The Secret to Protecting Your Brand Starts with Your Name





You want your business to stand out in the crowd. That’s why your brand should be highly memorable, emotionally compelling, and different from the rest.

If you’re planning on launching a business in the New Year, keep in mind that your business name is the cornerstone of your brand. Most likely, before customers get to know you or your products, they’ll hear your business name. Yet, while a name is critical to defining the brand, companies often make mistakes when selecting their name.

The most common error is selecting a purely descriptive name or one that sounds like another business already established in the field. It’s tempting to go this route because it conveys what your business does and helps new customers understand what you’re all about.

However, the trademark office is cluttered with registrations. If you choose a purely descriptive name, chances are high that your proposed name won’t be available to use for your particular market or business type. In other words, if you choose only commonly used words in your name, you will have a hard time getting a trademark and you could accidentally be using another business’ name.

There’s nothing worse than receiving a cease and desist letter a few years after you launched your business because your name is infringing on someone else’s trademark. When this happens, you may need to change your name immediately, provide a list of customers, and even pay damages to the other company.

For example, many people are familiar with the wildly popular Words With Friends App. However, one of the first Scrabble-like games on Facebook was Scrabulous. When first launched, the game went viral, but then was removed by Facebook after Hasbro (the owner of the Scrabble trademark) complained about trademark infringement. That naming mistake paved the way for Words With Friends.

If you want to avoid a similar naming blunder, follow these steps to choose a great, “trademarkable” name for your business or products:



1.  Use a Hybrid of a Descriptive and Made-Up Name

Most of the strongest brand names are words or phrases that didn’t exist before, such as Google. However, if you still prefer to have your name suggest what your company does, then choose a unique name that hints at what you do. Good examples are Netflix or Backupify. Made-up names are great in the long run as they are easily trademarkable.

2. Keep it Simple

Ideal names are short (two words or two syllables) and when customers hear the name, they know exactly how to spell it.

3. Avoid Initials

It’s hard for customers to forge an emotion connection with a name that’s just a random collection of letters or your own initials.

4. Make Sure the URL is Available

Even if you are building a brick and mortar business, your web presence is still critical. You don’t want to send people to another business’ website or have potential customers give up trying to find your site because your URL is too complicated.

5. Do Your Research

After you have created a strong and memorable name, it is your responsibility to ensure that the name is available and you are not infringing on another brand or company. First, you should perform a free business name search to make sure your proposed name is available in your state. Then, if it is available, you can take your search to the next level with a free trademark search to check if anyone has filed a trademark for your name.

Have you already named your business? What process did you follow? Do you have any advice or tips to give those starting out?

Brand Photo via Shutterstock

16 Comments ▼

Nellie Akalp


Nellie Akalp Nellie Akalp is CEO of CorpNet, her second incorporation filing service based on her strong passion to assist small business owners and entrepreneurs in starting their business. Free guides, advice and videos on small business legal topics are available at her Small Biz Corner.

16 Reactions

  1. Great article, Nellie! Naming a new business is one of the most time-consuming and frustrating parts of starting the company.

    My recommendation would definitely be to choose a name that people can say and spell. I ran into this problem when I first launched my SEO consulting company – Excira Media. No one could spell or say the name and, after 2 years, I am rebranding the business.

    I’ve gone back and forth with using my own name or choose something else that works… but, when I asked my network, they all said how much they love my personal name and how they not only know how to say it… but also… they know how to spell it!

    Sure, it’s not as descriptive as I would like but neither was Google when it first started.

    Naming a business is like cliff-jumping. You do the research, pack your bag correctly, find the right cliff, and take a leap of faith.

  2. Aira Bongco

    Also, try to avoid common names. You may think that you may come up with a good brand but if it is just a combination of two words that sounds good, then something is wrong. You may need to look for a made up name that embodies your brand.

  3. Martin Lindeskog

    Here in Europe it could be hard to get your first pick when it comes to brand / company name. The patent and the companies registration offices are often hard on your suggestions, at first.

    Personally, I have tried to “corner” the market with the conceptual meaning of the individual with the word, EGO in many of my company names and social media presences.

  4. We once named a business R. Martin Builders. People could never understand what we were saying when we answered the phone. I guess harder sounds are easier to catch.

  5. Fantastic post; lots of value here for those starting out in business or looking to build a stronger brand. I see a lot of startups overlooking the web presence aspect and ending up with a long, forgettable URL or a name that’s too similar to those in their marketplace.

  6. Martin Lindeskog

    Nellie: I will do that! 🙂 I wish you a merry x-mas and prosperous new year!

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