How to come up with a unique company name

What Should I Call My Business?

I asked myself this question endlessly. Thinking of how to come up with a unique company name is definitely not easy.

Honestly, it’s frustrating. In 2019 every good name idea you have has probably already been taken, and you’ll start to feel like the main character in a romantic comedy desperately searching for the one. Siiggggghhhhh.

What Makes a Good Company Name?

Or, better yet, what makes a good company name in your industry that appeals to your customers?

As a marketer, I can only stress that your customers are the most important aspect of anything that you do, so naming your business is no different. Here are a few big no-no’s to keep in mind.

  • Don’t offend your customers (unless they’re into that sort of thing), offend other people if you want but not your customers
  • Definitely, don’t make them think you’re selling something else
  • Never be super boring or generic, you need to be memorable and easy to find on google
  • Don’t copy competitors (a few of my favourite examples below)

All of these brands are hilarious. So, do you fancy having a bath with dave? How about having some Prongles? The tagline of ‘once you pop… that’s great!’ is almost as ridiculous as the flavour being ‘salt and potato’.

Actually, I think I’ll stick to my nut master thank you.

Certainly, imitation may be the best form of flattery. But because of this, none of these brands will ever stand-out in their own right.

You can hear a little bit more about what not to do and see a few real-world examples here.

Anyway, we’ve put together a practical 7 step guide to naming your business below – but there are a few things to think about before jumping in. Because coming up with a unique company name that works is not easy so you need to understand your business and the competition first.

Know your business.

So, to get to this stage you need to understand your business. What are you selling? What consumer pain point are you addressing? Why should people buy from you? And why are you different?

What we can suggest to you is to do a spider diagram (or a list if spiders are too scary) of things that you want your business to represent. It will help you get an idea of the business you want to be and help to shape decisions further down the line.

Peek at the competition.

Just a little peek, to see what is out there and to see how other people are selling themselves. For example, check out the local and the global competition to see what they offer and how they offer it.

Look out for great ideas and figure out exactly what you admire about these ideas. Specifically, look to understand why these ideas work. Just don’t copy what you see – no great brand ever started out by copying others.

Also, look out for things you don’t like or things that don’t work for you. Learn from other’s mistakes.

In doing this, try to search for the thing that sets you apart from everyone else. Capitalise on what makes you different and how this makes you better for your future customers.

Step 1: Make a word bank

And then, deposit some words in ASAP. Basically, this is going to be a brain dump to help you come up with a unique company name.

Write down every word that…

  • You want your business or product to represent (accountancy firm? this will be things like reliability, trust, accuracy)
  • Relates to your business (dog groomers? Puppy, wash, soap, suds)
  • Benefits of your business (photographer? Memories, nostalgia, beauty)
  • As well as any animal, action, place, feeling, description, colour or texture that could be used or related to your business.
  • Then look at your list again and write down any synonyms that would also work.

Try and get around an A4 page of words. This will free up your brain to get creative. It’s like getting your ingredients chopped and ready before cooking.

Step 2: Business naming techniques

There are loads of these lists online but to save you some time, I’ve put my own list together here of all the best techniques.

Write down every name you can think of while going down this list. 

Don’t critique them yet, just write them down and let your creative juices flow absolutely everywhere (eww).

  • Choose two random words – like Moonpig or Funky Pigeon, get a bit weird.
  • Alliteration – It works for Balfour Beatty and it could work for you!
  • Rhyme time – It’s gimmicky but it worked for Utterly Butterly, and if you’ve got a fun business then name it something fun.
  • Funny business – Cod almighty is a great name for a chip shop, that is just a fact. Basically, some industries can get away with a bit more humour in their brand name or brand style. Just play with it and see if it works.
  • Mash-up two words – Make up an entirely new word like Netflix or Logitech  (just not those ones as they’re already taken).
  • Go foreign – Look up some of your favourite words in different languages, just like Motacilo Marketing did (that’s us!) Our business name means Wagtail in Esperanto.
  • Go ancient – Look up your favourite words in Latin too and sound all fancy and sophisticated.
  • Say what you do – Just Eat, We Buy Any Car, Pound Stretchers, Home Bargains, Pets at Home and the list goes on. It can work well if your product or idea is new but you’ll have difficulty getting found online if not.
  • Acronyms or initials – DKNY, JD Sports, and the NHS all did it well.
  • Real Names – You could use your name or someone else’s name or name your business after the new royal baby.
  • Make up a word – Ocado came from Avacado. If it sounds right for your business, then it works.

So, I’m hoping you’ll now have a long list of potential company names.

If you don’t just remember to use your word bank and this list as a jumping-off point for ideas. Write down anything you can think of. At any rate, you’ll get a good laugh and sometimes the silliest ideas can be developed into something amazing.

Step 3: Cut down your list

The majestic swamp turtle – Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash

Cross off everything on your list that sounds weird.

And, I hope there are a few weird ones. Swamp Turtle made it on to my list. Which is definitely the worst name anyone has ever thought of for a business that is completely 100% unrelated to turtles or the swamp.

Then cross off anything that doesn’t have enough meaning to you or your business. Be brutal. If it sounds cool but not at all you, get rid. Also, If it sounds more like a bakery than a construction firm, and you are a construction firm, get rid.

You should now have a small list of suitable or nearly suitable names for your business. Nice! You’ve nearly come up with a unique company name,

Step 4: Google your ideas

You need to check that no one in your industry has the same name.

You also need to check that your business name doesn’t have negative connotations.

Try not to be too annoyed if your favourite name is taken. You can always go back to step two and play around with it.

Step 5: Check availability

Check for available domains here.

Next, check to see if your chosen name has been trademarked in the UK here.

And, don’t forget to search the name on social media to see if there are any smaller businesses using your chosen name.

Step 6: Ask friends and family

No, your Aunty Beatrice isn’t really going to know the best name for your new R&B club, but she will be able to tell you if it sounds weird, rude, or wrong for your industry. I shouldn’t stereotype, your Aunty B might be well into Sean Paul, but you get my point.

My Dad pointed out that my chosen name Motacilla (Wagtail in Latin) sounded more like a nasty bacteria than a branding and design company. So I tweaked it and ended up with something better.

Just remember to take everyone’s advice with a pinch a salt. At the end of the day, you are setting up your company so you have the best insights to what will work. Remember, your friends and family can just offer you a different perspective and the final decision should be yours.

Step 7: Sleep on it.

You should have come up with a few unique company names by now. Try not to rush your decision.

My best advice is to sleep on it. Give yourself a chance to come back to the drawing board with a fresh pair of eyes and see what stands out to you now.

​So, have you come up with a unique company name yet?

There’s no point lying. Finding a unique, memorable, on-brand business name is hard.

Really hard.

But it’s the first step on your new business journey. And if you need a little help you can share your ideas with me.

As long as your name can help customers find your business you can use it as an anchor from which to build a great reputation and a lasting brand.

And, now your baby has got a name you can start introducing it to the world.

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