‘What is in a name?’

This question was first asked by Shakespeare in 1597, and it remains an age old question that haunts business owners today as well. One of the most important decisions that new business owners make is regarding the name of their new startup. The name of your business is the way you introduce it to the world. Whether you are greeting customers, pitching clients or filling out paperwork, your name will follow you wherever you go. Finding a name for your business is important but it is not easy. It requires time, energy and creativity.

Most businesses begin with a brainstorming session to get their creative juices flowing. Once they have found a few potential names, they begin to work on them to make them memorable. Creating a memorable business name is essential because if your customers cannot remember it or pronounce it, they will not associate your business with the service your offer. Finally, you should always test out the name of your business before you adopt it. By testing your business name, you can get valuable feedback from colleagues, friends and potential customers.

The Complete Guide to Naming Your Startup

© Shutterstock.com | Anton Fomenok

In this article, we explore 1) brainstorming a name for your startup, 2) creating a memorable name for your startup, and 3) deciding on a name for your startup.


Brainstorming is a regular part of the business. Whether you are coming up with new names, products or solutions, there is nothing like a colorful brainstorming session to get the creative thoughts flowing. While brainstorming is a powerful tool, it can often go awry. With so many distractions, it is difficult to sit down and focus on a purely mental task. While distractions may hinder your productivity, you can also harness them to feed your creativity. In order to receive useful inspiration from the world around you, you must first set a specific goal. Once you have an objective, you can commit to beginning your brainstorming session with an open mind. Brainstorming can be an enjoyable method of creating solutions in your business.

Set a goal

Before you begin your brainstorming session, you need to set two goals.

  • The first goal should be related to the desired results of your brainstorming session. A clear objective is necessary for keeping the session on track so that everyone can benefit from the session.
  • The second goal should being regarded to the potential name of your business.

When you are considering a name for your business, you want to think about your business goals. You should try to name your business for the company that you want to be ten years from now as well as the business it is today. This forward thinking should include avoiding names that follow today’s trends. Trendy names often date themselves very quickly. Also, many customers see right through them, and they doubt your businesses vitality. Choosing a trendy name often results in a name change in the near future. While a name change can be a positive thing, it is a complicated and expensive process. More often than not, a name change will confuse your customers. If you don’t rebrand correctly, you may leave behind the brand power that your business has worked for since its inception. A clearly defined goal can help you avoid most of the most common problems in naming and in brainstorming.

Getting inspiration

  • Check a thesaurus: As an age-old resource, a thesaurus is a great place to begin your brainstorming session. Begin the process by writing down the keywords that you want your customers to associate with your business. Then, look these keywords up in the thesaurus. Not only will you discover more colorful and flavorful words, but these new word associations will change the way you think about your business. You may even find a word that more accurately describes your business than the ones you thought of initially.
  • Utilize Google: People trust Google with everything from the weather to their most personal questions. Google is also an excellent resource for brainstorming. As the King of Content, there is not a day where you will not be surprised by what you find on Google. Take some of your keywords and throw them into the search engine. Make sure that you search the web and then do an image search as well. Look not only at the top results but explore the first few pages of hits. No matter what you are looking for, you will inevitably find inspiration. Google is also an excellent tool to find out whether or not any of your preliminary ideas are already in use by another company.
  • Take a hint from pop culture: Word associations are very meaningful for most people. One of the ways to have fun brainstorming is to find look for keyword associations in pop culture. While it is not advisable to name your business after a pop culture icon, you can think about your products and services. By looking at song titles, books, works of art, and film, you can get new creative ideas.

Take a risk

Creativity is one of the cornerstones of modern business. The most important part of successfully moving through the creative process is that you should not clog the creative process with fear of failure. You must enter a brainstorming session with a clear goal but also an open mind. It is necessary to remember that the names you think of during this session do not become the de facto name of your business. It is also important to remember that a brainstorming suggestion is a private matter. No one else needs to know about the abstract or silly ideas that you come up with. In fact, many people find genius in silly and abstract ideas. Some people feel as though they cannot be creative, but this is rarely true. Most people have ideas that are creative, but they do not share them because they are afraid of criticism. Here are several ways that you can set up your next brainstorming session to be your most creative one yet without fearing any negative feedback:

  • To move past the fear of failure in your next brainstorming session, ensure that you have set up a comfortable environment. The environment should not be boring, but it should be private and free of major distractions.
  • Ensure that there is both plenty of quiet time as well as group discussion.
  • You should also elect a discussion leader. A discussion leader does not have to be a manager in the company. The role of the discussion leader is to facilitate the conversation and keep everyone on track. Their role is also to keep people from immediately crushing another person’s ideas. Ideas that seem unusual may not be appealing to some of the group, and it is the leaders job to ensure that all ideas are explored. This will prevent the group from stifling creativity.


Naming things is a part of human nature. Names are the way in which humans experience the world through language. Creating a memorable name is essential for reaching your customers. However, creating a memorable name is more difficult than it may seem. It is essential that your name be both representative of your business but also memorable. Think of your business name as your front door. Your name is the way that most of your customers will first come into contact with your business. Therefore, it is important to make a good first impression.

Step #1: Make your name more than descriptive

As humans name things, it is natural to also want to describe them. However, your business name should do more than describe your service. The legendary technology brand IBM is actually named International Business Machines. While IBM does make international business machines used in countries all over the world, International Business Machines does not make for a palatable name. Instead of describing what your business does, try to describe the way you business philosophy and the way it behaves. When you begin to think about a name, think about the way you would describe your business’ personality.

If you want to explore a fantastic naming case study, look at Nike. One of the most recognizable brands on the market today, the word Nike has come to dominate the sports market. But in 1964, Nike took their name from Greek mythology. The Ancient Greek god named Nike was the God of Victory. She is most commonly depicted with wings, and she is known for being the goddess of strength, speed and victory. Nike has taken inspiration from mythology and brought it into the modern era. By using their name to endorse modern legends like Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and Rafael Nadal, their brand lives up to their name. Their customers respond by purchasing so many products that Nike currently hold a 32% market share in sportswear.

Step #2: Don’t be mysterious

While a short and flashy name is a great starting point, make sure that your name tells your customers about who you are. Your name should not be a puzzle for customers to piece together. What you do and what you stand for should be apparent from the beginning. Apple can get away with its esoteric name because it is easy to remember and because of the cult-like status of its leadership. However, not all new businesses are afforded that luxury. Someone who has never been to Qdoba may wonder what a Qdoba is and how to pronounce it. If you require an explanation every time you give your name, you may lose the magic of a great name.

Step #3: Don’t choose a trendy name or spelling

It may be appealing to choose a trendy name or spelling for your business, but it is often listed as one of the biggest mistakes new business can make. Trends change faster now than ever before and choosing a trendy name with a non-traditional spelling can date your company’s name very quickly. If you decide to go for a non-traditional spelling in your business name, you must remember that you will probably have to spell it almost every time you say it. Think about how you would feel if you had to spell your first name to people all day, every day. Also, you are not the only one who will have to spell it every time you say it. Your customers will have to do the same thing everytime they recommended you. Finally, you should consider a traditional spelling according to your country’s language. American companies may want to avoid umlauts, hooks or other accent markets. Not only will customers not know how to pronounce them but they will rarely spell them correctly. When there is no consistent spelling for the name of your company, your brand power suffers.

Step #4: Keep it Simple

Your name should be simple. It should be easy to pronounce and to remember. A recent study published in the Psychological Science journal stated that names that are complicated or difficult to pronounce are associated with risk. In the study, participants were shown the names of amusement park rides. Amusement park rides were rated as more likely to make someone sick when their names were hard to pronounce. Rides were deemed to be more exciting, producing a desirable risk when the names were easy to pronounce. If people don’t understand your name, they are more likely to fear it. Alternatively, if they process the name of your business easily, they are more likely to not only remember your name but take away a positive impression before they even visit.

Step #5: Make it memorable

Think about the things that you remember easily. Whether they are rhymes, jokes or lyrics, each of them has a few things in common. Here are three tips to creating a name that will be more memorable:

  • Create a name that has words that flow easily and feel natural together are easier to remember than those that force you to come to a hard stop. Alliterations are a great way to produce rhythm.
  • Use phonetically beautiful sounds because they evoke emotions in people. When a name sounds beautiful, it is easier to remember long term.
  • Make your name tangible because the more physical your name is, the easier it is to remember. People are more likely to remember objects than concepts.


Whether you think you have found the perfect name or you are finding it difficult to decide between two choices, asking the opinion of people you trust is one of the best ways of deciding upon your name. Your friends, family and colleagues all want your business to succeed. The people around you have a vested interest in your success. Once you reach a more advanced stage in planning, you can also consider running a field test to determine which names your potential customers find most desirable. The best way to gather this valuable information is to ask your audience.

  • Ask your team: Your team have a vested interest in making sure the company is successful. By consulting with team members and employees, you will get a variety of impressions and opinions from a group who want you to succeed. Also, if your colleagues and employees are able to contribute to the naming process, they will feel more ownership for the company. This translates into a sense of accountability and pride that will only benefit your business in the future.
  • Ask your friends: Your friends and family will share their honest opinions from a consumer perspective, and this is very valuable. Not only do they want to see your business take off but they may also be potential customers. Friends and acquaintances can approach your business from the outside and see flaws that you may be too close to see.
  • Run a field test: Market research is one of your biggest allies through all phases of your business. Market research is also one of your greatest assets in the naming process. You only have one chance to launch your company. If you have the resources, running a field test or a poll can provide a lot of insight on the potential reception of your business name. If you choose to hire a third party to perform this work, there are several things you should consider. You must consider their confidentiality policy, the research accuracy, and their research methodology. These three factors can help protect your name and your business in its early stages.


Giving your business a name is an exciting and fulfilling process. A good name is essential for the success of your business, and a great name can make a significant difference in the way your customers perceive your brand. Choosing a name for your business is hard work, and you should be prepared to devote time to it. Whether you are in the creative brainstorming stages, or you have reached the market research phase, it is important to remember to have a clear goal and keep an open mind. By choosing a name that is memorable and evokes emotion, you can reach your customers in a way that is meaningful.

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