Hi! My name is (what?)(3) : how to avoid a fashion faux-pas while naming your startup
10 best practices to get the best brand name for your startup
“If you don’t want to become commoditized, you need to have something special,” said Neil Parikh, co-founder of the mattress startup Casper. For sure, branding can truly be a part of this differentiation. An effective branding not only helps to convey a clear message about culture and positioning, it can also be a way to express both an innovative and fashionable value proposition vs. current market players.
Here is the 3rd and last article of BlackFin brand names saga, after a full landscape of startup branding in Europe over 100y, and a deepdive into 100 fintech & insurtech brand names, the best practices are coming right down here!
- Think about your positioning first
First of all, don’t spoil all your marketing efforts on other topics and focus on your brand name, to avoid the awful fashion-mistake name. I’ve listed some questions that will help you creativity & jumpstart your thinking from the beginning:
- Who is your target audience?
- What does your business help them solve?
- Which specific benefits you can offer to your customers ?
- What are your competitors’ brands?
2. INPI, INPI, INPI
Once you have the answers to all these questions, one very important step: you have to be obsessed with the INPI (in France) to check if the name you have in mind is not already taken and to be sure you can build your company on it, considering it as an asset and to protect it.
3. The Shorter the Better
As a matter of fact, it is better to anticipate your brand name impact by choosing a short one : “A short first name changes everything — as it’s unexpected, less concerned with sounding corporate and serious and is inherently more human” said Steve Manning, the founder of a Sausalito, California-based naming agency.
4. Check the fashion trends , of course
As many startups chose a “human” first name, it isn’t risk free, according to Jake Hancock, a partner of brand strategy at Lippincott; “Choosing names that signal a human experience really raises the stakes for a brand to deliver it throughout the whole experience”, he explains “If you name your company a person’s name, the customer is going to expect every interaction to feel like they’re dealing with a person.”
5. Check the sound it could have
Ada cofounder chose its name because not only it was the startup’street name in Berlin (Adalbertstraße 20) but also because “Ada”, pronounced similarly to ‘aider,’ which means helper, a friendly supporter.
5. Ease your path on the internet
It is important to think about the time someone would need to find you on the internet (short name, easy referers); as a 2006 analysis by Professors Adam Alter and Daniel Oppenheimer, found that names should keep being simple and that names and tickers easy to pronounce would outperform counterparts with more complicated names. Moreover, many startups favor the beginning of the alphabet to be on top of the lists (for example investors’ lists when we are screening ;) ).
6. International understanding
Be careful: if you have international ambitions, check that your name doesn’t have any awkward or negative meanings in other languages. Make my Name tool can be used to check if the name means something in another language, or if the domain name is available
7. Consider the logo stakes
If you have a creative guy in the team, maybe he’s logo-inspired. Some good names can come from a logo idea.
8. Think about the referrers and the social network effects it could have
Are they other social network account with close positioning ? who are they? What would be your strategy? Namechecklist tool is useful regarding the social network trends for a name and for the domain extensions (.com, .fr, .net, .co, .ai, etc. )
9. If still no idea, check these websites
To find the right name, here are my favorite websites picks:
- Panabee starts from the product to find the right name
- Nameboy starts from some keywords to find the right name
- LeanDomainSearch can offer many variation around a word
- Many other websites like NameLayer, Namecore & Sedo could be useful to get inspiration too.
10. Too late? To switch or not to switch you brand, that is a big question
Many startups have already switched, but why?
- Most of them changed their names to go global, like for example Papernest (ex-Souscritoo), Zenchef (ex-1001Menus)
- Many startups changed their name to repositionate themselves or to enlarge the scope, like SnapChat which became Snap in 2016 (to be more than a Chat tool) or Skillee, which became Comet. Another example is the adtech startup Tag Commander, which changed its name in 2016 to become Commander Act. The CEO, Michael Froment, explained why in a positive way: “ We are starting off from scratch with the new name as well as being in the continuity by keeping the word “Commander” that emphasizes our branding as well as adding a contribution to growth through measurable actions. We wish to be seen as a direct contributor to performance throughout the use of data. Brand awareness :The rebranding activity itself was not so complex. The main difficult part was to aggregate our team around a new vision. “
- The third reason is a legal one. Sometimes, the name is too close to a preexisting name. It happened to Monzo (ex Mondo), or to Statigram, with a branding too close to Instagram, turning into Iconosquare to avoid confusion..
In the fintech space, many startups changed their name too, like Monzo (reason 3), IBanFirst, Trustbk turning to MargoBank, or “Prêt d’Union” turning into “Younited Credit” to get a more global business scope (reason 1).
A name is not a casual choice. Choosing the right name is very important because it is the most visible asset into sales process, for B2C as well as for the B2B. It embodies the scale-up ambition, the values and the activity of the company. You shall care about this choice, because your stakeholders would be untreatable. It’s about you’re in or not.
Once your name is chosen, or if you want to challenge it, come and see us !
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