Considering a new name for your business? It can be a daunting thought! You’ve invested a lot of time and effort into your business, and there are a lot of fears surrounding a shift in your name.
Changing Your Business Name: Tips & Considerations for Naming Your Creative Business
Setting Your Business Up For Success
As you think about business names, allow yourself to dream for a minute. Imagine your business had expanded to its fullest potential: what would that look like? Would you branch into additional services at any point? Would you grow your team?
Your business name should be able to accommodate that level of growth!
In the creative industry, it’s common to shift trajectory and add or change your services. Choose a name that gives you flexibility to do that.
Brainstorming a Name:
Brainstorming is an intensive process—and could certainly be an entire separate post! That being said, I still want to share a few tips. When I collaborate with clients on a business name brainstorm, we start with loose word associations and mind mapping. That could yield immediate results, or it could spark another idea that leads to the final selection. It’s a process, and that’s okay. Allow yourself to take some time on it.
Just a few brainstorming prompts to help you get started:
- Word Associations. Set a timer for 3 minutes. During that time, write down all the words you can think of that are associated with your brand / business. No wrong answers—just free-flowing word association.
- Symbolism. Seek out symbolism that could represent your brand: reference the language of flowers, cultural mythology, classic literature, color psychology, gemstones and jewels, or other languages.
- Personal Meaning. Is there a word or name that holds personal significance for you? Maybe it’s the name of the street where you grew up, or the city where your grandparents got married. Perhaps you’ve been inspired by a particular literary work or piece of art.
Use these tips to generate a brainstorm, and then narrow down your results. Try brainstorming again after a couple of days to see if anything new comes to light. Then hone in on your final selection, keeping in mind the parameters listed below.
Lastly… this sounds counter-intuitive, but don’t overthink it.
Yes, there are some important logistical considerations (covered below)—but don’t get too caught up in the idea of the perfect business name or its literal meaning. You can achieve success with any number of business names. The name doesn’t matter so much as what you DO with it.
YOU will add meaning and purpose behind the name. You will cultivate a brand that lends significance to the name—not the other way around.
Think about some of the top names with strong brand recognition. For example, “Nike” was a Greek goddess of Victory—the name was not specifically related to athletic shoes until Nike purposefully created the association. The name could just as easily have been any other word: what matters is how Nike strategically built a strong message behind the name.
Lexus. Montblanc. Apple. Rolex. West Elm. Target. None of these brand names are literally associated with the products that they offer. In some sense, the name itself is somewhat arbitrary… Each name is only valuable because of its strategically crafted association with its brand.
Expert brand strategy is the differentiating factor. Strategic branding is what transformed each of those names from a random word into a globally recognized brand.
So, just keep in mind: the name is what you make of it!
Now let’s get into some of the more objective things you’ll want to consider, like legalities and availability of use:
Legalities and Logistics:
- Is the name legally available? First things first: can you legally use the name for your business? This article has a great checklist depending on your entity type.
- Is the domain available? Even if the business name is legally available, the website domain may be taken. Check Google Domains to find out if your desired domain is available.
- Social media: while not as essential as your domain, you should also check for availability of Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest handles.
- Google it: what comes up in a Google search? Does a similar business name already dominate the search results? Are there any negative associations that pop up along with the name?
If you run into any issues with this checklist, consider a small tweak that could help you legally claim the name. (For example, Sarah Ann Design vs. Sarah Ann Designs… Sarah Ann Design Co. vs. Sarah Ann Design & Co.)
You could also combine two words from your brainstorm to increase the likelihood of a unique name. Now that you have a legally cleared business name in mind, let’s test it out!
Testing it Out:
- Say it out loud: how does it sound when you introduce the business? Can you pronounce it clearly?
- Write it out: can you spell it without too much difficulty?
- Competitor check: does this name fall too close to any direct competitor’s name?
- Sensitivity check: make sure the name does not sound like any other words that might be offensive. Double-check the acronyms as well.
- If your name includes “and,” will the word be written out, or will you use an ampersand or plus sign?
- Will you abbreviate any part of the name? (for example, “& Company” vs. “& Co.”)
- Will you use any monograms or acronyms?
If you’ve made it through these checklists, you probably have a solid name selection for your brand!
Remember, a business name alone won’t give meaning to your brand. YOU give meaning to your brand.
Once you’ve decided on the name, it’s up to you to decide how it will be interpreted. Well-crafted visual branding and messaging can make any name work well for you and your business! I’m excited to see where your new name takes you.