Four Steps to Name Your Brand
Week 47 of Founding Typogram
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Where do I begin when I try to name a brand? Going from nothing to a fully-formalized brand name is one of the ways to go, but a difficult one. It might be in our instinct to go straight to our destination, and some of us are lucky to achieve that — it is not unheard of that a perfect brand name just came to you one day out of the blue, but I always believe in a process.
“Trust the Process”
When a painter is painting, and the artwork is going through “the ugly stage,” — they say to themselves: “trust the process.”
What is the process? It is the stages of laying down broad strokes, layering, and detailing. Before the final detailing work, the painting may look ugly, but as long as you trust the process and carry on with the process, the painting will come out nicely:
Typogram is about following a design process. A process is not a template; it is better than a template. It can yield endless creative ideas that look nothing like each other, yet all came from the same procedure.
I think there is great work to be done in discovering and popularizing creative processes for different kinds of jobs. Naming a brand is no different from other creative work — a structured process can help us break through the “artist block.”
Process of Naming A Brand
Step 1: write down seed words.
Start writing down words that describe what your startup does, including:
the business vertical that you are in (noun),
what makes your brand unique (adjective), how your customer would feel about this brand (adjective)
abstractive words that are related to your business.
Example: Travel Agency
Noun: Travel, Airline, Transportation, Air, Ticket, Booking, Hotel, Hospitality
Adjective: Easy, Relaxed, Care-free, Adventurous, Luxurious
Abstractive Words: Tranquility, Epiphany, Happiness, Destination
Step 2: try different methods to make these words unique and ownable as a brand name.
Most “off-the-shelf” words (straight from a dictionary) are not ownable as a brand name; it is too commonly used to be associated with a brand. I wrote more in Don’t name your startup “Better” on why naming your brand with common words is a bad good idea. You need to spice it up, make it unique, just like the “Distinctive Logo” step in Typogram which spice up the logo to look unique and memorable. There are eight different Typogram methods to make a logo look unique. I started collecting a few methods to make the words unique as brand names.
For example, we can add adjective or adverb suffixes to make a new word out of the noun. It is more ownable as a brand since the word doesn’t exist in the dictionary. Because it is based on standard grammar rules, it is easy to piece together what it means and remember how to spell it.
Examples: Grammarly, Typely, Typefully, Contentful, Shopify, Spotify
Step 3: due diligence.
Check if there are other companies (especially in your business vertical) that already use these names.
Check the domain availabilities.
.com is the most preferred by most for-profit businesses. If it is a non-profit brand,
.org might be more fitting. Don’t rule out
.io or even
.so and other domains. Country-related domains are also something to think about, like
Domain hack: If a brand name domain is not available or too expensive, you can also check alternative domains such as:
You get the idea.
Step 4: Create a scoring rubric and rank these domains.
It is up to your priorities and unique needs, but here are general guidelines to start:
First impression — is it punchy, impressive, and easy to tell others in a conversation?
Recall — is it easy for people to remember and spell correctly?
Domain availability — is the desired domain available at a reasonable price?
You can assign different weights to these criteria and come up with a scoring system. You can do this exercise by yourself or with your team to find the perfect brand name for your startup! It is also a cool team activity.
Hear from You
What do you think of this process of naming a brand? Anything you would add? I am interested in testing the process — if you decide to try it, I would really love to see how you applied it to your brand and what you have come up with in the end!
See you next week! If you have friends who are interested in founding startups, please consider sharing my newsletter with them!
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