Tips for naming your startup

10 Tips for Naming Your Start-Up

Growth Hacks Published on 14 Mar 2021

Andra Gutui - Naming Specialist and Co-founder of Namzya – Naming Agency. Forbes 30 under 30

“Names are the sweetest and most important sound in any language”, Dale Carnegie.

When you are planning to launch your start-up, there are a lot of things to take into consideration: business plan, business objectives, product development, marketing & advertising plans and the list goes on and on.

In many cases, the name does not receive the deserved importance. As Dale Carnegie said, we must consider that the name becomes the first interaction between your business and your customers around the world.

It is not an easy task and that’s why in this article, I will reveal to you 10 important tips which will help you to create the most suitable name for your future…unicorn😊:

Start with the Name 

From my experience, in most of the cases, the founders leave the name as a last task from the “to-do list”. It is always postponed because many other things are considered a lot more important. My advice is to start with the name.

Why? Because after you find the right name, you will also find:

  • More clarity about the positioning of your business, product, or services.
  • Extra motivation because after having the name, you will feel the business “alive.” Exactly how it happens when you choose the right name for your baby. It is not a future baby anymore. It’s an Andrew or a Jessica, it’s a person! 
  • Some clues about the right business direction which you have to follow further on.

Remember, also, that if you are choosing the name in a rush, just before the big launch, the chances to make a wrong choice increase a lot. And changing the brand’s name after some years, it’s a lot more expensive than doing this thing right from the beginning.

It’s nothing personal

Unfortunately, start-up names are treated a lot too personally. People don’t understand that they are about to name a business that must target a certain type of clients. So, remember:

It is not about you! It is not about your personal life! It’s all about your clients!

Many people are creating their start-up name in the following ways:

  • Combining letters used in their own names to invent a new word which means…nothing for their customers. It’s just about the pride of having their initials integrated into their business name.
  • Choosing names strictly related to their personal experiences like their hometown’s name, their kid’s name, their pet’s name, or the name of their favorite movie.

Your future start-up is a business that will serve a specific target audience that has various expectations. Your future customers must identify the business name with the products you are selling or the services you are providing.

They really don’t care about your dog’s name if they are unable to understand what’s behind that name.

Ideas turn into reality

Choose logical, rational, and coherent name criteria

  • Suggestive for your target audience

The name must mean something for your customers, not for you. Your future clients must understand and remember what your start-up does.

  • It expresses your start-up positioning

People may understand very quickly by hearing the name which is your position on the market

  • It has the potential of creating imaginary

The rule is applied for suggestive and metaphorical names which are intriguing the customer to discover more about your products.

Choose the perfect naming type for your business

The four most used naming types are the following:

  • Descriptive names

They directly identify the origin and meaning of the product or service without making use of the client’s imagination.

Example: General Motors, Pizza Hut, British Airways

Descriptive names are a functional naming type, and they are suitable especially for industrial and technological businesses. As a disadvantage, I can tell that they tend to be very common and unremarkable. Also, they are very difficult to trademark because for descriptive names there are used very generic terms, usually.

  • Suggestive names

They are indicating an important attribute or differentiation characteristics of your start-up, but any client can figure up what your start-up does. Examples: Airbus, Netflix, Facebook, Pinterest

Suggestive names are the most used naming type alternative over the world. They may be creative, easy to understand, and to remember. Also, they are easier to trademark than descriptive names.

  • Metaphorical names

They are usually words with common meanings, but they are applied to businesses completely unrelated to this known meaning. They are an original, unique, and creative naming type. Very easy to trademark them. Examples: Apple, Amazon, Blackberry

  • Invented names

Invented names are made-up words that have no meaning in any language other than serving as a new start-up name. They are very easy to trademark.

You must take into consideration that it is very difficult to promote them and to make your target audience understand what your start-up really does. Examples: Kodak, Prozac, Viagra

how to do proper name briefing

What about the competition?

In many cases, start-up founders, unfortunately, choose to copy different names used by their competition. This is wrong.

Of course, you must analyze your competition and my hints are the followings:

  • Identify the naming types used by your most 10 important competitors (descriptive, suggestive, metaphorical, and invented)
  • Identify the naming category which has the largest number of competitors
  • See which category has the fewest competitors or maybe none of them

It’s good to be different than your competitors, but not so quite different. So, if your competitors are choosing descriptive product names, our suggestion would be to find a suggestive name.

If they are using suggestive names, you can try a metaphorical name. If they are using metaphorical names, you may find some good naming options in the suggestive naming category or the invented naming category.

So, basically, you must have a look at the next category after the one chosen by them. For certain, choosing an invented name when all your competitors are choosing descriptive product names may be a risky and even bad decision for your future launch.

Start with a proper naming brief

To find the right answer, the right name, you must put the right questions:

  • Write down the entire list of planned products or services on short, medium, and long term
  • Which are the main differences between you and your competitors?
  • Who is the target audience?
  • Which are the main markets where do you plan to launch your start-up?
  • Which are the most important 3-5 competitors of your start-up?
  • Do you need a .com web domain? If yes, why do you really need it? What other web domain extensions may replace a .com web domain?
  • Which is the main linguistic preference of your customers? English? Latin languages? Other ones?

Find a name easy to pronounce

The sound of your start-up’s name is very important. It must be easy to pronounce in the countries where you are planning to launch your business. If you choose a name very difficult to pronounce, people will start to feel embarrassed because they are not able to use the right pronunciation form and the result is that they will not recommend further your start-up and, of course, they will not memorize your start-up’s name.

They are a few general pronunciation rules you should take into consideration:

  • Some letters may be easily confused with others inside of a naming construction. Examples: “M” can be confused with “N”, “R” with “L”, “D” with “T”, “B” with “P” and “S” with “Z”;
  • Do not cluster many consecutive consonants into the same word;
  • Some letters are very difficult to pronounce if they are followed by certain other letters. Examples: “B” followed by “R”, “L” followed by “T”;
  • If you choose a two-word name, check if you can combine them into one single word. Example: Facebook versus FaceBook.
Create perfect name

How to create the perfect name?

  • Exclude the undesired naming directions or associations

Basically, if you will start to exclude the naming associations you are not interested in, you will have fewer naming possibilities which help you to clarify your thoughts and to find the good ones.

For example, if you are planning to launch a new clothing brand and you don’t want to be associated with concepts like - sportswear, casual clothes, hiking clothes, etc., you must write down all the possible connections which are not suitable for your future brand.

  • Try it alone

In many cases, the most chosen naming process is to do a brainstorming session with all the founders, employees, and maybe even their friends. Anyway, usually, it’s a session which involved a lot of people. Our advice is to try it also alone, each of you.

If you are doing only the classic brainstorming session, you will see that every time, there is at least a leader which starts to influence the whole session.  And all the group will start to search brand names influenced by the leader or of the most imposing persons (which can be one of the founders, for example.

If you will try, all of you, also alone, you will increase your chances of finding more creative naming solutions.

  • Try to create together a table of keywords

What you can do together as a team is the following thing: after you will find the most suitable naming directions after you exclude the negative ones, you may start to build a table of keywords which may help you to start building various naming options.

They must not be real brand names. Just keywords related to the desired naming directions may inspire each of you to find some creative brand names.

Trademark screening

If you have chosen the final name, do not start the branding and marketing process and do not launch the start-up before ensuring that the name is filled for trademark registration!

If you do not follow this rule, you may have a lot of problems like:

  • Someone else has already registered the same name before and you will be forced to give up your name after you have invested a lot of money in branding and advertising.
  • If the name is not registered but it does not belong to you, someone else may register it as a trademark and you will again be forced to rename your entire business.

Don’t forget about linguistic screening

When you had to choose a name for your company, product or service have you ever thought that you can make huge naming mistakes without even realizing it?

Let’s say you are going to launch a new product that will be traded on multiple markets. You already know your target, your price strategy is all set and you need to find the perfect name for it. Don’t miss a very important step: Linguistic screening.

Examples of huge naming linguistic mistakes:

  • Chevrolet Nova

In Spanish “no va” means “doesn’t’ go”. Why would a car manufacturer want his product to be associated with “doesn’t go”?

  • Nokia Lumia

“Lumia” means “prostitute” in Spanish

  • Mitsubishi Pajero

It seems that the auto industry has the largest number of naming linguistic mistakes. In Spanish, “Pajero” is slang for “wanker”.

As you may notice, even big companies have made mistakes. But it doesn’t mean you should do it as well. Include your linguistic screening step in your naming process. You can do the screening by yourself or you can work with specialists.

Usually, a naming agency has a very well-established naming process which also includes linguistic screening. In addition, a professional naming agency works only with native speaker linguists all around the world, so the report for the proposed brand names to be as accurate as possible.

Naming your future start-up is not a simple task. You can do it by yourself helped by these 10 important hints, or you can reach a naming agency that might do it for you.

Always remember: The name comes first! And usually, the name remains forever the same!

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