Brand Naming – In Search of the Perfect Name with 7 Golden Rules

All brand namers and copywriters have their own set of beliefs when creating a brand name. I give you my 7, as Al Ries would say – “violate them at your own risk”.

1. The Perfect Name Is Easy To Read And Spell

“FLICKR is the worst name ever.”

In the era of war between millions of brands trying to grab your attention, mouth to mouth advertising has become effective like never before. When your loyal client’s mouth speaks to your potential client’s ears, make sure your brand name will be spelled right by the latter. Don’t complicate things. If you have a Marketing degree, odds are you already know that branding is all about making it easier for consumers. Just like complicated advertising messages never work, the same is true with complicated names. This rule probably doesn’t apply to companies owned by Yahoo, like Flickr.

2. The Perfect Name Is Readable In One Way Only


Again, to make it easier, all your consumers should read and say your brand name the same way. There are many company names spelled differently around the globe. Even great brands like Porsche, Nordsee and Esprit can be stated as examples. This usually happens when a language different from English is used. Have in mind that English is the planet Earth’s official language today. This year, Esprit Holdings are closing all their stores in North America, because they have been losing money. I hope this doesn’t happen to Nordsee, being a fan of their fish.

3. The Perfect Name Is Available For Trademark Registration

(SIGH) Those legal details …

This is the final detail of the naming process, yet it can bring you where you started. Today, there are more than 300,000 trademarks, just in the United States. If you are creating a name yourself, make sure you check your favourite names with a lawyer who has experience in intellectual property. If you are outsourcing the naming process, make sure you choose a naming company that does at least a preliminary trademark screening. Anyway, if you have plans to build a business operating in an area larger than your neighbourhood, your name should be trade-markable.

4. The Perfect Name Evokes A Relevant Positive Emotion

“Honey, you’ve bought me a Grundig epilator? Really?”

Some companies forget that a brand name is not just something you can put on every product out there. A brand name carries a certain emotion, an idea. So, it has to be the right idea. Remember that once your brand is built, that idea will become the brand itself. During the naming process, you can ask people from your target group to tell you what your favourite names make them think of. Focus groups would be even better. It’s always fun seeing what associations a name can evoke. These associations should be positive and relevant.

5. The Perfect Name Is Either Suggestive Or Enigmatic

“No, Grandma, I am not a sailor – Shell is an oil company!”

No other option. Suggestive or enigmatic. The suggestive name speaks for its industry, while the enigmatic name needs a speaker. The perfect name is either obvious or mysterious. If you choose to be mysterious, you will have to create a mysterious story behind your brand. There are theories of different types of brand names, for instance, the “trademark distinctiveness” divides names into 5 types: fanciful (coined names with the classic example of Kodak), arbitrary (meaningless context names, two of the greatest being Shell and Apple), suggestive (names like the catchy Dropbox), descriptive (names like the beloved Milka) and generic (common names that cannot be trademarked). If you ask me, I would drop names like Dropbox and Milka in the suggestive box and all the rest – in the enigmatic box. As simple as that.

6. The Perfect Name Stands Out From The Competitors’ Brands

“I want my name to be unique but not weird!”

Competition also plays an important role in brand naming. It is easy to come up with a name that sounds different from the competitors’ brands. The hard job is to develop a brand name that sounds different and better at the same time. This is where naming starts to look like art, as namers have to find the golden balance between the totally obvious and the totally new. Business owners are always after a name that is catchy and unique at the same time. However, just a small part of them have the courage to deviate from the mainstream. Be bold on this one.

7. The Perfect Name Jumps Out

“A name for a business jump!”

Now, this is where naming goes from art to magic. Even if you follow all the directions above, there is still a risk you may end up with a name that nobody would love. “Somehow, it just didn’t strike me as a great name”, they would say. The truth is names are subjective. This is what makes naming so exciting. You have to feel that THIS is the right name for you. People get personal with names. The process of naming your business is pretty much the same as the process of naming your child. You just know if it is the right one when you say it. Hence, don’t forget to say the names out loud when you make that choice.


Brand naming can be fun and it can also be exhausting. For naming companies, it is an exhausting fun. The good news is that naming is crucial for your business success yet it is not that expensive to outsource. And maybe you are a born namer – make a try with these 7 rules in mind. It is fun the first few days, I promise.