Branding a Startup

Name That Kid – A Summary of Naming Guidelines as the First Step of Branding Your Startup

As a “startupper”, you’ve probably already heard that branding is the key of success. Still, it can be so easy to forget about integrating this aspect in every element of your concept. You might ask: when will the right moment come to start branding yourself? The answer is: at the very beginning. RIGHT NOW. (Or: “yesterday”; people who have ever worked for a company know this answer well.)

For example, let’s see a process that emerges at an early life stage and seems equally fun and intimidating: NAMING. I know that finding the perfect name for your concept can mean ultimate joyIt just feels like as if you were naming a new-born baby. It suddenly gets a personality, turning from a mysterious mass into a REAL THING. It’s a feverish feeling.

Beware of the side effects, like “instant –visualisation-of-your-brand-name-and-logo-on-an-interactive-billboard-at-the-Times-Square-in-the-not-so-distant-future”. This way, you can easily end up hunting for a name that seems cool enough in the context of the current startup generation but fails to make its way into consumer conversations.

Here are some basic guidelines which I intended to provide as food for thought. It is a quick summary based on industry experts’ opinion, including some useful tips and examples as well. (For full list of sources and more details, see list below.)

1. Let your name tell the story

If the name is functional, descriptive, you make it easier for consumers to quickly understand what you actually promise. Simple as that. Might seem like a lesson from a Common Sense 101 course, but consciously following this need might save you a lot of energy (not to mention the money spent on advertising and educating consumers).

Also, don’t forget that most people might only have a few seconds of initial attention for your product and if it is easy to understand, they might take a deeper look.

Such names are: YouTube, Facebook, and for Hungarian examples DJ Player and UStream.

2. Make your name memorable.

As the NaijaPreneur blog explains it:

With functional brand names, you make the task of understanding what your business, product or service does easier for the target market. With memorable brand names, you make the task of understanding what your business, product or service does interesting for the target market.”

Obviously, it is a tricky thing to achieve. First of all, you want something that is simple and relatively easy to spell around the world. (As a common myth, Toyota “Yaris” got its name exactly like this.)

At the same time, you also want to come up with something that is unusual, and mysterious enough to raise awareness, sticky enough to stay in “top of mind” status, while it is also connected to a deeper meaning.

As Lexicon, the highly successful brand naming agency (as a matter of fact: the creator billion-dollar names like BlackBerry or Pentium) summarizes it:

“Be Bold. Nothing communicates a new brand’s character and personality better than a bold name.
A name that is not only unexpected, but delivers a new message.”

This category is harder to define, but we can generally say that names like Twitter, Zappos, Foursquare or Pandora are good examples for being both intriguing and catchy.  (Prezi can be considered a hybrid version, as for non-Hungarian people, the connection to presentations is implied yet not obvious.)

After these steps, you know what you want. For achieving it all, here comes rule number 3.

3. Think about naming as a systematic process.

This rule might sound like another citation from the imaginary Common Sense 101 class, but it changes your whole perspective. As FastCompany said, you should not wait for “lightning-bolt moments”, but rather start digging deeper into your value proposition and customer segments. (We will talk about this topic in more details a bit later.)

Think about the following aspects: what do you promise to your customers?   What do your customers like about it? Why is it good for them? How does it feel to them? You have to define senses, metaphors, sounds that express who you are. Start from the obvious features (like offering security encrypting systems for data shared by people) and continue with feelings, insights (a magic word we will later talk about), associations (like safety – the arms of someone that you love – a shelter – a locker where you keep your valuables) till you find something that seems expressive and credible enough (e.g. Tresorit).

You can indeed find some ingenious online guides that help you navigate in this seemingly complex process. I especially suggest reading the detailed quick tips published by the international startup marketer Cezary Pietrzak’s , including clever domain extensions (, misspellings (Tumblr) and mixing languages. (See exact link below.)

I also plan to come up with some more detailed info and tips regarding creative techniques that might help you in this process – and preferably also include your future target segments’ preferences.

4. Don’t get too excited (too soon).

Obviously, you might think you found the perfect name, but there is a chance that someone else had the same great idea – before you. It is worth running a few tests with your beloved ideas, including domain and trademark search and consumer tests.(We will talk about this latter aspect in more details in the future.)

I hope that these quick recommendations were useful for those young entrepreneurs who maybe haven’t really ever thought about naming as hard work or think that it is merely a question of creativity. You have to get creative, but for your startup’s sake, think with the head of your consumers and what they might like, wherever they might hide.

If you are hungry for more food for thought, see the following valuable articles:

NaijaPreneur blog:

FastCompany’s approach:

Lexicon Branding Agency and their practices:

Cezary Pietrzak’s three articles:

One thought on “Name That Kid – A Summary of Naming Guidelines as the First Step of Branding Your Startup

  1. Pingback: Just a Little Peeping: Customer Development Labs Blog | Small Talx

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