Electric Eel or Glitterati? How To Come Up With a Brand Name

How to come up with a brand name

When it comes to naming, make-up brands are at the top of their game:


Ruby Woo.

Electric Eel.


Just a few of our personal favourites and just the tip of the ultra-blue iceberg of brilliant cosmetic brand names.

So why do make-up brands put so much effort and creativity into their naming?

Because it’s a critical piece of their brand positioning. And because it works.

In this video, Dermalogica co-founder Jane Wurward explains that from the very beginning they made a conscious decision to use language differently to existing brands, in order to express their own difference.

Dermalogica are not concerned with ‘beauty’ per se - they focus on skin health.

Their products have names like Dynamic Skin Recovery and Super Rich Repair, which mark them out quite clearly as health products. Jane describes their treatments not as facials, carried out by aestheticians, but as skin treatments, and accordingly those who perform them as skin therapists.

To quote Jane, “to say language doesn’t matter is insane.”

When you use the same boring, default names for your products and services as your competitors, you’re inviting customers to treat you as like for like. You’re implying that you don’t have a unique personality or anything interesting to say, that you don’t care enough about what you do or how you want your customers to feel.

Essentially, run-of-the-mill brand language invites customers to treat you as a replaceable commodity.

Taking the time to really look hard at your naming, your choice of words and what you as a brand are saying about yourselves shows that you’re different. Shows you care about your business. Shows you care about your customers and will help you attract more of them.

So how do you come up with a brand name?

If you’re looking for a brand name for your entire business or a new sub-brand, there are multiple factors to mull over. Here are some of the key ones:

1. Should you use your own name?

Many, many businesses, especially professional services firms and freelancers, go down this route. The upside is that it doesn’t matter how your business evolves (and every business evolves dramatically) your name will carry with you. It will work, no matter what your business looks like in a few years.

However, as you can see by my choice of Inkspiller*, this isn’t my preferred route. Surnames in particular are not memorable. They can also be hard to spell which is an issue if you want to be found on Google.

One of my original clients found me again last year after almost a decade had passed. Thankfully she remembered the name ‘Inkspiller’. If I’d used my name she wouldn’t have done, especially because I changed it when I got married.

2. Do you want it to do what it says on the tin?

Nine times out ten I’d go for a name that expresses your personality and is memorable but sometimes, ordinary is essential.

When I helped my amazing sister-in-law name her business we decided on "Live Event Artist." Her business is unique and not something many people have heard of, so we wanted to make it more easily accessible and understandable. This name perfectly describes what she does.

Another important upside is that having this as her domain name means that she’s been found easily on Google by the likes of Sony Music, amongst others.

3. Do you want it to convey your personality?

My client Sophie runs Pilates classes right now but she has big plans to diversify in the next few years. She knew she would stick firmly within the health and wellbeing industry, but she needed a brand name that will grow and evolve with her.

In digging into her brand personality, it became obvious that her main focus is living a joyful, fun and happy life. So many fitness gurus are fanatical and overly serious. Sophie is funny, extroverted and she likes a cocktail as much as the rest of us. That is never going to change, no matter what type of health business she runs and she’ll always attract customers who feel the same way as her.

I came up with the name "Hedonistic Health" and it suits her down to the ground.

However, I know all too well how hard this kind of introspection can be when you’re so close to what you do.

To gain more of an objective viewpoint, think about your brand as if it were a person and ask yourself whether the name would suit this individual.

This is exactly what Jane does with Dermologica, when she imagines her brand as a character, “What would Dermologica say and do? What would Dermologica want to wear?”

Our brand personality series will help you look at your brand as if it were a real person and uncover your core brand personality archetype.

4. Is a .com domain name important to you?

Sorry to break this to you but having worked in brand naming for several years now, I can say with some certainty that all the good .com brand names are taken and domain name resellers live in some cloud cuckoo land where they believe they can charge as much as £500k for a decent name.

Personally, I don’t think a .com name is a must-have for most businesses.

If you feel differently, then a good approach is to invent an entirely new name for yourself. Look to other languages for inspiration; Zappos famously chose their name because it’s a version of "Zapatos", the Spanish for "shoes".

5. How do you want customers to feel?

This is a biggie. You see, as I am always banging on about (don’t worry, I bore myself too) your brand isn’t built for you. It’s built for your customer.

If you want to attract the right people, you need a name that they’re attracted to. For help with this, you can:

  • Try the exercises in our brand language series to come up with brand language, words and names that are natural customer magnets.

  • Watch this short 2-min video from me about copywriting, idea generation and creative brainstorming.

  • Book an hour’s consultancy with me. I’ll help you brainstorm the right brand name, run my expert eye over the ideas you’ve already got and help you make that critical naming decision so you can move on with the important stuff - growing a brilliant business. You can book direct into my calendar here: https://goo.gl/RE8CtC

See you on the other side!

*Random fact: I love the name Inkspiller so much that I’ve trademarked it; something I highly recommend you do too. It’s an old-time name for writer which I first stumbled across in my beloved Synonym Finder - a great resource for interesting names and language, as I explain in this super short video.


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