How to choose a startup brand name before lunch

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Choosing a brand name for your startup seems like one of the most important things you’ll ever do, and it can be a roadblock. How do you continue without first agreeing with your cofounder, spouse and dog what to call this thing? And this could really matter — you need to register it as a domain name, trademark, Twitter handle, put it on a t-shirt… the list is endless.

Chillax: choosing a brand name is actually the least important thing to do, because a the value of a brand is in the future customer experience you deliver, not in the name you give it. Almost all of the great brand names consumers recall effortlessly today started as terrible, terrible brand names — their value has been created by the gradual accretion of customer experience over time.

Sprongle. Because: brand name
Here’s a terrible brand name I made earlier to illustrate this point. No designers were harmed in the making of this logo either.


Ford Motor Company is actually just the name of a guy — can you imagine the hell I’d catch if I tried to launch the Jones Tech Startup Accelerator? How about if I tried to create the world’s biggest technology manufacturer (or even, the world’s biggest company) and started it by calling it “Apple”? What does the name “Coca-Cola” tell us about the product the company sells? Or the benefits of buying it? Or who it’s intended to be sold to?

So quit stressing and choose a brand name, already.

If you can’t progress without choosing a brand name but can’t afford to waste time doing it, how do you get it done quickly, efficiently, and achieve the near-enough-is-good-enough result that you can invest a great customer experience in, all before lunch time?


You’re probably not great at this

Accept this is hard: people get paid big bucks to come up with great brand names because it’s hard to do well. But you can get 7/10ths of the same in minutes using technology instead of experts and it won’t cost you a cent. Use a service like Naminum, Bustaname or Blungr to quickly generate a much larger set of possible names using your starting ideas. Export 50 of those to a spreadsheet — you’re going to need them, because most of them won’t be available.


Your great brand name could belong to somebody else

Before you start pinging around big spreadsheets of brainstormed brand name lists, you need to check if someone else has already registered the brand as a trademark, registered trademark, domain name or social media handle. Luckily, some of this grunt work can also be automated.

Domain names can sometimes be traded, Twitter handles might be handed over, but buying a trademark is usually not an option. The quicker you reject candidate names which are already registered as trademarks by other companies, the better. There are separate trademark registries in different markets, but you can quickly check many of them at once using Knowem.


Computer says no

Don’t ask for feedback on possible brand names if the domains aren’t available. Use a service like Domainr to quickly check domain availability. If social media will be an important part of your brand presence Namecheckr will let you check whether that name is available on the social media platforms that matter to you.


How to get consensus fast

People cope poorly with abundance and you’ll get more response from friends/colleagues when you ask them to choose a favourite from a list of three than you will from a list of ten.

People are more likely to vote when they can see who else is voting and whether they have voted yet.

If there’s a clear trend towards one candidate it is also more likely to make people vote — we all tend to either favour the popular candidate or be strongly biased towards picking an outsider.

So when you have a SHORT shortlist hit them up with a public voting form using Typeform, Google form, or just a Facebook poll, so everyone can see who’s been invited to vote, and which way opinion is swinging.