Brand Naming: You Can’t Sell it Until You Put a Name on It

You have a concept for a product and a business plan — or maybe you already have the product or service, itself, all ready to go. But, you can’t market a product or service without a name. It’s the single-most important aspect to your marketing strategy, so it’s imperative that you choose wisely. If you have kids, chances are that you thought long and hard about what to name them… you looked at every angle: Would other kids make fun of them on the playground? Would it be a name that could transition from childhood to adulthood? Would there be any nicknames? How does it sound with your last name? Do the initials spell something embarrassing?


A name that can grow with your brand

You need to consider all the same issues, and then some, in choosing a name for your brand. For one thing, the name needs to be able to withstand the test of time. Consider the current popular baby names: Aiden, Violet, Grayson, Avery… they’re trendy now, but think of how they will sound when they’re 30, 40 or 50 years old. Similarly, when the dot-com boom took place in Silicon Valley, brands were popping up everywhere with super-techy sounding names. Now, those that have endured sound a little dated and kitschy. As well, you want to leave room for growth. In other words, even though it may be your intent to brand one particular product, it would be wise to select a brand name that is not product-specific so that if you expand your product line, or add another set of products, you can continue to use the same brand name without it becoming incongruous. For example, if your business is based on home interior design, choosing a name with the “home” or “residential” means that if you decide to eventually branch out into corporate design, you either have to rebrand your entire enterprise or create a separate brand for that aspect to the business. Neither of those options would be good for growing a business. Instead, select a name that focuses on an aspect to your business that has more to do with the result than the venue. Anything you can do to ensure that the brand name you choose isn’t pigeonholing your business is smart — plan for now, be ready to be wildly successful later!

Keep it simple and memorable

The next time you travel through a densely commercial area, check out all of the businesses with intentionally misspelled names and “creative” use of the English language (I’m looking at you, Krispy Kreme). Don’t do this. Yes, Phish and Eminem are successful; they’ve created brands that are recognizable and have become household names, but that’s the exception to the rule. Since you’re building a small business and not a rock band, stay away from creative misspellings and the compulsion to use a “4” in lieu of “for” in a brand name.

Following these rules will help in a few ways. First, you’re avoiding search confusion for your customers and prospective customers. Depending on the type of business you’re branding, the odds are that the vast majority of customers who find your business will be doing so on the Internet. Search engines are not infallible, and whether someone is trying to find you on Google or, or searching your name by asking Siri, a name that includes “2”, rather than “to” because you thought it was cute is going to mess up the search results, which could lead to a loss of business.

Second, you’re going to want your website’s domain to match your brand name. Whether you’re an Internet-based business or otherwise, a business’ website is the gateway to customer service and discovery. A simple, correctly spelled brand name will be easier for a user to input directly to a browser, and also is more likely to rank better in search results for someone using Google or other search engine to find your business.

Be unique

Now that almost any business has the potential to become a global enterprise, it is becoming more and more difficult to find that unique brand name that no one is using. You can choose something that’s not necessarily a unique word or name, but that’s used in a unique way within your industry. Google “Apple”. Go ahead. Do it. For me, Google’s first auto-complete is “apple store”, and you can bet that it’s not my local supermarket. However, you may not be quite so fortunate with your brand name. Search engines have special arrangements with enormous brands that have “common” names like Gap, Target, Apple or Amazon. A small business with a single-word common name will never compete on that level. However, if you can combine something simple with something unusual (but still easy to spell), you could have branding gold. Also, do a little research of your own. Spend a few minutes looking up your potential brand name, and close variations, to be sure that someone else isn’t already using it. Your state may have an online registry where you can search DBAs and corporation names, but that won’t help you find national brands. Really, the best way is to spend some time searching and see what’s out there.

The brand name and logo are not mutually exclusive; the name might not lend itself to a specific logo right off the bat (unlike, say, Apple), but try to envision what your logo might be and make sure that it seems cohesive with your name of choice.

What message do you want to send?

Generally, a best practice in branding is to steer clear of any name with emotional, sentimental or political associations. The exception is that many of the country’s largest and most successful brands are associated with a sense of patriotism, but not because of their names. In a recent study, the brands deemed “most patriotic” by Forbes were Jeep, Hershey, Levi Strauss, Disney, Colgate, Zippo and others. Certainly, if you’re considering branding strategy for your business, those are some accomplished role models. Bottom line: You can profit from patriotism. Your brand name, itself, doesn’t have to scream patriotism — your logo could sport an American flag, which would evoke a good down-home image of American workers with U.S.-based jobs bolstering the economy and keeping your business going, while keeping this country strong. Go with that. The key, when brand naming and otherwise, is instilling confidence in your customers. It has been shown that consumers will be more likely to choose a brand that they associate with some type of U.S. pride and patriotism than one that doesn’t.

Confident. Unique. Memorable. Let your brand name speak for your business and set yourself up for success.

Mike Cronin

Mike is a Vietnam-era veteran and the founder and CEO of Gettysburg Flag Works, a company that specializes in the sale of flags, flagpoles, banners, and other custom and promotional items. Mike brings over 20 years of experience and valuable insight on what it takes to be a successful Internet entrepreneur, managing small businesses online and off. Mike has a wide range of experience (military and post-career) in management and branding for small businesses to help customers and businesses show pride in their country, nationality, organization, business or any other aspect of their lives.


  1. Toby Crabtree says:

    Brand names are not always so important, but many people perceive them as important. It has been noticed that people consider good brand names have a higher quality than generic goods and in some cases this may be true, while in other cases the quality is equal. In terms of clothing, brand names offer a status symbol within society as they cost more money. Many people feel they will be looked at more favorably if people believe they have more money.

  2. Very interesting
    article Mike. Well I agree that brand name has to be simple yet
    memorable. After all it is not a competition of brand names, it’s the
    services that really matter to the customers.

  3. I sometimes advise people to go to Google’s keyword area and see what’s hitting in their category. Try and use those words/terms in their name. By fluke my name happened to be the #1 search term in my category. 

    Nice discussion on naming. It’s a tough haul to determine sometimes. People have a tendancy to be over-creative.