? What is the purpose of renaming? What do you hope to gain from a new name? Uncovering the ‘why’ will help give you clear objectives and set expectations. Here are a few key indications that you might be seeking a new name: 

Change In Services: Brand names can often become synonymous with specific services. If your company has updated its offerings, shifted industries, or expanded into new markets and locations, your current brand may seem irrelevant or outdated. For example, Dunkin’ Donuts rebranded as simply ‘Dunkin’ to make it clear they offer much more than just donuts.

Audience Relationship: If you feel your name isn’t resonating with your target audience or you want to appeal to a new audience, it might be time for a rename.

New Business Ventures: This can include anything from expanding your service offerings, entering a new international market, merging/de-merging, or a major change in corporate leadership. All of these executive changes will impact how an audience relates to the company and renaming may be necessary to reestablish yourselves.

Bad PR: Make one (or many) mistakes, even through an association with another company or brand ambassador and you’ll find yourself targeted by the public. A quality rename can function like putting your perfectly running engine into a new car. It keeps it running, just with different packaging. Sometimes, a bad reputation doesn’t have anything to do with your actions as a company. For example, the growing body positivity movement led Weight Watchers to rebrand as WW, a wellness company.

It Wasn’t Done Right The First Time: Surprisingly, a huge chunk of company rebrands aren’t related to any of the above factors but rather, that the original naming/branding just wasn’t done right the first time. It takes research, care, and expert execution to create a rockstar brand. Sometimes you need to try again and spend more energy crafting a strategy to ensure it gets done right.

On the flipside, there are many reasons for renaming your company that may not be worth it. When thinking about renaming or rebranding your company, consider the following poor reasons:

What About Gen Z?!: Renaming your company simply to generate buzz among a younger audience is a slippery slope. Primarily because, there will always be a newer, younger generation. You can’t possibly rename your company every time a new audience comes on the scene. You don’t need to blow up on TikTok, there’s plenty of other ways to advertise.

(Really) Bad PR: Yes, bad PR was on the list for good reasons to rename your company, however if there’s really bad PR, a rebrand won’t help. In fact, it can do more damage since it can often appear like a band-aid solution *cough Facebook* instead, if there’s a serious public relations crisis it’s better to address the problem head on and seek solutions to remedy the poor publicity before thinking about changing the company name.

Keeping Up With Competitors: Remember a few years ago when suddenly every brand changed their colors to millennial pink with a name that had an ampersand in it? It already seems dated. That’s because it was merely a trend. Trends are always going to appear, but you never want to be following trends or renaming simply because your competitors are. Instead, focus on creating timeless branding that won’t go out of fashion.

No business will be likely to succeed, regardless of a killer name, if there is no purpose or rationale behind it.
The Experts

Process for Naming a Company 

From outlining your company’s mission and objectives to getting internal approval to finally promoting your new brand name, knowing how to name your company can be overwhelming. The process is a lengthy one that should involve high-level strategy, expert research, and tons of collaboration. 

This is your story and you need to ensure it’s told the right way. Not to fear, armed with the right partner and a thoughtful strategy, success is in your future. To help with this process, we’ve created a handy naming checklist to start your journey off right.

  1. Identify Company Goals: Finding your ‘why’ is essential. No business will be likely to succeed, regardless of a killer name, if there is no purpose or rationale behind it. If you already have clear values and key brand cornerstones, it’s still worth discussing how these are relevant to your naming strategy. You want your company to be as genuine and concise with its audience as possible, so it's beneficial to identify your core beliefs as a first step. These goals, values, and missions will serve as the foundation for your messaging strategy and your name. 
  2. Service vs. Style: How do you want your brand to be perceived? We can break it down into two categories. One, you want to convey the services your company provides (ie: Lyft, Instacart, Books-A-Million, Petsmart) or two, you want to create a sense of excitement and style in your uniqueness as a brand (ie: Pandora, Allbirds, Summer Fridays).
  3. Establish Your Audience: After conducting extensive research and data collection, it’s good to establish who your audience is and consider if you want to target a different one. Look at demographics, create brand personas and assess this data to tell you who your audience is and where they spend their digital time. Once you’ve identified your target audience you can consider names that will better connect with them. It’s important to remember your brand name needs to resonate with your ideal customer profile and audience. A good way to test this is to give your company names to a focus group and see how they respond. 
  4. Use Descriptive Words: Not sure how to get started brainstorming your company name? A great place to start is looking up descriptive words that relate to your services or products. For example, if you’re a wealth management company you might want to consider words like “secure,” “private,” “boutique,” and “luxury.” 
  5. Company Name Ideas: To create a unique company name, here are a few places you can start: Use first or last names from company founders, Use a single statement word, Use a metaphor, Use a greek or latin name, Consider the heritage of the industry or business, Create an acronym.
  6. Create A Shortlist: You’ve identified your audience and established clear goals for your name and you’ve brainstormed a ton of standout ideas. Congratulations! Before you bring it to executives, slim down the list to 5-10 great brand names. Keep the others in your back pocket just in case, but you want to only put forth a few options.  
  7. Take Care of Logistics & Legal Stuff: So, you’ve created your short list of cool names. Now, and this is important, before you ever show them to another living soul, make sure those names can actually be used. You might think ‘Staples’ is a great name for a restaurant that serves just the basics (shout out 30 Rock for that joke) but shocker, it’s already a trademarked name. From other established company names to trademarks to domain names, you want to ensure your new company name or website address doesn’t already exist. If you’re in the clear, you’ll want to obtain new URLs and trademark any names associated with your company asap. It’s also worthwhile to Google your short list of names and see what kind of results you get. 
  8. Review With Stakeholders: It’s important to get feedback from internal stakeholders and executive leadership early on to ensure you’re heading in the right direction. Often, it’s helpful to talk through how you arrived at specific names and ideas to better tell the story of a company.  If you are the leadership (good for you) it’s still important to get feedback from your team. You might be too close to naming the company and have some blind spots so it’s important to be open to feedback from others.  Similarly, keep in mind that you should be testing your brand name with a group that fits your Ideal Customer Profile and audience. This ensures that you’re not biased by only getting internal feedback

Best Company Names 

There are countless examples of awesome company names, but we’ve compiled a few to get your creative juices flowing and inspire you on your company naming journey.

Cisco: Not sure exactly what Cisco means? It’s simply short for San Francisco. A clue is hidden in their logo which resembles the suspension cables on the Golden Gate bridge.

Whole Foods: This name perfectly encapsulates what they sell while also setting themselves apart from other grocery stores by saying “Publix sells bad-for-you half foods, we sell good-for-you elevated whole foods.”

Groupon: The beauty is in the simplicity. This name tells consumers exactly what their company is and what they can expect.

Crate & Barrel: A great example of using heritage to influence a name, Crate & Barrel was named after the materials originally used to display items in the company’s first store.

Sephora: A company name so good and synonymous with cosmetics you probably haven’t even stopped to consider how they got their name. Sephora is a combination of two Greek words: “sephos,” a word meaning “pretty,” and “Zipporah,” the wife of Moses, known for her beauty. 

Tesla: Named after Nikola Tesla, the inventor of the induction motor and alternating-current (AC) power transmission, his name is synonymous with innovation and electricity. 

Samsonite: Named after the biblical character, Samson, who was known for his strength.

Other Great Company Names:

  • Allbirds
  • Patagonia
  • Glossier
  • Slack
  • Blackrock
  • Sony
  • Saje Wellness
  • Hive
  • Madewell
  • North Face

Company Naming Help With ThoughtLab

Whether you want to tweak your logo and name or are building a company and brand from scratch, the strategies and steps outlined above will give you an excellent place to begin. 

Of course, it can be overwhelming to get started, even if you’re familiar with naming and rebranding strategies. That’s why it’s helpful to find a knowledgeable partner to take many of these efforts off your to-do list. 

ThoughtLab offers boutique marketing services that range from effective SEO and emotive copywriting to branding services and engaging web design. 

Contact us today for a free consultation and let’s create an unforgettable brand, together.