The 16 Most Popular Brand Name Types For Any Startup Business

January 18, 2018

Naming anything is bloody hard work!

Naming my 2 daughters took an age – and that was with a load of lists of girls names already in alphabetical order!

It’s even harder when naming your business. The entire English language (and many others) are your oyster. Where do you begin?

You can choose ANYTHING.

Probably best not to though.

So I’m gonna show you how to put some much needed thought into it. Here are the top types of brand name that you’ll find across every industry. What they’re all about. And when best to use them.  

Naming knowledge is hard to come by

Most people only know a handful of the brand name types I’m gonna take you through.

Descriptive, location-based, personal name-based or acronym.

This doesn’t bode too well for creativity or inspiration. And is one of the main reasons why most business names are so stab-yourself-in-the-eye boring.

Names like ‘Cheap Books’, ‘Liverpool Carpets’, ‘Mark Jenkins Communications’, ‘CVL’ etc.

Now I’ve made all of those up. They took me an average of 2 seconds each to think of. They sound like real businesses. They probably are incredibly similar to a lot of real businesses.

They’re all AWFUL.

So let’s try and spice things up a little bit shall we? For the sake of mankind.

The trend is not your friend

We all love a good trend.

When the going gets good, jump on it.

Or don’t.

In fact, it’s a lot more risky in the long run to your business if you do.

Naming trends are notoriously fickle. One moment they’re the height of fashion, the next, they’re overused, cliched and untrustworthy.

Think about all the ‘thing.ly’ and ‘iThing’s’ everywhere. Do you wanna blend with the trend? Follow the herd? Stand side-by-side with the other sheep?

I hope not.

You want to stand out. Be timeless. Have something that’s unique to you and that’s memorable.

So before you think about jumping on trends, have a little step back. Sit down in your favourite comfy chair. Grab a tea. Grab a biscuit. And think it through.

It might give you a 5 minute boost, but you’re gonna want more.

16 ways to skin (or name) a cat

So here they are. All of the different types of brand name you could choose for your business, in one handy place! Each of them have their place. Some a little less so than others. But think about which one would suit your business the most.

1. Founder

Naming your business after yourself can be one of the easiest routes, but not necessarily the best. Your friends and family might know you and love you (hopefully), but everyone else in the world won’t know a thing about you.

Walt Disney may now be a global household name associated with childhood magic and dreams, but that took almost half a century to establish. The associations are learned rather than instinctive.

If I told you that Simon Golding World was now open in Florida, you’d think ‘who?’.

Some other examples are Boeing, Armani, Chanel, Bacardi, Ben & Jerry’s etc.

It can take a hell of a lot of time and effort to establish yourself as a ‘brand’. Once you do however, it will be incredibly unique – as there’s only one you.

But therein lies the other rub. It is completely linked to you. Your personality, your values, your look & feel etc. It will be very hard to distance yourself from it as your brand grows.

2. Descriptive

Quick Print. Pound Store. General Motors. The Weather Channel.

Basically, one look at these and you know exactly what you’re gonna get.

There’s no surprise, no mystery, no intrigue. Nothing that makes you want to look further into the business and develop a connection with it. Nothing that lends itself to experiencing something more.

Descriptive business names are the ‘creative’ works of genius from people that are not creative. Yes, it quickly tells people what your business does, but that’s it.

It’s very limiting and shows a lack of vision beyond where you started.

As you can tell, I’m not a big fan.

3. Geographical

This type of name can work well in a few situations.

If your business is inextricably linked to a place. Think sports team or university. L.A Lakers. Oxford University.

If your business is from an area that is highly regarded in its niche. Links of London(for trend-setting jewelry). L’Oreal Paris (for designer cosmetics). Donna Karan New York (for cosmopolitan fashion) – alright, I’m aware that it’s DKNY – we’ll come to acronyms next!

If your business only serves people in that particular area and you want to let them know that you’re local to them. A lot of single business owners and one-man brand tradesmen will use this – plumbers, electricians, builders etc.

If you don’t fall into one of the above however, then best not to worry about a brand name based on the location you’re from.

We’re moving to much more of a global, digital society and business model. Using something like this as a freelancer or online entrepreneur will only hinder your reach.

4. Acronym

IBM, KFC, ESPN, BMW, HP, BBC, AOL, SAP, LG…I could go on. And on.

Now how boring do they look??

Most of those will only mean something to you because they’ve spent billions of dollars over many years to teach you about themselves. And even then, I still don’t know what some of those letters even stand for!

You need to have some mega funds and time on your hands if you want to go down the acronym root.

To be honest, even the descriptive root is better than this. Acronyms say NOTHING about who you business is and what it does.

You’ll mostly find that the majority of acronyms have come about from companies that used to have descriptive names, found them too long and wordy for their liking, so through sheer laziness, used the first letters of each word instead.

Great job. Try and steer clear of this type. It won’t do you any favours.

5. Suggestive / evocative

Ooh, now here we start getting a bit more juicy.

Now we start to instill some creativity into our naming endeavours!

Think about Jaguar, power and sophistication. Nike, the Greek goddess of victory. Amazon, the largest river in the world. Twitter, small, light, quick sounds.

These are all names that don’t describe what the business does, more give an idea into the vision and purpose of the brand. Their personality and ideals.

They create visual images in our minds that are not only memorable, but also elicit an emotional reaction from us with what they represent.

These are a great option to look into if you want to build a brand that hooks people from the get-go.

6. Just plain because

Sometimes, business owners just pick a word.

Something that doesn’t really have any apparent relationship to the brand at all.

Apple is a great example of this type. It says absolutely nothing about their premium, trendy lifestyle technology vision whatsoever.

Penguin. Small chocolate bar or giant publishing house. Either way the word has nothing to do with either!

Another route that’s not really recommended. If it has nothing to do with what your business is and does, and isn’t able to represent what you stand for, then don’t bother.

You’ll be spending most of your time explaining to people why you’ve called yourself that.

And like the best jokes, if you have to explain them, they’re no good.

7. Completely and utterly made-up

Kodak, Exxon, Haagen Dazs, Xerox etc.

None of them mean a thing.

Someone just threw scrabble tiles on a table and jotted down the spread.

Pretty much as bad as the random actual word.

Again, if it has nothing to do with your company and doesn’t mean a thing to your audience, why use it?

7. Foreign

Terms from other cultures and languages can be a good bet.

Volkswagen, ‘the people’s car’ in German. Petis Pois (peas) for a childrens’ clothing line. Samurai for a ride at the Thorpe Park theme park in the UK.

For them to work well however, your audience will need to have a general gist of what they mean, or they’ll have to be an obvious choice from a particular language.

And then we start getting into national stereotypes – efficiency and quality from Germany, sophisticated style from France, a zest for life from Italy etc.

This style may work for your business, but you’ll have to do a lot of testing on your audience first before you know for sure.

9. Alternative spelling

Krispy Kreme, Foundr, Fiverr, Unbxd, Qustodian, Flud, Gyft, Digg, Xoom, Reddit etc.

Now these are just a world of headache.

They may be easy to get your domain name sorted, but do you really value that over the rest of your business life going, ‘Yeah, crispy…with a K. Then cream. Yeah, but not like that…with a K also. Wait. Yup. The rest is different too…eme. EME. Yeah…’

That does not sound like fun to me.

There’s enough to worry about getting right in my business than my brand name over the phone to someone!

Make things easy for yourself and your audience. Spell things correctly.

Not only does it make your brand look stupid and childish, it also makes your audience feel stupid and childish when they try and search for your brand but can’t find it because you’ve decided to spell it like a 4 year old.

10. Oxymoron

In the vein of the suggestive type, these are another form, but use contrast to add a bit more creativity.

OriginalFake – vinyl toys and clothing, IcyHot – pain relief cream, for example. This type is often used by music artists – Fatboy Slim, Biggie Smalls, Arctic Monkeys etc.

As long as it goes some way to giving the feel of your brand, its purpose, and means something to your audience, then you’re good to go.

11. Compound

This is a very common type of brand name.

These are made up of two words simply put together. Salesforce, Facebook, Snapchat, Foursquare, Fitbit, Skillshare, Geeklist etc.

They’re popular because they fall halfway between descriptive and suggestive. One part is usually about what the business does and the other is about how they do it.

BRANDSNACK is classic example of this type of brand name. The first part tells my audience what my business mainly focuses on (also great for a bit of SEO). The second half suggests an air of informality, quick bites of info to dig in at any time, and something tasty and addictive.

This is another great way of creating a unique name as the combination options are endless!

12. Blended

Similar to the compound type, but not quite the same, blended names take elements of two words and put them together rather than the words in their entirety. These can be a little more mysterious and fun.

FedEx (Federal Express), Microsoft (microsystems and software), Instagram (instant and telegram), Mixel (mix and pixel), Codecademy (code and academy), Pinterest (pin and interest…I hope I didn’t need to spell that one out for you).

Blended names are really good if you can get them right – very unique and very memorable if they roll off the tongue. The new word created must be easy and pleasurable to say for it to be successful.

13. Prefix / suffix

And here we go with the trends!

Anything.ly, iAnything, anything.io, anything-ify, anything-ism etc.

These are all basically generic words that would otherwise be boring if it weren’t for the even more generic trend added to it and, oh, you know what…still boring.

They lack any form of creativity and unique appeal. They are the same as every other name with the same prefix or suffix.

Apple coined the iWhatever. It’s theirs. Leave it to them.

Everyone else has murdered ‘ly’, don’t join the massacre.

14. Pun / humour

Get this one right and it could do very well for your business and brand.

It will not only set you up with something unique, but also with something that’ll instantly set off an emotional reaction in people – laughter.

We remember things that make us happy. So what a start if you can do that with your brand name!

World of Woolcraft, Tequila Mockingbird, Wok This Way, Pho Shizzle (referring to the Vietnamese dish pho), Nin Com Soup etc.

However these are probably the most difficult to pull off! You need to be real careful that you come across as clever funny, not cringe worthy…

Spex in the City (opticians), Camel Tow (car towing service), Electricity Bill(electrician), Jean-Claude Van Man (house movers) etc.

A bad pun can quickly take away from your credibility so use with much care!

15. Numbers

Numbers can be a great addition, but they must have relevance to the word they’re being attached to.

7-Eleven – more of a historical one this, but before the days of 24 hour convenience, it was open from 7am to 11pm, 7 days a week. XBOX360 – an all encompassing gaming experience. 37signals – 37 radio telescope signals to check out any alien life in the cosmos).

Numbers are also a great way to find something unique.

Just remember to keep them meaningful, not numbers just for the sake of it – like Gmail’s suggestion of james0564 for a username.

Cheers Google. I’ll choose my own.

16. Backwards

If in doubt after all of that, just write it backwards…

…is not clever advice. For anybody.

Xobni (eh?) (inbox) (oh), Harpo (Oprah), Aneres (Serena).

Just no.

16 ways to skin (or name) a cat

…might smell as sweet, as long as you get the name right.

Not quite as catchy as Shakespere’s version, granted. That’s why I’m more branding than traditional poetic playwright.

But for our purposes, much better!

You have a wealth of options for naming your brand, some are amazing, some less so.

To get the right level of creativity, uniqueness and usability, I would suggest really trying to stick with the suggestive, oxymoron, compound, blended or numbers (at a push).

Approach the rest with caution. They will most likely limit you in some way down the line if you’re not careful.

How does your brand name compare to these? Have these types helped in thinking up of a name for your business? Fling yourself over to the Facebook group and let’s chat!