Brand names are a make-or-break factor for any solopreneur business. Naming your brand is among the most challenging phases in the process of your business … and it’s actually something you can do only once, so you had better apply everything to get it right first time. Before you can develop all the various elements of your brand identity, you need a name that’s not only appropriate, available, appealing … but, most importantly, enduring over time.
Think of this: every other aspect of your Content Branding & Design can be chopped and changed with some months of business wobble. You can go in for makeovers of your logo, tagline or brand color scheme – and not suffer for too long, hopefully, till people come to recognize the new look as much as they did the old one. But from the day you announce your brand name, it gets all locked in with your business.
Realizing the sheer power of a great brand name for your business!
Before you think about naming your brand, it pays to understand what branding gives to your business. Imagine if everything around us – all products and services – had no brand names. They would all be generic commoditized offerings. We’d have bath soap, consulting services, couriering agents, stationery products and host of other items made by different manufacturers, and we’d be none the wiser which manufacturer produces something better than the other.
A brand name on the other hand is like a label around the neck of a product or service. This label (the brand name) signifies to us, in shorthand, the qualities and superiority of the brand, especially because we’ll have been shown a lot of concurrent messages that say “Brand X means superior quality” or “Brand Y means unbeatable safety”. So the brand name becomes a shorthand for all the qualities to associate with the brand, including why it’s better than competitors.
The right name should ideally help distinguish your products and services from all others, and it should help establish your brand personality, brand character, market position, and the nature of your offering. A best-of-breed brand name should, in fact, accomplish all of these advantages:
- It should reflect the brand character you want to promote.
- It should convey or support your desired brand image.
- It should succintly describe your product offering.
- It should be consistent with your brand promise.
- It should forge an association to the meaning of your brand.
- It should be easy and pleasant to pronounce (and hopefully not mean something horrible in most other common languages).
- It should enable your business to grow (so it shouldn’t be too tightly tied in with the business you’re doing today, and should allow new product introductions in future).
- It should be capable of growing in value as an asset, in case you want to license it out or sell your business tomorrow.
- It should be unique and memorable.
- And these days, since we use social media so much, it must be convertible into a hashtag.
You’ll notice that the best brand names you can recall would score top marks on all of these ten areas.
Brainstorming, vetting and zeroing in on your final brand name!
There are two questions that most solopreneurs ask regarding brand name finalization. Let’s take both these questions one after the other:
1. Is it better to name your brand after your own personal name as a solopreneur – or should you go for a brand name different from your personal name?
The simple answer here is whether you will ever plan to sell your business after you’ve made a lot of money and a good offer comes your way. If you never anticipate selling your business, then it’s a great idea for a solopreneur to make his or her personal branding into an asset. Name your business after yourself, and become the famous brand you always wanted to be.
If on the other hand, you anticipate you may like to sell your business, then there are no two choices, you have to go for a name different from your own. Otherwise you can’t sell your business without selling yourself to the new owner as the most valuable asset! From the domain name availability point of view, though, your personal name, if it’s unique enough, may be more easily available than a generic business name.
2. Does it make more impact online to have an out-of-the-box brand name or to go for a brand name more suggestive of the business niche?
There are enough instances of both types of names. We have the “Content Marketing Institute” for instance that is clearly explanatory of its business niche and, in fact, takes a position of dominance by its very name. We also have names like “Yahoo” and “Google” that are just out-of-the-box and their memorability have come from their novelty value. We also have names that have worked brilliantly like “Amazon” and “Apple” which are in the in-between territory between being sensible and yet a bit offbeat, but without actually explaining their line of business.
Ultimately, a lot is decided on such brand names going by the intuitive feel of the business owner. Some experts believe that having out-of-the-box names suggests an attitude of nonchalance that works very well in the online world where being non-conformist helps. But some other experts argue that out-of-the-box names themselves don’t get credibility until the business owners set out to imbue the offbeat brands with strong customer-supportive values. The name itself is not the issue, it’s what you make the name stand for that matters more.
In this connection, there’s a lovely quote attributed to Plato which apparently originally came from Socrates (aeons before the nonconformist Internet was even dreamt of):
A name should possess some sort of natural correctness … if a letter is added or subtracted, that doesn’t matter either so long as the being or essence of the thing is in control and expressed by the name…. I myself prefer the view that names should be as much like things as possible, but I fear that defending this view is like hauling a ship up a sticky ramp.”
An unusual name can act like a the hook that makes people intrigued to hear your brand story. The other advantages of odd names are:
- They’re more likely to be available as domain names.
- They’re more likely to rank at the top of web searches on Google.
- They require a lot of initial commitment to explain the name, which may force businesses to polish up their brand promise articulation.
Claiming your brand name on the web … the easy and tough parts!
There are two parts to claiming you preferred name on the web. The first issue is in getting the domain name you want. Despite the fact that we have lots of domain extensions now (,com, .net, .info, .biz and all other permutations and combinations), it’s commonly accepted wisdom that .com (dot com) domain names work best, while all other extensions are not the ultimate.
Now, within the choice of domain names, you could look for ideas that reflect your niche, or your difference, or your target audiences and their segments or your area of passion. It helps to do customer research to see what customers seem to resonate with, and then to search for variations of that idea as domain-name possibilities.
Five rules rules that I have always been taught to follow:
- Don’t make the name too long or it cannot be remembered.
- Always prefer hyphenated names as they seem to rank better in Google which can tell the separate words and their lexical meanings (for instance, “solohacks-academy” is better understood by Google and people than “solohacksacademy”).
- When you get names, make sure you also buy their typical misspellings (to create name-forwarding from the misspelt names to your rightly spelt domain.) For instance, when I had to get the domain name “blogbillionaire”, I also got the same word spelt with two “n’s” instead of just one, since a lot of people misspelt it as “blogbillionnaire”.
- Don’t get a brand name which may have been trademarked by someone else (which means you must be careful to hire law professionals to check legal copyrights and trademarks ahead of domain search).
- Make sure that your domain name sounds great as a hashtag. For example, a good hashtag could be #ShareaCoke from Coca Cola. An example of a terrible hashtag is the one used when Susan Boyle’s latest music album campaign was released. It read #susanalbumparty! (*face palm*). Incidentally, even hashtags are being trademarked these days – so double-triple-quadruple-check, before deciding on that brand name.
Almost all the words of the dictionary seem to have been taken as domain names. So your best bet would be to try out these free word generators online where you can feed in two words and get a meshed word. Sometimes it vomits rubbish. Occasionally you may get a gem – and find it available with a .com extension. What bliss!
Registering and protecting your brand name from theft and disrepute!
Once you’ve found the domain name you want and are at the 90% finalization stage, do four things right away:
- Get your attorneys to get it trademarked, pronto. To do this they’ll have to check again, anyway, if it’s treading on any other toes. So that’s a good discipline to follow.
- Start using the hashtag in all your social updates, and also create Facebook pages, Google Pages, and Twitter Brand Accounts with this name – and of course put up at least one home page of your website.
- Even after you have the brand name, see if other competitors are getting too close to your name deliberately, to create consumer confusion. It’s a subtle form of theft that you may be able to challenge if you have legalized your ownership to the name.
- Finally, be ever so careful of people trying name-disrepute tactics online to try and force you to give up the name you’ve got.
So what are your thoughts on this topic? Do share!
This post is incomplete without your input. The community of aspiring digital solopreneurs would feel galvanized to hear from you … so do share your thoughts on this topic with us in the comments field below this post.
Other articles in our series “Content Branding & Design”:
- Designing A Knockout Brand Identity For Your Solopreneur Business!
- Designing A Solopreneur Website To Look Like A Million Bucks!
- The Right Brand Strategy Can Help Your Content Marketing Nail It!
- 8 Huge Benefits Of Branding For Businesses Doing Content Marketing!
- Your Maverick Factor Must Underpin Your Solopreneur Brand Strategy!