26 practical tips on business naming – The Ultimate List
Congratulations on your business idea and welcome to the frustrating moment of business naming. While we do not offer naming services, we have named a few businesses in our lives and we know just how difficult it can be.
The present line of work already took most great business names, not to mention the domains and to make it even worse: there is no clear methodology on how to do it. Unfortunately, the internet does not offer many practical tips on how to name your business.
We came up with a list of practical tips on business naming, based on our own experience. We will also recommend a bunch of tools that have made our life easier.
Introductory tips on business naming:
Manage your frustration
Keep in mind that naming your business will be a very difficult process that will bring you on the brink of desperation. You will have to overcome deep frustration. That is normal. When you feel angry, say to yourself “this is part of the process”. You need to power up.
You need to be smart
You will need to explore many different methods. You will have to combine them, repeat them and adapt them. There is no magical recipe for business naming, so you need to be smart. There is no substitute for that. However, good ideas come to those who do lots of research and work hard. If you go broad initially, you can later combine results and revise them.
Business naming is not a linear process
You will probably have to repeat each step several times, going through cycles. This will allow you to explore new avenues of ideas and combine naming tactics in different ways. Business naming is more like building a pyramid than like digging a tunnel.
Our 26 practical business-naming tips
1. How to find ideas based on available domains
Available domains will limit your options. After you have found three great names for which you cannot register the domain, you will end up hating the internet.
Combining words will broaden your options. It will make it easier to find domains. BustAName does just that: it creates all combinations based on a list of words you provide and checks for name availability. Unfortunately, it supports only .com for now.
You can explore business-naming ideas based on words and particles by using available tools on the internet.
2. Approach naming based on the value you offer
Powerful names refer to the value a business will offer and that sets it apart from competitors. Care for a journey into the value based marketing?
Finding a business name that reflects the value you provide is the end of the whole exercise, but it is our second practical business-naming tip. If you start with this point, you will go broad and eventually you will get lost. You have to come back to it a couple of times.
In order to find a business name based on a value, you first need to be clear on the main value you provide. Moreover, be clear on how the value relates to your customers. Then start to draw analogies to other things with a similar principle. Take Amazon for example: the benefit it offers to clients is based on volume. The Amazon is the largest river. Based on the same logic the name could have been “Everest”, “eWhale”, etc.
7-eleven is based on the same idea of relating the value you offer to your business name.
3. Get rid of the obvious names
Before starting, get all those obvious names out of your system. Write everything that comes to your mind on a piece of paper. Then try to find all the worst names you can think of. This method of “clearing the system” is often used by designers to avoid clichés and boring ideas. The first ideas are most often superficial and dull so do your best to get rid of them.
4. Look over the fence
It pays off to do your research on the competitor early on. When you do this type of research for the purpose of business naming, do not look at including many competitors. Include only the ones with good names. It is better to understand the logic of one good name than to understand a large number of bad ones.
Also, broaden your understanding of competitors and look into other industries, as well. This is creative research, not market research. Find 10 or 20 great names and then look at the principle of how the name relates to the business.
5. Getting your first word ideas
Word ideas can come from many sources. One of the biggest issues in the process will be finding words with which you can play. Tools can help you generate many words based on patterns (number of words and letters). By generating synonyms and antonyms, you can enlarge a list of original words.
Then think of examples or types of things. For example, if you listed fruit as a word, you may want to add apple, mango and banana, but also citrus fruit, berries, etc. Once again, Google can help you by generating lists.
Of course, you can play word associations to generate more words. There are paid services that can help you with that.
To use this method efficiently, combine the ideas you explored and thought up with these tools. Here, it is useful to go back and forth to maximize the volume of ideas you can generate. Once you have sufficient word ideas, you can select the best ones.
As you find ideas, you will notice that your mind goes into a number of directions. All directions have a theme around which you can find words. Try to identify these themes and to understand why you think they are relevant for your business name. This will help you go deeper into a particular direction, but also find new directions to explore. On the internet you can find tools to use for this step.
6. Expand the list of words
Google your industry name + “word list” and you may find a few more word ideas. You will have to sift through hundreds of words to find one or two good ones. You can also search on Google with the next formula: the best words from the first steps +”related words” or “word list”. This method will take time and it does not promise to find good words for your business name, but once you are truly desperate you will come to appreciate it…
7. Manage your word list
Since the process of naming your business will take a few weeks, you need to be organized. Keep lists of words in a well-organized spreadsheet so you can come back to the ideas, later. As the volume of words and ideas grows, you will have to delete some. Make sure you keep a few sheets, for example with your top ideas, second rank ideas and so on. But don’t spend more time on management than on finding that business name.
8. Generate ideas based on objects from your business
Think of objects that relate to your business and make a list. Do the same with abstract concepts, and then try to find objects that relate to them. Sometimes performing an image search with an abstract word will help you find some object ideas. You can also try Pinterest.
You could also visit a few competitors to see what kind of objects they have. If you are doing that, this practical method might not inspire you much in generating business names.
9. Find adjectives
Have a look at these lists of adjectives. Adjectives may not be part of your business name, but they may help you in describing your business. Sometimes you can use an adjective as it is, but the domain name will be difficult to find. You can use adjectives if you want to combine two words into one word. Some of the languages that can inspire you with cool names are English, German and Japanese or if you want something more special you can try Old Norse.
10. Get some help with brainstorming
If you can spend 125 – 200 $, you can get a list of ideas through a business-naming contest. These ideas are most likely of low value given that only amateurs participate in these contests. Nevertheless, they still may be able to open new streams of research and naming for you, so consider it as an outsourced brainstorming.
11. Avoid tunnel vision
Go analogue. Try to use a blackboard and some post-it to get variety into your process. Have a glass of wine. When you are frustrated enough, you will have a hard time coming up with new ideas. Negative emotions block creativity. Do anything that will help you relax and do new things just for the sake of breaking a pattern.
12. Get an overview
Print ideas and words you like but could not use and put them on a wall. By having an overview of your research results, you will be able to make connections faster than if they are stored in files on your computer.
Seeing options rather than remembering them will be helpful because you can observe more information at one time. Keep your ideas on the wall for a while and try to use a wall you see often. While you are doing something else, and your mind is relaxed, you get inspired.
The exercise of organizing the information on a surface will help you process it in a new way and may bring new ideas. Reorganize the information on the wall once every few days, or just throw in a little bit of chaos into your business naming ideas.
13. Explore myths
Myths, whether modern or ancient can be a source of naming with rich symbolism. Lord of the Rings may not be an appropriate myth for your business, but do not forget about the Greeks, Romans, Celts and all oriental myths from Middle East and Asia.
This method is quite practical, even though it requires a bit of research. Be sure that it will be the most enjoyable type of research you will perform while trying to name your business. In addition, it will broaden your horizon too. Ancient myths have lots of deep and valuable insight about the human condition that have withstood the test of time. Even if you are creating the most innovative app, it is likely that you are trying to solve a problem that is the theme of at least one myth.
14. Bring in more people
It is difficult to name a business on your own. It is difficult in a team as well, but sometimes it pays off to discuss ideas with another person. It may be better asking them for word ideas, rather than straight away for a business name.
Keep in mind that you may have to manage their frustrations, as well; so think twice about who you will invite to help. Make sure you will not behave hostile towards them, since you are much further along in your frustration.
15. Pick a theme
Sometimes it works to pick a theme that allows for good branding in your industry and then find a name within that theme. For example you may pick an aquatic theme, or something space related. Themes come along with lots of ideas and symbols you can use and adapt to your business branding.
However, do your best to avoid creating a ridiculous brand, make sure you find a way in which your theme, or the concepts you have chosen from the theme relate to your business and the value you offer. Also, if you will use this practical method to name your business, make sure you don’t take it too far once you get to the visual branding.
16. Go Meta
Rather than trying to find a new business name, try to find a new method for business naming. This will help you breach into unexplored territory. Beyond doubt that this may not be easy, but while you understand how these practical businesses naming methods work, you will get better at applying them. Coming up with a new method will enlarge your pool of ideas significantly.
Make sure to let us know about your ideas so we can include them here. This way we can help more people in their efforts of trying to find a business name.
17. Look at your specifics
The particular history of your business, yourself or those trends in the industry that opened up the niche for you can hide a great name. Also look at the specifics of your production process or at the principles by which your service works in delivering value. Think about ingredients. Use analogies to expand these ideas into new streams of words.
A few examples may help you understand this business naming method better:
Blaupunkt – the name of the former electronics company comes from a quality assurance process where the best products would receive a blue dot.
Blackberry – the company name comes from the shape of the buttons on the phone, which looks like the texture of a blackberry
Carrefour – the chain started with one store placed at a crossroad (Carrefour in French)
Coca Cola – from the kola nut and the coca leaves
Cisco – short for San Francisco
As you see these examples show that there are many ways in which a name can relate to the history of your idea, product or company. Here is a list of ways in which a name can relate to a product or business (let us know if you have more ideas):
- Physical appearance
- Ingredients or materials used
- Manufacturing process
- Location or origin
- Principles used in generating the value
- Beginning of the business
- The target group of customers
- Type of value
18. Consider exotic cultures
Why not try a Latin, Greek, Spanish or French name or any other exotic language for that matter. A place from a foreign country may sound great and work like an abstract name in our culture. A particular place may have relevance to your service. These businesses used the method:
Acer – “sharp” in Latin
Alta Vista – “high view” in Spanish
Atari – a Japanese word used in the game Go, similar to check in chess
Clarion – a Greek music instrument
19. Explore Latin and Greek suffixes and prefixes
Latin and Greek suffixes have been incorporated into most European languages, including English. They can help you add a twist to boring words, but the best part is that they can also help you to add meaning. Most of these particles have a specific meaning and they can be used well in business naming. On the internet you can find many lists of suffixes and prefixes.
20. Names of beings
Sometimes gods or animals may work for your business. This involves a considerable amount of research and the most common deities may be trademarked in your field. Still, it does not hurt to explore a few concepts, especially if you think your brand could work with deities from more exotic places, such as Asia or Africa.
These businesses used the approach and resulted:
Lada – the former car manufacturer used the name of a Slavic goddess
Nike – Greek goddess of victory
Olympus – the home of the Greek gods
21. Take a break and do some free styling
22. The trick of manipulating words
By combining two words into one, you can generate a new name that sounds unique. These words also capture meaning, but it is not always immediately apparent. You will have to play around with different words and combinations to find a good one.
Sometimes you can just change the ending or the beginning of one word to make it unique and give it a special ring.
These companies used the approach for their business name:
Accenture – Accent+ Future
Celera – from celerity
Compaq – computer + pack
Evernote –from forever and note
Groupon – from group and coupon
23. Combine words
This is a variation of the previous method, but here you just combine the words without changing them. Usually these names aren’t that great, but sometimes the method works. Most often this method is based on the process or value you will offer, but you also use it to create more evocative names. For example:
Once again, BustAName can be useful to check combinations and names.
24. Something very personal
Some founders just decide on a word that has a particular meaning to them personally. Some of the biggest companies used this approach for their business name. Using this method is very practical because it is simple, but it requires a lot of courage since the meaning of the brand relates only to you personally; at least at first.
Other examples: Adobe is the name of the creek that runs by the house of one of the companies’ co-founders. Apple was chosen by Steve Jobs because he simply loved apples. Audi is the translation into Latin of the company founders’ name – note how the method of exotic languages was combined with this one. Aldi comes from Albrecht and discount – note how they used the method of combining words.
25. Go for evocative not descriptive
A good brand will have personality. You should consider going for an evocative word, not so much a descriptive word. These names express a vision; they do not describe the process or value your product offers. For these types of names you need a lot of courage too. However, if they are aligned with your brand, they can be very powerful. Evocative business names are memorable and they make your brand stand out. Examples include:
Daewoo – great house in Korean
Red Bull – evokes energy
Victoria’s Secret – evokes intimacy
26. Use the context
Keep in mind that a business always operates in a particular context. You can use the context to create an interesting business name. Sometimes you may use a name that fits the context well, or you may use one that stands in sharp contrast to the context. This works well for local businesses in particular.
For example, if you have a bar in the posh neighbourhood, by creating a contrast you can name it Decadence. In a similar situation, if you are a wholesome restaurant in the city tucked in between glass buildings, you can call it The Farm.