Need to Generate a Business Name? Here's How to Get it Right.
Entrepreneur's New Year’s Guide
You have a great idea for a company. You’ve nailed your business plan. Now comes the hard part. What do you call it? There are several ways to do it. You can hire a branding expert or a naming agency. You can have long brainstorming sessions with your partners. Or you can hope for an “aha” moment.
There’s no one right way to craft the perfect name for your business. Maybe something from my story will spark an idea for yours.
1. Make sure your business name is unique and true to your brand.
I wasn’t even thinking about a name when I began Hint, my healthful flavored beverage and lifestyle company. I was focused on the product and trying to get it on the shelves. My initial idea was for unsweetened flavored water. It came about because of the time and place in my life. I had a couple of kids, and I was trying to get them to drink less juice and more water. The first name that came to me was “Wawa.”
My husband, an intellectual property attorney from the East Coast, told me that there’s already a giant convenience store chain called Wawa. There was no way I’d secure the trademark.
Then, one afternoon, a new moniker came to me. I realized that while talking about my concept that I always used the word “hint” to describe it. My husband wasn’t so keen on it, though. He pointed out that because it’s a four-letter, common word, the likelihood of getting the trademark was slim. But I said, “Why not try? The worst thing that could happen is that we get a ‘no.’” Spoiler alert: We got the name. And I think it’s one of the best ones out there for a consumer products brand.
2. Consider all of the potential business name connotations.
“Hint” has multiple meanings. Literally, we’re adding a hint of flavor to our water. There’s just enough fruit in -- a hint. But the meaning extends beyond the obvious to our overall goal, which is to offer people gentle nudges about how they can achieve wellness.
It’s difficult for a lot of people to get as healthy as they want to be. Fad diets come and go, we’re drowning in too much information (and misinformation) about nutrition, and as a society, we’re overweight. It’s a real problem. There are so many products that claim to be the solution, but they just add to the confusion. We hear from consumers all the time that our product is the first step in helping them believe they can reach their goals. Hint helps them on their journey of shifting away from soda and other sugary beverages.
Ultimately, though, I care less about what my definition of our company name is, and more about what it means to consumers. The best brands are the ones people remember. And people remember and remain loyal to companies that “get” them.
There are so many cleverly named companies. A few of my favorites include Drybar, Warby Parker, Rent the Runway and Shake Shack. Drybar immediately tells you the story of what the company does; Warby Parker is fun and memorable (it sounds like someone who would wear glasses); Rent the Runway provides a visual of what you’re going to get; and Shake Shack is fun to say and makes people smile.
3. Hire a pro to help generate a business name -- or not.
One of the dangers of naming is that without a process -- or a lightning bolt of inspiration -- you end up either overthinking it or become paralyzed and don’t actually do it.
People always ask me if I suggest hiring branding or naming experts. Although this wasn’t how I ended up generating my business name, I can’t tell you yes or no. That’s a personal decision. But there’s a cost to hiring someone else to do it, and it’s not just financial.
When you outsource, you sometimes lose control over parts of your business. Ceding some autonomy to a naming agency may end up making you feel disconnected from your brand, story and mission. On the other hand, experts exist for a reason, and many unforgettable brands have been born in an agency brainstorm. Ask yourself: If I can’t come up with a name, am I willing to outsource it? And how will you feel if don’t like any of the names they suggest?
In the end, it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth it seek outside help, or whether you have the skillset and patience to find the perfect name yourself.