For some people, coming up with a brand name can be so time-consuming and even frustrating. But not for us. While we understand it can be challenging to create a brand name, we do love the brand naming process and we find it one of the most exciting parts of building a business!
Naturally, choosing a brand name should be done at the early stage of your business research. And to be perfectly honest, creating a brand name can be easy peasy now that there are a lot of brand name generators available online. Small e-commerce businesses that might not have enough resources to do a deep, thorough brand name research can utilize free tools like the one from Shopify. Even if you do have the resources, you can still look at these generators to get some brand-name ideas.
Either way, here’s what you need to know about how to create a brand name and how to protect it legally.
5 Easy Ways to Create a Brand Name
Now, let’s see how you can actually create a brand name that proudly represents your business. Here are five ways you can name your brand:
1. Describe What Your Business Does
If you’re building a cosmetics company, you can simply use the word cosmetics or beauty. For example, Bossy Cosmetics, a prominent beauty for FemTech startup company, or Rare Beauty, Selena Gomez’s cosmetic line.
2. Use Your Name and Philosophy
If you are the founder, don’t refrain from inserting your name into the brand, especially if you have inspiring stories to share through it. Tiffany & Co., Walt Disney, Wendy’s, and Tesla are named after their founders or important figures.
On another note, Amazon may not carry Jeff Bezos’s name but it carries his visions. He wanted his brand to appear first in alphabetical order. Named after the world’s longest river, Amazon also represented Jeff’s dream of making the biggest bookstore on Earth.
3. Try the SMILE and SCRATCH tests
We first read about these two brand-naming systems in Alexandra Watkin’s book Hello, My Name Is Awesome.
First, your brand name needs to pass the SMILE test:
- Suggestive. It shows the characteristics of your brand.
- Meaningful. The meaning needs to resonate with your audience.
- Imagery. People need to be able to visualize your brand name.
- Legs. The name can go a long way, for many different uses.
- Emotional. It makes your audience feel something.
Second, your brand name needs to stay away from the SCRATCH:
- Spelling-challenged. Your brand name shouldn’t look like a typo.
- Copycat. Stay away from being too similar to other brand names.
- Restrictive. It shouldn’t keep your brand from growing.
- Annoying. Make sure it’s not too pushy, judgy, or has a negative meaning.
- Tame. Boring brand names will leave people uninspired and it’s easily forgettable.
- Curse of knowledge. Make your brand name easy to understand by anyone, not just by your internal team.
- Hard to pronounce. It makes it harder to remember.
However, there is always an exception to the rule. These tests are great for guidance, but they’re definitely not the law. Feel free to bend a few rules as you see fit.
4. Unusual Names Are Not Necessarily Bad
In his book Don’t Call It That, Eli Altman says something that we totally agree with:
The purpose of a brand name is to draw people in, not to make them immediately understand and care about your brand. So, if an unusual name can spike your target audience’s curiosity, by all means, have yourself an unusual brand name. And this brings us to our last point…
5. Invent New Words
When nothing else works, make up your own words!
🍿 Netflix = Internet + Flicks
🌐 Google = Googol (misspelled) = Equivalent to ten raised to the power of a hundred
Even our brand name Chykalophia is a word coined by our co-founder, Ari Krzyzek. Long as it may seem, our name has been such a conversation starter and has attracted plenty of leads at the networking events, as people are curious to find out how to pronounce it. Go and be creative when you create a brand name!
How to Protect Your Brand Name Legally
An essential yet often overlooked part of creating a brand name is making sure you can legally protect it through trademark registration with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Trademark registration is the best tool for protecting branding assets like business names, logos, slogans, product names, packaging design, etc. These are all called “marks.”
Copyright can sometimes also be used to protect a logo, but it can’t be used for names or slogans.
Why Bother with Trademark Registration?
Federal trademark registration and enforcement help you make sure your brand name is a source of legal power, not legal pain, for you.
Once your mark is registered, you have a strong set of rights regarding its use, including:
- Exclusive rights to use it in connection with particular goods or services,
- Strong proof to get social media platforms and online stores to take down infringing accounts or posts,
- The right to sue someone in federal court for infringement, and
- The ability to have the U.S. Customs Service assist you in preventing the importation of infringing foreign goods.
A Protectable Brand Name
Using the suggestions from the previous section, you can create a name that can be registered with the USPTO. Names that usually can’t be registered include names that are primarily
- Merely descriptive terms, like “organic” or “hydrating,”
- Generic terms, like “cosmetics” or “consulting,”
- Laudatory terms, like “best” or “delicious,” or
- Geographic locations or surnames, like “Johnson’s” or “Midwest.”
However, there are nuances to these restrictions, and some ways around some of them, so it’s a good idea to consult with a trademark attorney if the name you love may have any of these issues.
A Brand Name That’s Truly Your Own
Next, you need a clearance search to find out if the exact name you’ve chosen, or one very similar in spelling, sound, or meaning, is already in use by someone else for similar goods or services.
Skipping this step can mean a failed application and greatly increases the risk of receiving a valid cease-and-desist letter requiring you to stop using that name, even if you’ve spent thousands of dollars and significant time promoting it.
Trademark Registration, Maintenance, and Enforcement
Once your name looks clear to register, it’s important to file for trademark protection and prove actual use of the name asap to make sure no one beats you to it.
Once your branding is protected by trademark registration, to keep that protection you need to make sure to use your branding correctly and be vigilant about checking for and taking steps to stop infringement.
In A Nutshell…
Your brand name represents your entire business. It’s one of your most important business assets, so invest some time to create a brand name that can do its job. And don’t forget to shield it with trademark registration and enforcement as these are the perfect legal tools to make sure it’s protected!
This article is a collaborative work between Chykalophia and Julie C. King of King Business and Patent Law. Wearing both attorney and business-owner hats, Julie is an expert at helping her clients focus on the core parts of the business as well as protecting their valuable business assets.