A business name and its associated branding can make or break a company but perhaps the science behind formulating an appropriate one is underestimated and misunderstood. Sure, some business names come naturally and easily – but this is by far not the case for all. Often business names change and evolve over time; and the stories behind many household brands are surprising to many.

For example, Pepsi, the sugary drink that’s not always kind on the internal organs is named after the medical term for indigestion, ‘dyspepsia’. Search engine giant Google was originally called ‘googolplex’, one of the largest numbers ever; but a typo by an intern caught on. Fast food franchise McDonalds is named after some of its first customers, sports brand Adidas is named after its founder Adolf Dassler, the infamous watch brand name Rolex apparently came to the founder in a daydream, and ice-cream company Haagen-Dazs is a completely made-up word! 

Inspiration can come from everywhere, but in ever-crowding marketplaces it’s important to differentiate and really stand out from competitors – in a positive manner, of course. Choosing a brand is something that will stick and so its critical to get it right; ideally, first time round. With Skein launching a new naming workshop for start-ups and small businesses, we’ve got names on the brain right now… so let us share the wealth of our knowledge and explore the ins and outs.

Why is a Business Name so Important?

In most instances, the name of a company is one of the first pieces of information a consumer will receive on a business and so it forms a critical portion of the first impression made and therefore the first perception created. 

A business’ name must be catchy and uncomplicated enough to be easily memorable, which usually means keeping it short and snappy. However, the word – or at least the ‘feel’ of the word – must remain appropriate and relevant to the firm and its sector or niche. Names should remain easy to spell (for ease of recommendations made between consumers) and shouldn’t be too limiting in terms of scale. For example, Amazon is a fantastic brand name as it’s a well-known and easy to spell Word that’s short and simple to pronounce, as well as making no reference to books (which was the brand’s original focus but is no longer so).

Where there are lots of businesses in a certain sector competing, it is essential that the names are easily distinguished and so there can be no confusion between organisations. 

Characteristics to Aim For with a Brand Name

As above, it is imperative that the name chosen for a business is kept simple so that it’s easily remembered and recommended to others. However, there are other characteristics that should be considered in order to bolster the positive perception of the brand when a consumer hears of and recalls the name.

It should go without saying that a business name should be inoffensive – and ideally, remain so even when translated into other languages. There are many examples of this not being the case, including the Polish confectionary the ‘Fart Bar’, virtual assistant ‘Siri’ which translates to a slang term for male genitalia in Georgian, and search engine ‘Bing’ which means ‘illness’ in Chinese. However, such translation issues can be overcome with a little creativity… for example, Pizza Hut’s P’zone product meant ‘nipple’ in Spanish, and so the brand launched ads across Spanish-speaking territories punning with wordplay.

Ideally, a brand name should evoke emotion amongst consumers in order to contribute toward a healthy public perception. This plays in too to the brand’s relevancy in its name and theme; reiterated through emotion and feeling – but doesn’t necessarily need to evoke a happy or sad feeling. There are many clever ways for brands to use language that elicit an emotional or mental response. For example, the word ‘peach’ can conjure recall of taste, smell and touch and feels like a gentle, soothing and fresh word to read, write and say. The word ‘koala’ elicits a cute and cuddly feel with a little exoticism on the tongue, and oppositely, the word ‘death’ feels dark, haunting and controversial. Furthermore, personal names can humanise a business and help them feel a bit less corporate. Utilising language to provoke an emotional response can be beneficial in a brand name. 

Brands may also wish to make note of the chosen name’s visual connotations as well as its potential future-proofing to ensure both the ability for consistent branding and longevity. One fairly high profile of a business name proving difficult visually was the British Office of Government Commerce; abbreviated down to OGC. When made into a logo and flipped, the branding was somewhat risqué and entirely not appropriate to that of a government department. Future-proofing should also be considered in naming decisions. Although of course there is no guarantee that a name will forever remain suitable, anything controversial may be best avoided. The manufacturers of diet pills Ayds didn’t consider that the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s would be a threat to their branding – a naming decision which in effect ended the whole business due to poor connotations.

Completing Due Diligence on a Brand Name

It is common sense that dictates businesses should google and research into their name before launching it or producing any branding. However, a simple search engine check will not be sufficient to protect businesses from potential legal concerns and so there are further steps to take to ensure that no third party trademarks or copyright is being infringed upon.

A good starting place to carry out due diligence is to search through the online directory of Companies House as well as the digital Trademark Register. Any relevant industry databases should also be checked alongside some basic social media checks. 

A failure to complete the relevant due diligence on a name can have devastating consequences – with hefty legal fees and re-branding management at stake. This basic intervention early on can remove the risk and help businesses get it right, first time. 

Examples of Great Branding

There are many examples of fantastic brand names that have stood the test of time and those in business can seek inspiration from them. Here’s some of our favourites…

Professional services firm Accenture were originally called Andersen Consulting but in a crowded marketplace this was perceived as a somewhat generic branding. Merging the names of their two specialisations – acquisitions and divestiture – they instead created a new word entirely and it stuck.

Estee Lauder’s sub-brand Too Faced Cosmetics is a simple word play pun and is now one of the largest and most popular make-up brands in the world.

Bicycle hire giant ofo is an entirely made-up name… but is done so as visually when written, it looks like a bike! This trick of the eye is cleverly reflected through further visual branding.

Colour specialists Pantone are a household name but their branding is two words combined relevant to their business; pan- to describe spanning or across, and tone, a shade or hue. 

Sportwear brand Nike has its roots in mythology. Nike is the ancient Greek Goddess of Victory and so the business name fits perfectly with athletes striving to come first. 

Contraceptive firm Durex is a shortening of their brand values: Durable, Reliable and Excellence… yet very few customers of the brand know this, and indeed the name itself has become part of the English language as slang interchangeable with condoms as a product.

There is by no means a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to naming a business appropriately but in taking the time to find the ‘right’ name, businesses can be sure that they take all relevant precautions and make the most informed decision. 

Rebranding to a New Name

There are many reasons for businesses to invest in a full rebrand – but doing so with an already established brand name does have its own challenges. If a rebrand is being made but the name not yet set, the business should complete the same full workshopping around it as they would for any other business, product, service or sub-brand. 

It is not uncommon for businesses to go through a rebrand and change their name; particularly in the early years of it. Indeed the benefits if the right name is found and worked with can be vast as the fresh identity boosts the perception of a brand and reinforces its relevancy. For examples, start-up Emode was founded in 1999 but consumers found its name difficult to spell and difficult to remember – and it felt fairly dated, fast. Rebranding just two years later to Tickle, the firm found that organic traffic to their website rose by 30%, their ad spend became 20% more effective and their brand was memorable; rapidly attracting media attention they’d otherwise missed out on as result.

The concerns around changing a brand name as part of a rebrand when an established customer base or audience already exists is valid, but such issues are usually simple teething problems that wear away over time. For example, when insurer Norwich Union rebranded to Aviva to match their parent company back in 2009, the company found some backlash from those living in Norwich who believed it to be an important local business with a community impact. There was initial controversy from locals who were concerned as to the business relocating but this was negated with some clever PR campaigns including the sponsorship of the local football team and location-focused activities to reiterate the brand’s commitment to the city. Now, over ten years later, the name Aviva holds a global presence and is a household brand name through the UK – in a way Norwich Union never quite reached. Any concerns or problems feared over rebranding can be addressed by the Skein team as we work through your new name and branding in order to avoid disruption.

Workshopping a New Brand Name

With all of the above to consider, it’s really no wonder that businesses no longer opt for brainstorming word ideas and sticking them around the office on post-its to find what works best! Skein’s new Business Naming Workshop takes place over a five day period and is guaranteed to help you find the perfect branding. 

In preparation for the workshop, the business will be asked to define what they are naming, what they want to achieve from the name and how the name will be used as well providing some basic information on the competitive landscape in which they operate. It’s also important for the business to have some knowledge of their desired ‘brand personality’ and an understanding of their target audience.

Day one of the workshop is spent brainstorming words and names, before literary research on day two, industry terms workshopping on day three and a focus on people, places and space on the fourth day. The final day is then spent creating new words and creating a final shortlist of potential name candidates.

Skein then takes this shortlist of names and completes due diligence on each through the use of trademark databases, domains registrars, Companies House, various search engines, app stores and online resources such as Urban Dictionary. Once this is done, each name is then graded and allocated a score, based on the brand positioning, clarity, tone, emotional connection and the attainment of the original criteria set out. A few mock-ups of the brand name are made up to factor in branding and from there, everything is presented to the client for their final decision.

At Skein we have developed a fool-proof method to find at least one killer name for your new venture. Our multiday workshop cuts through the noise and gets to the heart of your business… Contact us here and tell us what you’re struggling with.