Scoring the Best Brand Name
By Phil Davis
President of Tungsten Branding
With over twenty-five years of company naming and branding expertise, Tungsten founder Phil Davis is a marketing and advertising veteran, having personally named over 250 companies, products and services worldwide. As a sought after branding expert, Phil has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Inc.com, Businessweek, Entrepreneur, and Newsday.
How to know when you have a hit!
If you are like most entrepreneurs, you’ve come face-to-face with this daunting challenge – finding the best brand name possible, one that fully captures the essence of your company, product or service. You want it to inform, educate, explain, and position your business, all while engaging the customer and making the name both memorable and “sticky.” In addition, it must also clear all trademark hurdles and have an available and matching .com domain name. You might also want it to start high in the alphabet and be shorter than eight letters. And no longer than two syllables.
Sounds about right?
So out of a list of dozens, or perhaps even hundreds, of potential names, why doesn’t one just jump out? Why doesn’t one name do it all? Is that too much to ask? Is it even reasonable to ask?
This is the point in the naming process where I often step in to provide this analogy… hitting the hole-in-one. I say this because it provides a clear mental picture of what you are attempting to do, the demands you are placing on one singular aspect of your branding, the name. And once you see this clearly, you realize how unrealistic the goal is, and how you can adjust your expectations to move forward in finding the best brand name versus the “perfect” brand name.
If you’ve done your prep work correctly, you’ve created a list of naming and branding criteria, a prioritized set of attributes you want your brand name to convey. These are the qualities you are “shooting for” just like you aim for the flag when you shoot from the tees. Every time you make a practice shot it lands somewhere. These are all your naming candidates. In the brainstorming sessions, they land all over, to the right and left of the fairway, in the bunker, in the lake, barely off the tee, etc. But every once in a while you have a name that lands on the fringe or even on the green.
Here’s where the big mistake often occurs. Perhaps early in the process, a name comes sailing along and lands a few feet from the pin. “Well that’s not too shabby!” the thinking goes. So now I just need to get one even closer. And so it begins. Shot after shot trying to best a name that’s only a few feet from the flag, the pin, the goal itself. So rather than work with that shot, the process goes into grind mode with more and more shots are fired, the brain gets more tired, perspective is lost, balls fly everywhere. What to do?
Here’s the answer to this naming dilemma. It’s really simple. Ready?
Find Your Best Brand Name: Can you putt this name in?
By “putt it in,” I mean can you easily segue from the company name to a short, intuitive explanation of who you are and what you do? And to help, I’ll provide some examples…
A one-put brand name:
Owner: “Hi, I’m with ParkPlace.” (hits the green and rolls up three feet from the pin)
Customer: “ParkPlace? What’s that?”
Owner: “ParkPlace is the ultimate garage space!” (taps the three-foot putt into the cup)
Customer: “Oh! Cool! You do garage conversions? Awesome… I was just talking to a friend about having this done…”
A three-putt brand name:
Owner: “Hi, I’m with Quali-versions” (lands on the far fringe of the green)
Customer: “Huh? Qauli-what?”
Owner: “QUALI-VERSIONS… Q-U-A-L…” (35-foot putt)
Customer: “Yeah, well that’s nice. I’m kind of busy right now…”
Owner: “It stands for Quality Conversions” (second ten foot putt)
Customer: “My car is running…”
Owner: “We work in the garage industry and we can convert your garage…” (makes the final putt but the customer is now gone)
The point here is that your product or company name does not have to be a hole-in-one – it’s both unrealistic and unnecessary. If you get close to the pin, to your goal, and can tap the name in with a short, succinct pitch, then that brand name truly is the best brand name. It’s a winner, it accomplishes the goal. So what you thought was a subpar name might actually be above average… a winning name that’s just one short tap from the cup.
So the real question you should be asking yourself once you have a short list of naming candidates is this… which of these is the shortest distance to the pin? Can I make it there with one easy statement? Is it a straight line? Or does this require a chip shot and a lucky bounce?
I say all this because I encounter entrepreneurs and startups that needlessly torture themselves by swinging away for days and weeks on end in hopes of hitting upon the elusive “perfect name.” The good news is that you don’t need a perfect name, you just need a winning name, the best name for your company. What PGA golfer would be upset to birdie every hole they play but not hit a hole-in-one? They would be in contention at every tournament. And you can be too… just set your sights on your goal and get close. The rest is an easy tap in!
About the author: With over twenty-five years of company naming and branding expertise, Tungsten founder Phil Davis is a company naming consultant, having personally named over 250 companies, products and services worldwide. As a sought-after branding expert, Phil has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Inc.com, Businessweek, Entrepreneur, and Newsday.