Was Shakespeare wrong? A Brand Naming Guide For Small Businesses

The legendary William Shakespeare once wrote “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” to imply that a name does not affect who or what something really is at its core. While this may have been true for Romeo & Juliet, I am inclined to disagree. Names have power, ESPECIALLY when it comes to brands. In some cases, brand names are so ingrained in our minds we use them to substitute the products themselves. Have you ever heard someone say “We’re out of Kleenex” or “My kids love Legos”? How about “I have to make a Target run” or “Have you seen my iPhone?” These are just a few cases of brand equity, in which the consumer sees the brand as being interchangeable for the product.


Your name is essential to your brand, it tells people who you are, and calls up a range of associations and emotions in the consumers mind. That being said, naming an organization can be extraordinarily tricky. First you have to find a word, or combination of words that resonates with who you are and what you seek to portray, then you have to ensure the name sets you apart from competitors, and furthermore that it is not already taken. There are entire departments of marketing agencies that focus just on naming businesses, however we feel pretty strongly you can figure it out for yourself (or with our help) with some basic guidelines.


Let your brand name be a clear representation of who you are/what you do

You only get 1 chance to make a first impression. It may seem tempting to come up with a name that is provocative or that sounds interesting…but will people associate that name with the product you sell or service you provide? There is a trend in the industry to follow in the footsteps of major brand names like Amazon, Apple, Google or IBM. What people often forget is that these brands worked for decades and spent millions of dollars in order to get the equity from their respective names. Especially if you are a small business, it is far better to focus on your value proposition. Take Southwest Airlines for example– right off the bat you know what it is they do, and you can even pinpoint specific areas where they fly. Other great examples are Home Depot and Bank of America. Although these are all brands in entirely different industries there is no mistaking the products or services they provide.


Make sure it’s easy/pleasing to say

A general rule of thumb in naming is to try to keep your brand name 1-2 words, and if possible, 3 syllables or less. In addition, be sure it’s easily pronounceable (although sometimes the debate of how to say a products’ name can led to some free publicity à la La Croix). The fashion industry is notorious for hard-to-say names such as Givenchy, Hermès, Louis Vuitton. It works in these cases, however, as part of the exclusivity of these brands is in their designers’ names and the ‘insiders’ knowledge of who they are and how to say them. The final piece of the puzzle is to find a name that is short, sweet and to the point. Facebook, for example, is a great name for an online profile company. Under Armour is another great example, it’s easy to say, short and to the point and conveys a general sense of the products the company provides.


Have it differentiate you right off the bat

It’s one thing to come up with a good name, but does it set you apart from the pack? Take the automobile industry for example- there are countless brands, and underneath each brand, countless models to choose from. What sets them apart? Aside from price and type, mostly marketing. Land Rover, for example, has set a unique positioning for itself as a car that is not only a luxury car, but also rugged and versatile. Volkswagen, on the other hand, is a car for the everyday man or woman. Both names exemplify what sets these automobiles apart and fit in line with their unique brand positioning. Another great naming example is Fireball Whisky. It’s core differentiator from other whisky’s is its cinnamon taste, its name capitalizes on this and has made it a staple on the bar scene.

As with most things in life, these rules might not apply to everyone. Perhaps your brand is super abstract and you want to find a name that fits that. Or, perhaps your brand is so unique that its name cannot possibly be obvious or contextual. Whatever the case, what is most important is finding a name that suits your identity, and that you can truly make your own. For questions or assistance with brand naming, feel free to contact us today.