How to Come Up With a Powerful Brand Name for Your New Project

What you need to know to come up with the perfect name for your idea and build a strong brand around it

So you had a great idea. It might be a fun weekend challenge, a side project, or a business idea. Maybe it’ll even be the next billion dollar company. Now you need a name. And the name has to convey so much!

There’s no secret formula to coming up with a name, and a lot of what I’m about to write is subjective. None of this is a guarantee for a good name or a strict playbook to follow.

And if you think the strength of a brand is entirely unrelated to the name, try to imagine Apple’s brand conveying luxury if it was instead called Kumquat.

Disclaimer: I’m not claiming to be a branding expert. I’m only claiming to be someone with strong opinions and good instincts for branding. You can scroll to the bottom to see a few things I’ve named if you don’t believe me.

Step 1: Know what a strong brand name needs to be

✅ Not bad

The most important requirement for developing a strong brand is that the name doesn’t suck. Even if it’s not good, you can build a strong brand around a name as long as it isn’t downright bad. So don’t settle on something you know is bad.

? Mildly meaningful

Focus on finding a name that’s at least somewhat relevant or meaningful to what your product, service, or organization is offering.

If the name you settle on is a made-up word, or it doesn’t create an immediate association in people’s minds, that’s fine.

? Easy to say

The name should be easy to pronounce and easy to say. Someone unfamiliar with it shouldn’t pause and struggle to remember how to say it for the first ten times.

? Easy to spell

Try to pick a name that’s not going to make people groan. For example, removing a vowl or two from a regular word is something that I think most people agree is almost always gimmicky at best.

A nice rule of thumb is: if you tell someone about it in a casual conversation, you shouldn’t have to add “but with sixteen Y’s instead of the I” after saying the name.

? Easy to remember

A good product or company name is memorable and distinctive. Maybe not the first time, but it shouldn’t be the kind of thing people struggle to remember despite using it every day.

? Visual

One of the keys to a strong brand is its visual identity, and a name’s visual identity has a lot more potential to be powerful if it has an obvious meaningful shape associated with it.

◽️ Not too generic or literal

It will almost always be harder to build a strong brand around a generic name. How do you expect someone to see your product or service as anything but generic if you give it a generic name?

Note: Sometimes a literal name can work very well, but it’s hard to pull off. For example: 1–800-GOT-JUNK? is a fantastic name.

? Not too narrow

Imagine if Google’s founders had gone with the name MySearchEngine. Google can launch Google Whatever and it doesn’t seem weird, because the name Google didn’t limit the brand to representing only its original product.

Find a name that’s future-proof.

? Not too long

Think about how many syllables it takes to say the name. This isn’t necessarily a hugely important thing to keep in mind, but I think it’s important that something doesn’t take too much effort to say, and 2–3 syllables is probably the sweet spot.

? An available domain

Ideally, you can pick a name with an available .com. A nice clean [company name].com domain looks a lot more authoritative than if you have to add “app” to the end or “get” to the front.

? Available social media handles

The same goes for Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook handles, for the same reason. A clean @[company name] on social media conveys a lot more brand authority than something with underscores or numbers in it.

Note: consider whether your project even needs anything more than a domain. Heck, maybe it’s an app and it doesn’t even need a domain!

(You can check the availability of domains and usernames here.)

Step 2: Generate name ideas

Now that you know what you’re going for, here are a few ways you can actually start generating names.

Use a spreadsheet or a document or a whiteboard, and write down everything that pops into your head, even if it seems terrible.

? Think deeply about the purpose of what you’re making

Think long and hard about exactly where you want this project to fit into people’s lives.

Once you understand exactly what problem your project is solving, and how it solves it, a lot of the names you originally thought of can probably be thrown out.

? Find obscure technical terms

Look into the terminology of the space in which your project or idea will operate. Pick up a textbook or read through some research papers.

Chances are, there’s a cool technical term that most people have never heard of that could make a great name for a company or project.

For example: Coinbase is a piece of technical Bitcoin terminology, and it sounds great as a company name. They also got, and @coinbase everywhere. And Google was named after “googol,” which is a really huge number.

➕ Combine regular words

One of the best ways to find a good name is by combining two simple words together. YouTube. Facebook. LinkedIn.

In this case, of course, you must consider whether or not to capitalize the second word, or whether to squish the words together. Some examples of what I mean:

  • YouTube (instead of You Tube or Youtube)
  • Airbnb (instead of Air BnB or AirBNB)
  • Facebook (instead of Face Book or FaceBook)
  • Netflix (instead of Net Flix or NetFlix)
  • Product Hunt (instead of ProductHunt or Producthunt)

You can figure out what works best for your project or company, as there is no “one size fits all” for any of this advice.

? Borrow from related terms or concepts

Think conceptually, not literally.

For example, if you’re trying to make a cryptocurrency portfolio tracking application, don’t go with something easy like “Cryptolytics.”

Instead, try to come up with something that’s original, but still related. Think conceptually about what your project or company is going to do. If it’s a crypto company that’s going to help take people “to the moon,” maybe look up technical terminology for a rocket, or use the name of a moon, or a famous astronaut or space mission.

? Borrow from other languages

Look up the Latin version of words that relate to what you’re making. For example, if you’re thinking of using the word “fast” in the name, why not “velox” instead? That sounds pretty regal.

Try German words, or Spanish words.

? Borrow from the animal kingdom

Sometimes combining a word with the name of a fast, frightening, or downright cool animal can result in some pretty great names.

E.g., [thing your company / project does][cool animal]

? Grab a thesaurus

A thesaurus is a quick way to get your creativity flowing. Look up some synonyms for the kinds of words you hope people will use when describing your organization or product.

? Grab a dictionary

Jeff Bezos came up with the name Amazon while he was flipping through the “A” words in the dictionary. I guarantee you, you’ll come across some interesting words that you hadn’t ever heard before if you crack open a dictionary and start skimming.

Step 3: Pick the right name

⏳ Don’t rush it

A really good name will be worth the wait.

? Run your favourite ideas by other people

Ask your friends what they think of when they hear that name. Ask strangers too.

If you’re pretty close to launching, you could even spin up two versions of a landing page that are identical except the name to A/B test your frontrunners and see which one converts better.

⚡ Pick a name that feels right

You won’t always feel a lightning strike moment when the perfect name comes to you, but I’m a firm believer that if you spend enough time on it, you can capture at least a small amount of lightning in a bottle.