Successfully Choose a Great Business Name

by Small Business Planned

As discussed in What is a Brand Name? a brand is the shorthand for your business. And it has a strong emotional attachment. So how do you ensure your brand name has the best chance of making your customers swoon? For every powerhouse brand like Rolex and Sony, there’s millions of smaller brands that don’t score a second glance. You want a great brand name that will influence your customers’ preference and make your business more attractive.

English has About 600,000 Words. But You Can Always Invent Another One.

English has About 600,000 Words. But You Can Always Invent Another One.

So let’s do it. Here are the fundamentals you need to know about choosing the right brand name for your small business:

Who is the Target Market For Your Brand?

Close your eyes and think of your target market. Picture them as individual people. Think about who they are and their perceptions. When your customers think about your industry, what comes to mind? What drives their action? The brand name you choose must be geared towards helping your customers find solutions to their problems. It needs to be able to speak directly with the values and perceptions of the solution you offer.

Who is Your Competition?

Check Google. Grab the Yellow Pages. Understand who your competitors are and what their brand names are. What works and what doesn’t work? Your brand name needs to be clearly different from other brands – especially the dominating brands.

What is Your Brand Positioning and Personality?

You now have to decide what ‘image’ you want for your brand. Image means personality. Products, like people, have personalities, and they can make or break them in the market place. David Ogilvy

What is the personality of your brand going to be? Is it going to be fun and cheeky, stable and serious or dependable and straight forward? Your brand name should naturally embody this personality as it will appear across your whole business. Good examples of brand personality being exercised through brand names include: Krispy Kream, Victoria’s Secret, Nescafe and Kleenex. Say these names out loud. Hear how they capture the essence of what each brand is all about. Now that makes me swoon.

Is Your Business Category Obvious?

This is a real pet peeve of mine. So many small business owners fail on this point. If a potential customer was to look at your brand name and logo, would they be able to describe the business you are in? I often pass shop fronts or websites that place a great deal of effort into their image, using brand names like ‘Entrance Life’, ‘Kantar Direct’ or ‘Liquid Magna’… but I have no clue as to what they do. Are they a health spa? A printing worshop? An energy drink retailer?

And what do we do if we can’t make sense of something? We switch off. And the business successfully wastes money.

It is critical that your business category is clear. You may choose to make this obvious in a supporting brandline, or in the surrounding information. Just ensure it’s there. And don’t use fancy industry words either. Use words your target market understand. People are looking for solutions, not cryptic puzzles.

Is Your Brand Name Structurally Sound?

Time to bring in the structural brand engineers to ensure your brand name ticks all the fundamentals. Your brand name should:

  • Be easy to remember
  • Be easy to spell
  • Be timeless, and not fad related
  • Not be an acronym. Acronyms are cold and have no personality
  • Not be too long. Long brand names are harder to work with (logo, online, etc). Ok I admit, Small Business Planned is getting a little on the long side, but I knew what I was getting in to

Is Your Brand Name Future Proof?

Think about the direction your brand will or may ultimately take. Will this be contrary to your brand name? For instance:

  • Will you be looking to extend into new products or services that are different from your current core range? Will your brand name reflect well on this extension?
  • Will you be looking to expand into new suburbs, states or markets? If so, naming your brand ‘Smithville Dentistry’ may not be the best long term approach
  • Are you looking to on-sell your small business? If so, including your name in the brand may not be ideal

Is Your Brand Name Available For Use?

Wouldn’t you know it. You’ve got the best idea for a brand name. You’ve sketched the logo and you’ve even been placed on hold by a sign writing company. But then reality sets in. Someone has already registered your business name. Aside from buying it off them, there’s not a lot you can do.

Ensure you check your business registry before you proceed with your small business and brand name. In most cases this just requires a quick online search. I also recommend you do a Google search, as your brand name could be used by someone overseas as well.

Don’t Settle on Good. Strive For the Best

You’ve just struck upon a good brand name. Congratulations. But don’t make the mistake of settling on a good brand name. There could be a better brand name out there. Don’t stop when you reach good. Strive to see if you can make great.

How did you pick your brand name?


(To help you maximise your business)

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14 thoughts on “Successfully Choose a Great Business Name

  1. Tom

    A really interesting post David, and some great tips for helping to develop a brand from scratch. I think you are right in that the great brands often conjure up an image of what they are related to.

    I agree that it is also important to chose something that is unique, and not too long. This especially goes for domain names, where a domain name that is overly long and stuffed with keywords is nowhere near as memorable as one which is ‘brandable’.
    .-= Tom´s last blog ..Website Terms of Use – Boring to Read But Important to Know =-.

  2. Lina Nguyen

    Hi David

    Good to see you quoting the legendary Ogilvy there… Cool points. Just to add on the point about checking for availability, check if someone has a trade mark on the name. If they do, and you use it, you could be sued. That would suck. Or, most likely, you might get an angry letter from their lawyer. That’s not nice either. In Australia, it’s a matter of checking the trade marks database. Go to for more info.

    I like the formatting of your blog, by the way…
    .-= Lina Nguyen´s last blog ..Hate to tell you, but… They think you’re a Spammer =-.

  3. Cemil

    Sound advice David.

    Sometimes there is a lot of thinking and strategy that needs to go into your business name. Then again there’s Virgin…

  4. David Moloney

    Thanks Tom, Lina, Rita, Cemil and Jo.

    @Tom, yes it’s a fine balance between having a web address that’s a brand and a web address containing keywords. Ideally the two would sit well together.

    Great point Lina. You spurred me on to revise my knowledge of trade marking too.

    Now to join Jo in a cup of tea…

  5. Colin

    Nicely written and informative post David. It always amazes me how many small businesses I see on a daily basis actually survive based on some of their names and logos.

  6. Edward Brown

    Excellent points David, a very thought provoking article. So many businesses ignore the step of making their business category clear. My local dentist is opposite a competing dentistry franchise called the Smile Clinic. But I never knew they were a dentist until someone pointed it out to me – I’d always assumed they were botox or some other sort of cosmetic surgery!

    I’d be interested in knowing if you think SEO can be worked into brands as well? For example, if I were to search for dentists in my area I’d expect “Joe Blow, Dentist” to show up long before “The Wonder-Smile Institute”.

    As for my favourite brand name? Google. It’s simple, it’s instantly recognisable, and it’s an accidental spelling mistake. I love it!
    .-= Edward Brown´s last blog ..Your online self lives long after you die =-.

  7. David Moloney

    Thanks Colin and Wal. I agree. Business names are so important. You don’t want to handicap yourself from the start, business is difficult at the best of times.

    Great example Edward. And yes, SEO can (and should) be worked into your web address. If for instance you are a florist, with the name ‘Ruby’s Roses’, in SEO terms it’s a good idea to think about adding the category to your website address e.g Customers are more likely to search for florist than roses. Google is a great brand and a pretty good brand name. As Google is a ‘category killer’ it doesn’t need to have an obvious brand name. Although it’s affinity with the somewhat unknown word googol is representative of the brand’s purpose.

  8. Susan

    Very good points here.

    You say re your name “Small Business Planned is getting a little on the long side”. I wouldn’t say so. It’s only four syllables – same as Coca-Cola.

  9. Jason

    I think the “memory” part of a name is important. The name’s relation to it’s niche is not always important. For example, many brand names have nothing to do with thier niche. Therefore, you should look for relation to a niche and an “easy to remember” quality. However, you can have either quality or both.


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