I was reading a post about creating strong brand names, and what started out as brief comment, started turning into a business branding blog post. So I cut my comments to a minimum there, and fleshed them out here. To read the post that inspired this one click here, then come back and read my tips. Some of these tips also work for branding a product as well as branding a small business.
Here are my ideas to consider when branding a business, company, business venture (or even a product) in the digital age:
1) Does the name say what you do? Secondarily, does it do so in a catchy or memorable way? Finding a name that clues in the consumers you want to attract to what your company does should be a primary objective of most brand names; in addition to the considerations listed in the other post.
Ideally you want a business name to be a mix of memorable and catchy, plus tell people what you do, and have no competition in the marketplace. An extra benefit would be if it also gave them a feel for your company in a way that would help the name appeal to your specific consumer base: mainstream and solid, edgy and fun, or comforting and helpful – for example. I realize that this is a tall, almost impossible order, but the exercises you go through to create a great a brand can really help your business in the long run.
I also realize that many big-name companies violate my suggestions, but it was a long, long time from start up until Apple Computers became “Apple” and Google became household names / brands.
2) What’s the competition for your name? At minimum, do a Google/Bing search for the company name and for the main keywords under which people will be searching for you. Does someone with a similar name to the one you were considering own the top several spots? That may be hard to break into. Click on the sites to make use they are full sites, not just placeholder web pages.
2b) Do a search of the Government Trademark database. Whether or not you eventually decide to trademark your name, you should know who already owns what trademarks, and in what categories, around your name. Start with a search of the US government’s trademark “TESS” database. A basic search is simple, but consult with a trademark professional for more information; trademarks can get complex. This may save you from a cease and desist letter from lawyers sometime in your future – long after you’ve selected your name and set up your business. I currently know two business owners who are embroiled in a dispute over a business name and trademark.
2c) Can you buy/own the .com URL/domain name. Yes, .co or .net CAN be OK, but .com still currently rules the internet. If someone else owns the .com, but has not developed it, do some research, it may be held by a domainer who just wants to sell the name, or it might be a company just about to get angel funding and create a fancy site that will eclipse your own .co or .net. You can check the domain name Whois database to learn a bit more info.
A side note here – DO NOT – let your web designer, business manager or other staff member purchase your domain name for you – if they do it in their name – then technically they own the name. (I have recently seen this done to one business owner, and know of more than one business dispute arising from this practice). Buy the domain name yourself, and DO NOT lose the username, password and pin (especially if you register the name for ten years). Most web designers are good people, but I have witnessed disputes where people were threatened with losing the domain name around which their business was built.
2d) Check the Username of Handle on social media sites before you settle on a name. If social media is going to be a part of your marketing and PR strategy, then make sure the brand-name “handle” or username is not already taken especially on several of the prime social networks that your customers use. If you own the trademark, it can take time, but you can get the handle back from someone else. But not if you just own the .com; only the Trademark might win it back. If the name you want is taken, but you don’t have the trademark, you can try similar, related or alternative names. But be sure the username/handle passes the memorable and tells what you do test.
Now get naming!