How to Name a Brand in 10 Steps

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Posted Sep 26, 2011
Susan Gunelius

When the time comes in your business life cycle to name a brand, it’s not a task to take lightly. A brand name represents a promise to consumers and differentiates the value your brand offers from competitors’ brands. More importantly, you need to take yourself out of the brand naming equation entirely because it doesn’t matter if your brand name makes sense to you. It really only matters if your brand name is meaningful to consumers.

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There are many companies that specialize in naming brands, but if your budget doesn’t allow for external help, then you can name a brand successfully without expensive teams of experts.

Following are the 10 steps you should take to name a brand that resonates with consumers, differentiates your brand from others on the market, and is flexible enough to survive for many years to come.

1. Develop Your Brand Strategy

You should not name a brand until you develop your brand strategy. How can you know if you’re choosing the right brand name if you don’t know what that brand’s unique value proposition, brand promise, and strategic direction are?

2. Research the Market, Competitors, and Consumers

You need to fully understand your market before you can create an effective brand name. Do your research and learn what brand names your competitors are using and how consumers feel about those brand names. Identify gaps and opportunities and develop a brand name that fills those gaps and leverages those opportunities. Keep an eye on the AYTM blog for my upcoming post that will focus on research for naming products and brands.

3. Identify the Message Your Brand Should Communicate

Once you understand what already exists in your market from your competitors and what consumers want from brands in that market, you can refine your brand position. Use that position along with your brand promise to develop the best brand name possible. Furthermore, identify your brand’s unique personality and create a brand name to match.

4. Brainstorm without Judging

Gather your team together and start brainstorming! There are no bad ideas this early in the process, so go for quantity. Even the most off-the-wall idea should be accepted and not judged. You never know what crazy thought could spawn the perfect idea! Look at your brand from all angles; focus on each benefit; consider all audiences, and make that list as long as you can. Be sure to include consumers and unbiased third parties in your brainstorming process if possible.

5. Create a Short List

Use that long brainstorming list to develop possible brand names, and narrow that list of possible brand names down to 10-20 of the best. Make sure the short list of brand names you create includes names that can last through market changes, brand extensions, geographic expansions, trends, fads, and so on. You should create a brand name that can stand the test of time because you never know where the world, the market, consumers, competitors, and you could go in years to come.

6. Trademark and Domain Name Availability Search

Research the availability of each of the brand names on your short list for trademarking. You don’t want to launch a brand and receive a cease and desist letter a few months (or years) later telling you that someone else already owns that trademark so you have to stop using it. Also, check for domain name availability. While it’s very possible that the exact domain name for your brand name won’t be available, you need to know early if there are no acceptable alternatives available.

7. Create a Shorter Short List

Based on your trademark and domain name research, shorten your brand name shortlist even further. Try to narrow it down to 5-10 of the best options.

8. Develop Brand Marketing Mock-ups

Create a logo, ad, business card, and package mockups using the brand names on your shortened short list. Make sure each brand name looks good visually and sounds good when spoken out loud. A brand name might sound great on a short list, but when you put it in a radio ad or on package design, it might not work at all.

9. Test Your Brand Marketing Mock-ups

When you’ve got your shortlist brand marketing mock-ups ready, test them through consumer research. Find out which choices resonate well with your target audience and which do not. Through this testing, you should be able to determine which brand names are best, which need tweaking, and which need to be tossed immediately. It’s also possible that the testing phase will teach you that you need to go back to the drawing board and come up with a completely different brand name.

10. Roll out and Monitor Your Brand

Once you settle on a brand name, launch it and use it consistently across all customer touch points. Be sure to conduct ongoing research and monitoring to ensure your brand name is well-received. Remember to stay tuned for my upcoming post about product and brand name research.

For a great story about how to name a brand, check out Dan Heath and Chip Heath’s article on about the process brand agency Lexicon used to develop some of the most well-known brands in the world.

In my next post, you’ll learn about tips to name a product, so stay tuned. Many of the tips I’ll provide can be used when you name a brand, too! And if you missed my article that explains the difference between a brand and product, follow the preceding link to read it now.

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