In the early stages of creating a new business, choosing a name is one of the most important decisions you will need to make.

With an estimated 300 million companies in the world today, and with so many brands in existence, where do you begin?

To help you, there are three steps you should follow.

1. What type of name do you want?

There are seven categories of names, and pretty much every brand fits into one of these categories.

Eponymous – These embody the vision and beliefs of the founder, such as Disney, Burberry and Tesla.

Descriptive – These tell you exactly what the company does – for example American Airlines – but these are sometimes harder to own and protect.

Acronymic – These are often just shorthand versions of descriptive names, such as BP, KFC and HSBC.

Suggestive – These can be broken down into three categories:

  • Real Words
  • Composites
  • Invented

Real Words, such as Uber and Slack, are real words taken from a dictionary that suggest what the benefits of the business might be. With 300 million businesses in existence, it’s getting harder to find real words which are not already taken.

Composites are created by adding two words together, such as Facebook or RayBan.

Because it’s hard to find real words which are not already taken, some businesses use invented names by changing, adding or removing letters for impact, such as Kleenex or Pinterest.

Associative – These work by reflecting the meaning of the brand, a great example is Amazon; the Amazon in South America is the largest river in the world, reflecting that Amazon is the biggest marketplace in the world.

Non-English – Some brands are derived from non-English languages, such as Samsung (which means ‘three stars’ in Korean) and Lego (which means ‘play well’ in Danish).

Abstract – These have no intrinsic meaning but rely on the power of phonetics to create really powerful brand names, such as Rolex or Kodak.

2. Decide what you want your brand name to say

It’s very tempting to create a brand name that says who created them (Dell), what you do (Microsoft) or where you operate (Southwest). These brand names are descriptive and functional.

However, some of the best brand names don’t describe, rather stand for a big idea – ones that translate into an emotional appeal. Nike, for example is all about winning, whereas GoPro is about heroism. And Apple is all about simplicity

Some businesses are started using the actual name of the founder, such as Jacob McMillen. This is fine if you are operating as the face of the brand, and might make your website easier to find in search results. However, if you have aspirations to sell your business further down the line, you may want to disassociate yourself from your business from the outset.

So, as you think about your name for your business, think about your big idea.

3. Check the name isn’t already taken

You might have to create hundreds of different names until you find one that isn’t taken.

There are different online tools available to help you. If you are based in the UK you could use the company name availability checker; if you are setting up a PLC then check out the choosing a company name guidance.

If you decide to choose a non-English or abstract name, then it’s always a good idea to check your name doesn’t have any negative connotations in another language.

Some of the information in this blog post is taken from the excellent Ted Talk by Jonathan Bell. You can watch the full talk below.