Brand Naming: Ideas, Strategy and Process

Brand naming is perhaps the most challenging step and the most critical in the brand identity design.

After all, the decision ultimately determines the course of the business.

Sure, the late Steve Jobs named his now-successful company Apple when he was doing one of his fruitarian diets, but he also chose it because he thought the name was ‘fun, spirited and not intimidating’.

Apple’s name set the stage for their brand.

It enabled them to build this entire lifestyle that consumers so passionately want to be a part of, which is what also propelled them to where they are today.

The same goes for other well-known brands such as Google, Disney, Facebook and Starbucks.

They were not overnight successes.

At some point, all they had was a name and a dream.

However, today, without any explanation, consumers immediately know what these companies stand for.

Reaching such a status is a slow and gradual process.

Moreover, brand naming is one of the fundamental elements that can guarantee that this long and arduous process leads to success.

Naming a brand is not something you do with a small committee after a few brainstorming sessions.

It entails a systematic approach and a whole lot of creativity.

When done right, the name can either help brands connect with consumers on an emotional level, or it can appeal to their sensibilities.

Today, you will get to know the brand naming process.

You will learn the necessary approach to selecting the right name and what you can do to test prospective labels.

Five Types of Brand Names

1 — Experiential Names

Experiential brand names are all about the consumers’ experience.

Take Apple for instance.

They build upon what consumers feel when they own and use Apple products.

That is basically how experiential names can stand out in their industries.

They set expectations of what it is like when consumers choose their company or product.

However, connecting meaning to the name itself is also the biggest obstacle when it comes to creating an experiential brand name.

To be able to create an impactful brand name, companies must first define what they stand for and how they want to be perceived.

2 — Descriptive Names

This simple naming convention entails using a name that describes the company’s products or services.

These names make it easier for consumers to remember what the brand offers.

An example of this is PayPal, which is an online payments system.

Related Post: How to Build a Powerful Brand for Your Startup

Another well-known company that belongs to this category is Subway, a name derived from their primary product, submarine sandwiches.

The downside to this practice is that when companies are not able to back the name up with the right marketing and advertising strategies, it would be straightforward to fade into the background.

Subway, for instance, can refer to other things, including a rapid transit rail system and a British rock band.

3 — Acronyms

Brand names that fall under this category are abbreviations of descriptive names.

For example, BMW stands for Bavarian Motor Works, IBM for International Business Machines and KFC for Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Acronyms are more natural to say and remember.

However, they may not be as effective in evoking meaning or feelings as experiential or descriptive names.

Acronyms work best for large corporations or brands that have already established a name for themselves under their full names, like BMW.

However, for start-up companies, this practice should be avoided as the random mix of letters may only lead to confusion or indifference.

4 — Neologisms

Companies who use made-up words to represent their brands exude a sense of uniqueness.

When developed correctly, it should give them a competitive edge.

However, choosing the right words can be tricky since not all invented words will be able to make such a substantial impact.

Also, during the initial phase of the company, these brands do require more marketing effort to become recognised.

Google, Twitter, Xerox and Kodak are some of the most iconic brands to ever concoct a name that would embody what their respective companies stand for.

5 — Founders’ Names

The naming practice for this type is pretty straightforward.

It uses the name of the person who started the company.

One of the most famous examples of this is Disney, which is named after the man who started it all, Walt Disney.

Note: Brand naming may involve the use of several of these conventions.

The best example for this is IKEA, which is a neologism and an acronym of the founder’s name and his hometown — Ingvar Kamprad, Elmtaryd, Agunnaryd.

Mapping the Competitive Landscape

Begin the brand naming process by mapping the competitive landscape of your brand.

Make a list of all competitors within your niche, both direct and indirect.

Next, divide these companies into five categories: experiential names, descriptive names, acronyms, neologisms and founders’ names.

Now, look at your list, and identify the trends:

  • What are the most popular naming conventions?
  • Do the brands fall into one category? Or are they hybrids?
  • What attitudes do their names embody?
  • What names stood out? And why?

Related Post: 8 Tips for Streamlining Client Communication

By doing this first step, you should be able to know what you are up against.

It also makes it easier for you to set some guidelines for the naming process.

Setting Your Brand Naming Guidelines

To ensure that the brand name stays true to what the company represents, you must take a moment to reflect on what you want your brand name to symbolise and how you can use it to support your business.

Think about the kind of brand experience you want to offer to consumers.

Ask yourself: What do you want to promise them in the long run?

How do you want to stand out amidst such fierce competition?

What standards should the brand observe?

What should you avoid?

Once you have reflected on that, come up with a set of guidelines that your brand should adhere to when you start brainstorming for names.

Strategic Brainstorming

Come up with as many ideas as you can just to get those creative juices flowing.

If you do not know where to start or if you get stumped along the way, take out the set of guidelines that you made.

That will help steer you in the right direction.

To further narrow down your choices, you can practise focused brainstorming.

Ask yourself a few questions that are relevant to your brand, like:

  • What products do you sell?
  • What services do you offer?
  • How can your products or services benefit consumers?
  • What’s unique about your products or services?
  • What is your brand’s mission?

Don’t limit yourself to what is obvious.

Feel free to entertain the endless possibilities.

Pick up your favourite book.

Open a dictionary.

Explore as many words as you can and remember to write everything down on a pad of paper or take notes on your phone.

Acquiring a Domain Name

Part of the naming process is zeroing in on a domain name.

Finding a .com domain name can be quite the challenge, even if you have made use of unique word pairings.

However, if you are using made-up words, this step should more likely be a breeze.

Even if a lot of the right names that you thought of have already been registered, you should not lose hope.

You can always opt to purchase some registered names that aren’t being used on marketplaces such as GoDaddy Auctions and Sedo.

Creating a Short List of Names

Take the list of names you have compiled from brainstorming and reduce the number to 10 or 20.

So you can figure out which ones hold more depth, opt to show the list to other people.

Ask them to select their top five favourites.

Related Post: Is your Logo Design up to date?

You can also personally go through that list again but with a fresh perspective.

And this time, you should listen to your gut, and drop the names that you feel aren’t good enough, even if that means cutting the entire list.

This point of the brand naming process is quite humbling.

Although you might find a handful of great names, you could also realise that the whole set is not good enough.

If you ever experience the latter, just remember that it is not a setback.

You should never compromise and pick a name from the list so that you can get through with it.

Testing Your Brand Name

Once you have that short list of names, you can check their balance and readability using the Helvetica test.

Print the names on your list in huge capital letters in Helvetica Neue Bold, and hand them out to people for evaluation.

Ask them:

  1. What comes to mind when you read each name?
  2. What is your favourite? And why?

Days after you asked for opinions, go back to those people and ask them to recall the names that they reviewed.

Remember which names stood out and consider how easily they were able to remember the names.

When it comes to this brand naming test, the more people you can get to critique the list, the better.


Testing names are as important as discovering your options.

And much like the latter, it can either lead you somewhere, or it can lead you nowhere.

Hence, set a reasonable time frame for the process so you can further explore the possibilities.

Set an hour a day so you will not stress about it, and you can wake up the next morning with even better ideas.

Remember that a good brand name is the key to success in your industry, so invest your time, and trust in the process.

Author Bio: Callum Mundine is part of the marketing team at He is an Amazon marketplace & white hat link building specialist and has launched multiple successful brands on Callum like his eggs boiled.

If you wish to discuss how we can develop your brand or provide graphic design for your product or business, email us:

Inkbot Design is a Creative Branding Agency that is passionate about effective Graphic Design, Brand Identity, Logos and Web Design.

T: @inkbotdesign F: /inkbotdesign

Originally published at on April 16, 2018.

Inkbot Design a Creative Graphic Design Agency in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Experts in Logo Design and Branding.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store