Thinking up business name ideas takes time and effort, especially when you need to find a name that’s available to trademark and has meaning related to your brand story. But we’ve discovered some brainstorming tools that make it easier. Here are five of our favorites.
Five Brainstorming Tools for Business Name Ideas
- Mobi Thesaurus — The beauty of Mobi is that it’s messy. Unlike a standard thesaurus whose entries are fairly close in meaning to your search term (making them expected, boring and probably already used in existing brand names), Mobi delivers words and short phrases related to your search term in weird and unexpected ways. This not only gives you surprising business name ideas, it helps trigger new ideas and areas to search for names.
- OneLook — OneLook lets you search dictionaries using a word part. For example, enter “sun*”, and you’ll get a list containing the word “sun” at the beginning of the entries: sun god, sunlamp, sunbonnet, sundries, etc. You can filter out the more obscure entries so you don’t get slammed with thousands of results. Also try using OneLook’s thesaurus and the reverse dictionary when you get stuck for new ideas.
- LeanDomainSearch – We don’t normally recommend branding your business based on whatever domain names happen to be available. But when you absolutely, positively have to have a matching domain name, Lean Domain Search will show you dot.com names that are available to purchase. Enter a term, and the tool will return a list of randomized compound names. For example, entering “fit” will result in a list that includes “FitVillage,” “FitLightning,” and “FitExcellent.” You can have the results displayed with the search term at the start or end of the name.
- Phrase Thesaurus — With the increasing difficulty of finding available names, more brands are naming around short phrases. The Phrase Thesaurus lets you search for an exact word, or for phrases related to the word. For example, a broad search for the word “sun” will return “a place in the sun” as well as “catch a falling star.”
- Mixwords — The crowded trademark situation is also making compound words popular as names, i.e. YouTube. Mixwords combines the terms you input into random compounds.
With most of these tools, the trick to creating a compelling name that sets you apart from your competition is not to use a generic word part. If your business is a yoga studio, avoid using “yoga” as one of the words in your name. That’s generic, and your name would blend in with the names of your competitors. Instead, search for words related to your brand promise (the benefit you offer) or your differentiator (how you do things differently from your competition).
For example, when Pollywog was creating a name for a new low-cost spay/neuter service offered by the local humane society, we explored words suggesting advocacy for the pets of low-income owners. This led us to the word “kind.” Using OneLook, we searched for phrases with “kind” in them and quickly found “kindest cut,” which perfectly fit the brand and its offering.
If you’re still having trouble with business name ideas, contact us. We offer special low prices on naming packages for startups, and we’d be happy to give you a hand.
It wasn’t just the promise of an easy, delicious meal, though. It was the utter approachability of the name.
This kind of name usually doesn’t survive a corporate naming process. “That’s negative. We don’t want to be negative. The name should have ‘easy’ or ‘perfect’ or something positive like that in it.”
But I would not have picked up a product named so tritely. I would not have even noticed it. “Can’t Mess It Up” got my attention because it had the word “mess” in it. That’s not something you see every day in a food product. (Read this for more on how negativity can make a brand name more effective.)
Beyond that, “Can’t Mess It Up” sounds human–like something a friend would say. Unlike a product that promises perfection with an expected, positive name (which I would dismiss immediately as unbelievable), this brand suggests an empathy for people who may be uncertain about their culinary prowess.
In short, it was the humanity in this name that suggested I might be able to believe its promise.
So I bought the salmon. And then I messed it up.
In fairness, though, I didn’t follow the directions. Next time I won’t try to heat up a meal and be on a conference call at the same time.
Naming is hard—and if you don’t know how to evaluate a name, it can also be extremely subjective. That’s how global sports marketers can end up with product names like Arakys, Rarig, Alligare and Repko. (See “Why Your North Face Jacket is Called a ‘Ceptor'”)
We know from scientific research what kind of information the brain is more likely to notice and remember. The above names fail to meet the most important criteria: instant meaning. If someone doesn’t know what a word means, none of the other important aspects of a name—emotional trigger, visual concrete image, approachability, connection to brand promise/differentiator, personality traits, etc.—can apply.
Compare those names to Stumpjumper—a mountain bike mentioned in this same story. Because you understand the word, the name is packed with connections: It’s energetic. Athletic. Daring. It alludes to mountain terrain. It speaks to high performance. It has a great sound, and even though it’s a little long, it still looks visually interesting because of the repeating “ump” letter pattern.
Some names are just better than others. It doesn’t have to be a mystery why.
If you’ve got a naming project coming up, please contact Pollywog. We’d love to help you create the best name possible.
So, you’ve determined that you need to rebrand. (Maybe you saw your situation in 10 Signs That You May Need to Rename Your Business.) Whether it’s something you’ve thought about for a while or a response to a new change in circumstances, rebranding may be on your horizon, and now you’re wondering when to rename.
How do you know when to rename your business?
1. When you’re about to relocate. It only makes sense to create your new brand first if you will be investing in new branded materials that include your address. You’ll make a big splash launching a new brand and location in one fell swoop.
2. At least nine months before your industry’s biggest trade show. Give yourself ample time for your rebranding project. It’s best to allow three months just to create your new brand name—longer if you try to do the renaming yourself. Be sure you have time to rebrand your trade show booth and to print all the materials you intend to hand out.
3. After you’ve fixed the problems that had led to a negative image. You’ve been unable to shake negative perceptions that arose from issues you’ve now resolved. Rename your business, and relaunch with a new brand to show that you’re serious about real change. (Just make sure those issues really are fixed, or you could be in for a branding rollercoaster. See Time for Blackwater to Change Its Name Again.)
4. After you’ve received an influx of venture capital. Set aside a portion for the rebranding that will propel your advertising and marketing going forward. Then seek help from the pros.
5. In a strong economy. If your business needs a new name, chances are that won’t change. What will change, though, is how you’ll feel about the cost. In a downturn, you may think rebranding is a luxury that can be put off, but that will just prolong your branding issues. Rebrand now so your business will be well positioned during the next downturn.
6. In a weak economy. A stronger brand helps you compete more effectively in good times and bad. But your distinctive, compelling new brand name will especially stand out when competitors are slashing their marketing budgets. Take advantage of that lull in competitive noise to exploit what opportunities there may be, even when customers are purchasing less.
In 2013, entrepreneur Jamie Siminoff pitched his idea for a smart doorbell to Shark Tank as the “DoorBot.” The one shark who showed any interest made a low-ball offer that Siminoff rejected.
Today, Amazon announced that it had purchased the company — which had been renamed to “Ring” — for $1 billion.
Now, I’m not saying that the name change made the difference, but it was certainly an improvement.
“DoorBot” was generically descriptive and cold, and it reflected only the product’s functionality. “Ring,” however, has some great connections to a number of relevant ideas. It’s instantly warmer and more human, with more emotional connections.
- It evokes the sound of a doorbell, of course, and those feelings of anticipation, curiosity, or even dread when you know someone’s at the door.
- You “put a ring on it” as an expression of commitment—a subtle suggestion of reliability.
- The company chose this name primarily, though, to allude to the “ring of security” the device offers for the home and community.
On its blog, the company wrote, “The name is as important of a change as anything else we are doing.”
We couldn’t agree more.
Almost 50 years ago, Rival Manufacturing acquired a new product design: an electric crock, which they unimaginatively named the Crock-Pot. As descriptive names tend to do, “Crock-Pot” became the go-to word for all similar products, even though there are many more brands of slow cookers on the market.
Rival’s poor naming choice came back to haunt them last night when an episode of the popular TV series “This Is Us” featured a malfunctioning, generically branded slow cooker as the cause of the fire that killed Jack.
Suddenly Twitter is abuzz with people saying they’re going to toss out their Crock-Pots and remove them from their wedding registries. And they’re calling them “Crock-Pots” (or crockpots or crock pots), not “slow cookers.”
Such is the hazard of descriptive names. When a brand name describes the form or function of a product, it risks becoming generic. In addition to losing trademark protection (or not being able to trademark it in the first place), a generic-sounding brand lives or dies based on the fortunes of the entire category.
The Crock-Pot brand took a hit last night and the manufacturer is mobilizing PR for damage control, although I think this flap will quickly be forgotten.
But let the lesson be remembered: Avoid descriptive, functional names, especially if you’re first-to-market.
Be the “Apple” in the personal computer category, or the “Red Bull” in energy drinks, or the “Häagen-Dazs” of premium ice cream.
And not the “Kitty Litter” of cat litter.