Laura Petrolino

Choosing a Brand Name to Fit Your Business

By: Laura Petrolino | July 13, 2015 | 

Choosing a Brand Name to Fit Your BusinessBy Laura Petrolino

Have you ever wondered what life would be like if you were named something else?

If I weren’t a Laura, but a Melissa? Or a Samantha? Would I do something else? Live some place new? Have a different life?

I can’t help but think I would.

And the same might be said when you are choosing a brand name.

Does Your Name Fit Your Goal?

My parents had quite the difficult time trying to name me. They debated back and forth for a long time worried about what characteristics a certain name would or would not provide.

I was almost an Elizabeth, but my father was worried that Elizabeth wouldn’t like to eat broccoli (Elizabeths out there, do you like broccoli?).

Thus I was named Laura, and I love broccoli. 

Laura also stands for honor and victory. This is something I remind myself anytime I feel defeated or want to give-up.

I know I can’t.

I’m not allowed to give-up because I’m Laura, it’s not what we do!

Choosing a brand name is much the same.

You need a name to fit your goals. One which represents what you want your company to be in the long term.

Entrepreneurs often think in the short-term—when it comes to choosing a brand name and otherwise. They don’t think long-range enough.

No doubt things happen and your company might pivot and change, but this is even more of a reason to focus on choosing a brand name with a farther reaching vision.

When you think long-range you are able to focus less on the “what” and more on the “why” of your business.

The “why” stays more stable over time, even through multiple business shifts.

A Brand Name Should Represents You

When I was in elementary school I was furious my parents had not named me Brandy.

I wanted to be a Brandy terribly badly and I couldn’t believe they were so cruel as to name me Laura instead.

Blah, Laura….what a boring name.

I even wrote a series of books called The Brandy Chronicles which detailed the awesome adventures I would have, had my name actually been Brandy.

Eventually I came to terms with my legal name and realized it actually did fit me much better than Brandy, after all.

Likewise, when choosing a brand name that name must fit the personality and values of your business.

It should help tell your story.

Who are you?

Are you a fun, trendy company? Chose a name that fits.

Are you a modern, high tech organization? Find a name that projects it.

Are you an awesome rockstar ninja? Choose Laura.

Chose a Brand Name Which Speaks to Your Customer

If you’ve done your market research and branding correctly, choosing a brand name that speaks to your customer should be the same thing as choosing a brand name which represents you.

Your brand should resonate with your customer, all of it—including your name.

Choosing a Brand Name: Questions to Ask

I’m sure almost any parent will tell you they put a lot of effort, worry, and thought into naming their children.

I know my parents looked at things such as if my initials spelled anything out, or if my name could be made into a nickname, and obviously the vegetable preferences of my namesake.

The same comprehensive evaluation must be done when choosing a brand name. Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Is my name similar to other brand or organization names?
  • Is it easy to remember?
  • Could it be seen as offensive in anyway?
  • Will it resonate with my target audience?
  • Does it work online?
  • Does it work offline?
  • Does it mean something in a different language?
  • Will it go out of style (i.e. don’t choose a name that plays off of something trendy which might be forgotten and pointless down the line)?

Advice from the Crazies

And now, we turn the stage over to all of you. We no doubt have a lot of case studies of the good, the bad, and the really ugly when it comes to choosing a brand name.

  • What’s your best advice for someone choosing a brand name?
  • What mistakes have you made we can all learn from?
  • What questions should be asked when vetting a name?
  • How did you choose your own brand name?

About Laura Petrolino

Laura Petrolino is the chief client officer at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She also is a weekly contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks.

  • whitney_fay

    I have so many name stories… I was a weird kid.

    BUT! My mom almost named me Rhonda but my aunt was watching some soap opera while my mom was in labor and there was a character named Whitney, so that’s what they went with instead.

    Better than my grandma’s choice which was Millicent…and they would have called me Milly.

    My maiden name was Gill.

    Milly Gill. 0_0

  • Here’s a really big one…make sure your name is clear when spoken. You’ll not want to be spelling it five times on calls when you introduce yourself and your company, and you want Siri to understand it immediately.

    Second, make sure that when you Google it, you don’t get a lot of extraneous results. If you choose a random real word (like Apple or Windows), you will have an extremely difficult time doing brand listening.

  • My oldest daughter is essentially named after a 70’s TV drug addicted star. No lie. I love name stories.  I’ve had great success with naming my 3 brands.. my former agency Twin City SAM, (which is now being repurposed to house my personal sites and podcasts), my first personal site, Four Hens and a Rooster, second personal site Ten to Twenty Parenting and my latest which is the renaming of TCSAM where I’ve made the SAM (used to stand for sales and marketing) into Say Anything Media. I think you have to find what suits your personality and what fits well and most importantly, what does that AND has web/online availability. Which, full circle, is why I decided on TCSAM over my other choices.. it’s the one that had all things social available. Not so easy to do these days.

  • This stuff takes forever especially if you want a web presence to make sure that your name is available. The good news is now that donutsinc is here you can pretty much guarantee a url but still not advisable to choose something that has a craptonload of similar named companies. 

    Not sure if ginidietrich knows how close I came to registering a harry potter spoof site back when the first movie was released. I bet I could of sold it to hazcheeseburger for big bucks and cashed out big time.

  • AnneReuss

    rosemaryoneill I love that tip! Just on Saturday manamica  & I had to say different names while ordering food at festival…which was not our first time. I always say ‘Kelly’ because it’s easier to understand than ‘Anne’! Ha! 

    lkpetrolino Sweet story & blog. I’ve been struggling with choosing one for my new website….I should call it Laura! <3

  • AnneReuss rosemaryoneill manamica  lkpetrolino Yes I have dealt with this pretty intensively because our platform name is, and you never know whether to say “hoop dot la” or “hoopla” and you wouldn’t believe the weirdness that comes up if you just type “hoopla” into Google. Lesson learned.

  • Great topic today! I ended up at the Big Green Pen because my organization’s “color” was kelly green, so we had lots of felt tip green markers around, and when I would edit people’s work there was, let’s just say, A LOT OF GREEN. Therefore, I was called “The Big Green Pen” behind my back (and it was not a compliment!). Eventually someone told me, we had a good laugh about it, and personal brand was born. (I also like to think green is a more humane color with which to tear apart someone’s writing but I digress…..). // The big plus in having this as a brand name (which is pretty consistent across all channels) is that it’s sort of a fun conversation starter ….. that little moment when I say “Hi, I’m Paula ….. (crickets, silence) and, if it’s someone I’ve conversed with on social media, “I’m ‘biggreenpen'” followed by OH! You’re BigGreenPen!” It’s a fun validating thing to have happen.  //  On the flip side, I “HATE” having the two “g’s” in a row in my handle and online identity — it’s one of those types of handles I would get irritated about if it belonged to someone else and I was trying to remember it … also might lock me into an identity as a writer but ….. well, I’m completely okay with that (unless I could have an identity as a ninja because of course that would be pretty awesome).

  • Michelle Hals

    I always cringe when I see businesses include their street number or name in their business name. What happens if you move? I’ve seen this happen with restaurants and it becomes comical to have to explain why Joe’s on Main is actually located on Forest Boulevard or why the 612 Main Mall is actually located at 6448 Main Street.

    My name story? My parents almost named my Ingrid, a name I love.

  • Michelle Hals

    biggreenpen I love the story behind this. One of my mentors in grad school always wrote comments in blue Pilot roller ball ink. She said it was less emotionally difficult to see comments written in blue ink as opposed to red ink. I don’t know if that was based in fact or her own experience, but it’s stuck with me so I guess my nickname would be “Big Blue Pen.”

  • whitney_fay

    biggreenpen I’m so excited to know the story behind BigGreenPen now!

  • Michelle Hals biggreenpen I love that story!

  • Michelle Hals I also love the name Ingrid. I have a good friend named Ingrid, which makes it special to me. I also have a good friend named Michelle though. Also a name of fantastic people.

    And YES. I didn’t even think of that! But it does happen often! Good tip!

  • biggreenpen Michelle Hals Isn’t it funny how names like this can take off on their own. Pre-AD when I was “Flying Pig Communications” played that same role. It also meant that I was tagged, sent, and thought of EVERY TIME someone saw a flying pig…which I sort of love. 

    Also, I just love everything about this comment Paula (“unless I could have an identity as a ninja…”)

    I heart you!

  • rosemaryoneill AnneReuss manamica  lkpetrolino HAHAHAHA! Rosemary! I obviously just went to type in hoopla! 

    These are both great tips. I think the “Siri” test might be one of my new standbys. If Siri can’t understand, move on.

  • whitney_fay I really stopped reading this comment at “I was a weird kid.” 

    Oh, really? HAHAHA! What a surprise! 

    And I do not see you as a Rhonda at all.

  • danielschiller

    A brand’s name should be simple, elegant, easily understood. Here in SF — and by extension — Silicon Valley the current crop of startup ventures is fond of “Labs” in their official branding. I think that’s a fine treatment, provided they are actually cooking up something new and useful. Some others have used the “-ly” ending. Does that make their name an adverb?

    Personal names, well, those different. Maybe they should be elegant, timeless, and hopeful speaking all that we’ll do in our lives. Not something to be selected on a whim.

    I like “Daniel” it wears well. “Dan” or “Danny” not so much. 

    Nice post!

  • TSullz

    Do you have any suggestions for a 100 year old company looking to re-brand and change the company name? Should we start with mission and values?

  • TSullz Sorry for the delay on this. Yes, definitely start with mission and values. Then take a look at what the goal of the rebranding is? Why do you want to rebrand? What brand equity do you have in the former name and how can you leverage that in the rebrand? You want to make sure you take the history of the company with you, that’s important.

  • I very naively branded myself back in 1999 when I Incorporated and grabbed a .com domain name.  I recall thinking that I need to ensure that my brand name meant something to me personally,  as well being generic and flexible enough to potentially endure during future incarnations of whatever services I may wish to offer.  DRK (my initials) ,Solutions. As for consistently marketing and promoting that brand name, well, that continues to be a  (much needed) work in progress.

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