“I’ve got the hottest brand in the world.”

Donald Trump

There is a reason cows are named Betty-312 and the like. Because nobody gives a damn. They are just one of many in the field. But since you want to stand out, you need a name that enables everyone to identify, remember, discuss and compare your brand.

Your brand name is the most important part of your identity.

Where a good name gets a brand accepted in the marketplace, a bad name will curse it. So be critical and don’t settle until you are absolutely happy.

In this chapter, we’ll cover the steps for settling on a great name. You can download a worksheet for your brand name at www.brandbuilding.com.

You can use this chapter for both your organization and individual projects.

Step 1: Brainstorm for brand names

Brainstorming is easier said than done. You’ll also need constraints to be creative, so settle on these first:

  • What is your brand promise?
  • What kind of mood should the name evoke?
  • What kind of mood should the name avoid?

Then take these constraints and start working within them.

  • Which words can serve as ingredients?
  • Can you abbreviate them or use their syllables?
  • Are there synonyms or plays-on-words that you can use?
  • Can you remove or add a letter? (Flickr, Fiverr)
  • Are the names of the founders useable? (Rothschild)
  • Can you use the business that you are in? (Southwest Airlines)
  • Is there an experience or image you can use? (Hotjar)
  • Can you take a regular word? (Apple)
  • How about an acronym? (NASA)

Got a few names? Well done.

Step 2: Check which brand names are good

To avoid an emotional debate over preferences, it helps to have a neutral checklist. Are your names:

  • Distinctive – Does your name stand out in a busy market place? Or can it be easily confused with regular, everyday words? Don’t be boring.
  • Easy – Is it short enough to be remembered? In my experience, two syllables are best. You will want people to say the whole brand name when they mention you. Also, try to avoid using unorthodox spelling or make it hard to wrap your tongue around. Don’t be a mouth full.
  • Appropriate – Is there a fit with your project/organization? Does it carry the connotations that you want it to carry? Don’t be random.
  • Likable – Does it roll off your tongue like the word “Croissant”? (Using the pretentious French pronunciation.) Will people enjoy speaking the name and telling their friends about you? Don’t be unsexy.

Did some pass the checklist? Great. You’ve now got a list of good names. Let’s find out if you can use them.

Step 3: Check which brand names are available

You must verify if your brand name or a similar one is taken.

A. First, Google the name and see what pops

A similar brand might be using the name. Or perhaps you find another reason to not use it. We were about to call our dog-food business “Dogler” when we discovered this was a meme for dogs looking like Hitler. Don’t believe me? Google it yourself.

B. Use a tool to check if it the name is already

Similar names can result in someone mistaking your brand for another. This will get you in trouble, as the owner of the name will cease-and-desist you to protect his brand.

If there is any doubt, you can apply for a trademark and hope the owner doesn’t object within the time limit. When a fuss is made, you can then refer to your established rights.

But when venturing into grey territory, always consult a legal person. He will tell you what all conservative professionals will tell you: better don’t.

Yet the cowboys amongst you might try. If your competitor neither has a war chest nor a legion of lawyers, you might get your way.

C. Check if the .com name is still

Use a tool to check if the .com name is still available.

Probably not, since the majority of letter/number combinations are taken, as well as the entire dictionary. But if you’ve been creative enough, you’ll have a chance.

Naturally, you can use different extensions like .net and .org, or the more hip .app and .io.

But the .com gives your brand a lot more authority. You can always buy a domain, as I did for toby.nl and brandbuilding.com. Often, this costs thousands of dollars, even after brisk negotiation. So always evaluate if the authority and brand power you gain is worth the money.

Theoretically, it is possible to displace ‘domain squatters’ in certain jurisdictions, but this can be a costly and uncertain legal fight. I recommend you spend your energy on building a brand.

D. Check for availability on the social media channels you plan to

If your domain or social media handles are unavailable, this should be taken into consideration when choosing a name. Check online .

However, it doesn’t have to stop you. You can try adding prefixes to the brand name until you hit a word that is available across all the channels:

Toby > gotoby.com, trytoby.com, mytoby.com, etc.

Step 4: Check which names are preferred by your segment.

You’ve now got a list of good and available names. You should see which one is liked most by your segment.

Relax, you don’t have to hit the streets with a clipboard. You can use a tool to do a simple online poll.

But have people sort out your good and available names by preference. The more they represent your chosen segment(s), the more weight should be attributed to their preference.

Step 5: Choose and register your brand name.

Use a domain service to book the domain name and claim the social media handles. You can also apply for a trademark , but this will cost money.

Summary and steps for choosing a brand name

This chapter covers the steps for settling on a great name for your organization or individual products/projects.

Your brand name is the most important part of your identity. You can use the worksheet at www.brandbuilding.com/tools.

Step 1: Brainstorm for brand names.

Step 2: Are the names distinctive, easy, appropriate and likable?

Step 3: Check for availability:

  1. What pops up when you search for it?
  2. Is the name or a similar sounding name registered?
  3. Is the .com or other relevant domain available?
  4. Are your social media platforms available?

Step 4: Choose your favorite names and test with your segment.

Step 5: Choose and claim your name.

Name your root folder after your chosen name: “/brandname/”