Brand names and seven key decisions

Brand name advice

Traps to avoid with your new brand name.

Most startups spend way too much time and energy worrying about their brand name.

Just take a look at the names of some of our leading brands and you’ll see that they are not significant in themselves.  Their importance lies in what they stand for in terms of the businesses and what they do. For example Apple has nothing to do with apples, and hardly anybody knows what a Google is. But we all associate the business with the name.

Each of us has a given name, usually not of our own choosing. But soon your name takes on the values you as a person create. ‘You’ are what the name stands for.

So, the sound approach is to come up with a name you’re happy with, and then get on with building your business. That’s where the brand’s value will ultimately lie.

We’ve said the name you choose may not be as important as you may think, however, there are some considerations you should bear in mind.

Should I use my own name?

If your business is personality centred – perhaps you are a photographer, fashion designer or musician, – then there may well be some value in it. However, mixing your personal brand with your business can have downsides.

For example, you may want to sell your business in the future.  That could create issues for both you and a buyer.

You may want to diversify personally, or there is always the possibility of business failure. Should the worst happen, do you want your personal name to be damaged?  The reverse situation may be equally bad – remember Ratners?

Is it a good idea to put what my business does in the brand name?

Can be a great help for a startup, but generally not in the brand name. ‘Acme Plasterers’ may be a great name to begin. But what happens when you grow and perhaps diversify into wider building services?

The place for a descriptive title is in the strap-line. For example: ‘Acme” ‘Masters in plaster’. You can change the strap-line as the business changes – but the brand name remains constant.

Should I include our location in the title?

As with the example above, it’s not generally a good idea. ‘Leeds Accountancy Services’ may be great – until opportunities arise to open a branch in Manchester or Liverpool.

However, there may be situations where you really want to focus upon a local market. You may have sound cultural or geographic reasons – but it needs careful thought.

There can be a case where there is credibility and kudos associated with a region, town or country. Stoke pottery, Swiss watches, Italian pasta, Lake District outdoors. Again, give it some thought.

Is it important to register the name?

Yes. As a start, doing a search should throw up any potential problems. (Search here) You can register names and trademarks inexpensively. They’re usually registered by sector. So, the name you want may be registered for say ‘clothing’, but not ‘business services’.

It’s true many small businesses don’t register. However, I know of one small business who had been in business for three years before they were approached by lawyers for a company who had registered their trading name.

They had to change everything, stationery, signage, website, all their advertising collateral.

What about trading internationally?

Like it or not we’re in a global market – the internet and ecommerce exposes us to potential worldwide customers.

Check your desired name against foreign languages – marketing literature is peppered with some awful gaffs. It’s fairly easy to check online. But if you are targeting a particular market, run your name by a native speaker. Colloquialisms, slang and offensive terms don’t necessarily show in online dictionaries.

Is digital an important consideration?

Digital is not something special. It’s an integral part of brand communications.  Where search (SEO) is concerned, the web is still a text-based medium so words count.  

Checking domain names is important – and don’t forget to consider the Tlds, especially if you plan to trade overseas. Adding an extension to your brand name can have undesirable consequences.

Think visually too. Phone screens are small. Social media profile images are usually square. They are just not friendly to long words – short names have power and impact.


Do foreign sounding words help or hinder?

It can help – Italian sounding names for fashion, or cycling – German-style names for engineering.

Be careful though. It’s easy to sound artificial or pretentious. You may think it sounds exotic to name your men’s clothing range – ‘Enrico Roma’, but simple Paul Smith had no problems. As we said at the start, what you do is far more important than what you are called.


Launching a new brand? We can help!

Ian West
dangerous ideas

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