How to name your company: Tips for developing a structured naming brief.

This article discusses the importance of developing a naming brief and framework before you undertake any naming research, and why all decision-makers should be present and 'on the same page' before work begins.

Added on:

June 4, 2023

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Written by:

Ben Stanbury

Developing a memorable and interesting name for your company is an important undertaking, but one that can be filled with pitfalls. Defining and applying some underlining principles within a naming brief at the start of this process will keep your efforts focused and on the right track.

Identify overarching themes

Articulate the overarching themes or qualities you want your company to be known for. Is there something in your company values, or your company mission and vision that you feel is at the core of your business approach? These themes or territories can be the foundational ideas that you can base your naming research on. As a fictitious example, let's say we have an as-yet-unnamed company that manufactures driftwood jewellery for men and women. The company collects its wood exclusively from beaches, meaning its items are 'short run' and supply is directly related to the amount of wood that has been collected. The company owners have a strong stance on trying to minimise its environmental impact, each of the products are unique in themselves, and they donate 1% of their profit to environmental causes.

Their overarching themes could therefore be; Uniqueness, environmental and social conscientiousness, reusing and recycling. These broad themes or concepts can then be used as a springboard for areas of interest to research when looking at naming ideas.

Formulate, and unanimously agree on a brief

It is imperative that everybody who has the final 'say' on the chosen company name be involved in creating and agreeing upon the creative brief. Some things you should include in the brief are:

A description of what it is that is being named: This is best written in simplistic terms, in such a way that it could be understood by a person, not in your industry.

The ideas you wish to convey in the name: These are the themes or territories we discussed above.

Naming criteria: Should the name be descriptive, or suggestive or abstract? Do you want a name that is a real word, a fusion of words, or an inventive name?

Tonality: If, prior to naming, you have developed a brand messaging framework, and have an idea of the 'personality' of your brand it is important to look at this to make sure your new brand plays to this personality. Discuss the feel and 'vibe' you want your name to get across.

A description of the audience: Keep your target audience top of mind, and refer to any buyer personas you may have developed in your brand strategy workshops.

Competitor names: What do the names of the companies you compete against look like? Writing these in the brief will help you avoid anything too similar that could cause issues at the trademark checking stage.

Consider domain name requirements

Will you require a .com domain? Is there a budget to acquire this domain if it is not available, or have you considered other TLD (Top Level Domains)?. TLDs are domain endings that are alternatives to the traditional .com or Examples can include .accountants, .archi, .studio and .biz.  Currently, there are hundreds of different top-level domains to choose from. Only a few will be suitable for your business of course, but this availability does provide some flexibility and scope when trying to find a suitable domain name.

Currently, there are hundreds of top-level domains to choose from. Only a few will be suitable for your business of course, but this availability does provide some flexibility and scope when trying to find a suitable domain name.

Should the domain be an exact match, or are you happy to suffix the name of your company with a descriptor? For example, the fictitious accountancy firm Lumiere Accountants could opt for, or if was not available. In Rob Meyerson's excellent book 'Brand Naming' he advises namers to focus on solving the brand challenge, and not to fixate on the availability of the domain, as this can dilute the quality of the chosen name, and hamper creative thought.

Having your brief signed-off by all decision-makers

As mentioned earlier in the article, it is very important that the decision-makers sign off on the creative brief before any research takes place. Failure to do this can lead to naming suggestions being rejected at the senior level because of objections, or a lack of agreed direction on the naming process in the first instance.

Focus on solving the brand challenge with a good name, and don't fixate on the availability of the domain.

Plan to have your shortlisted names properly screened for possible trademark issues

If you need to trademark your name, you should of course approach specialist trademark lawyers with a shortlist of viable names who will be able to advise of any potential pitfalls or problematic names on the shortlist. Also, consider your industry. Do you need to have a legal entity name or a dba (doing business as) name? Does your industry have restrictions on the kind of domain extension you can use, such as .cpa for example?

For more ideas on how to develop an interesting and memorable name for your business download the free guide to Brand naming from The Identity Bureau website

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