5 Clever Ways to Come Up With a Name for a Company or Product

Written by Charles Ngo
Written by Charles Ngo

Here’s one of the most powerful things I’ve learned about marketing: people make most of their purchases based off of the identity that they want to achieve.

Your “identity” is the image of yourself – it’s not who you actually are.
We all have an “Identity” that we’re trying to achieve, and an “Identity” that we want other people to see us as. 
Reality: John is a 20-year-old, broke college student
Identity: John wants his identity to be viewed as a fashionable, rich 20-year-old college student. 
It’s going to take John some time until he is actually rich and successful. In the meantime, he might want the benefits now. 
He can do that by buying products that make him feel as if he is rich and successful. He could save for a pair of rare, Adidas Yeezy shoes.
People can see his Yeezys and give him compliments. If he buys enough of the right products, then people could view him as the identity that he wants. 
Remember…people buy based off of emotion rather than logic.
Let me share with you some other examples of Identity-based purchases:
Louis Vuitton: When I started making some serious money, I spent around five figures buying Louis Vuitton goods.
I wanted people to view me as “rich”, and LV was THE brand to do it.
I didn’t care about where it was made or the quality of the goods. All I knew was that wearing LV got me a lot of compliments.
(I have smartened up since)
Nike: I had a friend in high school who loved playing basketball. I didn’t think he was that great, to be honest. I mean, there’s kinda a limit when you’re like 5’5.
But I do remember that he was constantly spending all his paychecks on Jordans and Nike apparel. He might not play in the NBA one day, but he could wear the same gear that the professionals do.
This is a big insight that most people don’t understand – these kinds of purchases can boost someone’s self-esteem.  

Kylie Cosmetics: Kylie Jenner launched a cosmetics line a few years ago, and it’s already valued at over a billion dollars.
From what little I know about this space, I don’t think Kylie is a makeup expert, and I don’t think her products are the highest quality.
But that doesn’t matter to the consumers.
Women are buying this product because they love Kylie, her lifestyle, and the Kardashian Brand. 
Buying and wearing this makeup moves them closer to having the “Kardashian Identity.
Understanding the power of the brand is more important than ever.
If you’re selling any kind of physical product, then there are two giant boogeymen in the room.
The first one is Amazon
Bezos and friends have some of the most valuable data on Earth. Every seller on Amazon is giving them free data.
They then use that data against the sellers with their own in-house AmazonBasics brand. It’s hard to compete against Amazon when it comes to price.
The second boogeyman are Chinese suppliers
They too are gathering a ton of data. They know what’s selling out, and can easily research how fat the profit margins are. Rather than simply sitting back and being the suppliers, more and more are launching their own brands.
And it’s going to be difficult to compete with them on price.
So, what’s stopping Amazon and Chinese suppliers from taking over the world?
The brand.
The brand is what makes someone pay 10x what the goods actually cost. Go visit the Canton fair in China and you’ll see how many famous products out there barely cost anything.
Now, I can’t get into every single aspect of building a brand.

Today, we’re going to look at just one tiny aspect of the brand.
The consumer’s first impression of your company starts with its name. And it’s something that a lot of first-time entrepreneurs get stuck on. 
I’m actually writing this article for myself.
I’m starting a new company this week, and it’s in a niche where branding and names are important. I did some research, but couldn’t find too many useful guides on this topic. 
Here are five different frameworks you can use to come up with a company name.
By the way, this should apply to most industries.
One big exception when comes to naming is when it comes to anything “artistic” such as music and fashion. Those industries play by their own rules that focus more on creativity. 

1. [Description] + [Industry]

This is one of the more standard ways to name a company these days, and it’s safe. If someone has never heard of your company before, they can look at the name and get an idea of what you do and the feeling that you’re trying to convey. 
Here are some examples of company names that fit this description, and what I thought of when I first heard of them.

Vitamin Water: A water brand that’s infused with vitamins. 
Lean Gains: Fitness related. It sounds like a methodology to gain “lean muscle”, without much fat.  
Soul Cycle: This involves riding a bicycle. The “Soul” conveys that it is targeted more towards women vs men. It def has a “feel good” vibe centered around it. 
Muscle Tech: They make supplements to help you build muscle. They probably employ a lot of scientists and use technology to ensure their products are cutting edge.
Lead Gen Engine: This is the name of my online course. When we were brainstorming the name, we wanted something that was straight forward, but not too boring.
I knew it had to have “Lead Gen” in it so that people could immediately understand the value proposition. We went with “Engine” because “Lead Gen Engine” rhymes.
I liked the feeling that “Engine” evoked. We were trying to show that there’s a system and process with the program. And “Engine” could have a ton of awesome branding with gears/racing.

I honestly think that Vitamin Water wouldn’t be as successful as they are if it weren’t for such a clever name.
I remember going to the store and seeing Vitamin Water for the first time. I thought it tasted like shit.
But I kept drinking it because I thought it was actually healthy.

2. Use a Word from Another Language

It seems that all the great words in English already have the .com’s taken. Why not take phrases from a different language?

This is the playbook from some of the biggest companies on earth. 
Uber – It means “The best” in German
Volkswagen – It means “people’s car” in German
Nike – It comes from Greek. The Greek Goddess of Victory

Think of your perfect company name, and just use the translation of it.
Just be careful of cultural appropriation. 

3. Combine Parts of Two Words Into One, A.K.A. a “Portmanteau” 

Most of the great short.com names are taken, and names that are too long don’t inspire confidence.
One hack to create a brandable term is to combine words into one. Now that you’ve created a new word, the .com is probably available. 

  • Comcast – Communications + Broadcast
  • Pinterest – Pin + Interest
  • Instagram – Instant Camera + Telegram 
  • Barcade – Bar + Arcade. 
  • Freakonomics – Freaks + Economics
  • AFFcelerator – Affiliate + Accelerate. 

4. Ride the Coattails of an Established Name

This is a clever way of naming a company.
There are certain names and phrases that evoke a meaning. The “brand” is already there. Why not use it for your own company?
Tesla: Tesla is the name of Elon Musk’s electric car company. It’s named after Nikola Tesla, a Serbian inventor.  
SmartyPants: SmartyPants is a line of supplements originally for kids. SmartyPants is already an established nickname for really smart kids.
Baby Einstein: What a fucking genius name. Every parent wants their child to be smart. Obviously, Einstein stands for intelligence. 
PlentyofFish: One of the biggest dating sites in the world, and a favorite traffic source for Affiliates in 2011. “Plenty of Fish” is a popular saying meaning there are plenty of fish in the sea. 
The main thing to watch out for is not to violate any copyrights, A.K.A. don’t name a company Zuckerberg Brain Pills. 

5. Use an Alternative Spelling of a Word

Is your favorite name taken, and the .com as well? Try an alternative spelling of it.

  • Lyft – Lift
  • Tumblr – Tumbler
  • Krispy Kreme – Crispy Cream.
  • Reddit – Read it. 

These companies are worth billions of dollars!

Here’s What You Should Avoid in a Name

I gave some ideas on how you can come up with a great company name. There are some pitfalls that you should try to avoid when you’re coming up with the name. 

1. Don’t Pick a Name That Doesn’t Convey Anything

I’ve noticed there’s a trend lately in [First Name] + [First Name]
Two of Amazon’s in house brands are Franklin & Freeman + James & Erin.
Are they trying to sell me clothes or is this a wedding invitation?

2. Try to Own the .Com

This is self-explanatory. There’s always going to be some leakage in your traffic if you own the .net domain, and people are trying to find you using the .com.  
The .com means you’re the authority. 
SumoMe creates software for websites. The owners noticed that other companies were popping up with similar “Sumo” branding. 
They invested $1.5 million into owning Sumo.com, and rebranded themselves as Sumo.
They are now the big swinging dicks.
They are
THE sumo company, and everyone else is 2nd tier due to the domain name.

3. Are You “Top of Mind”?

In the book, the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, Law #3 is the Law of Focus. It means that you should be “top of mind.” When someone says the word, you’re the first one people think about. 
Imagine if you named your company “Uber Supplements.” People are always going to think of Uber the car company whenever someone uses the word “uber”. 

4. Be Careful of Copyright and Trademarks

Wolfgang Zwiener was the head waiter of the legendary Steakhouse, Peter Lugers. After four decades of service, he started his own restaurant called “Wolfgang’s Steakhouse.”
You know who didn’t like that name? Wolfgang Puck.
They’ve been in several lawsuits with each other since then. 

5. Make Sure the Name is “Scalable”

We can’t always predict the future, but try to think big.
Don’t name your company in a way that can hold itself back from growth, investment, or even a sale.
STM used to be known as “StackThatMoney.” While StackThatMoney was fine for a “make money online” blog, the company has since grown to become something much bigger.
I’m guessing they shortened it to STM since “StackThatMoney” wasn’t as professional. 
My buddy Thanh owns AsianEfficiency.com. While it’s a fine name for a small blog, I think he can do really big things with the company. But before he does, he should probably rename the company to something more professional. 
It’s also important to limit your company’s product range.
I buy all my underwear from MeUndies.com. They laser focus on underwear, and they’re killing it. But they’re going to hit a growth ceiling when it comes to underwear one day, and will need to expand their product offerings.
The problem is that I’ve put them into a box and I’m not interested in anything else.
I was listening to a podcast about Calm.com. Calm is a meditation app that is valued at over $1 billion! Their main competitor is HeadSpace.
The problem with HeadSpace is they’ve put themselves in a “box” with their name – their only focus is meditation.
Calm is on a mission to grow beyond meditation. They have sleeping sprays in CVS, and they just bought XpressSpa’s at airports. 

One of my favorite clothing companies is Bonobos. In their first few years, they only focused on pants. Now they make everything. Imagine if their name was originally BonobosPants.com – it’d be hard to grow and scale.
Start off with a name that can scale so you don’t have to be distracted with a pivot later on. 

6. Research to Make Sure the Name Doesn’t Offend Anyone

ConvertKit is one of the biggest CRM’s around. They announced that they were re-branding their company to “Seva.”
It’s Sanskrit from the Indian Subcontinent, and means “Selfless Service”.
So you’re telling me you want to name your commercial company after a term that means “selfless service?”
They got a ton of backlash from it and decided to stick with ConvertKit. Here’s their side of the story.
So before you decide on a name, make sure it doesn’t piss anyone off. 

7. Test Your Name

I was on a phone call with my friend the other day who is also thinking about starting a new company soon. 
We both know the power of “branding” – wouldn’t it make sense to split test the brands first?
It reminds me of how Tim Ferriss came up with the title of his first book. After he finished writing it, he was stuck on what to name his book.
So, he ran a split test on Google Adwords. He listed out the various names of his books and ran ads. The ads simply led to landing pages that said Coming Soon.
The ad that had the highest interest and click-through rate was “The Four Hour Work Week”.
Imagine if he didn’t do any split testing and called the book “How to Build an Online Business Using Virtual Assistants.” Yea…definitely wouldn’t have done as well. 
So yea, if you want to do a branding split test, you could easily run some paid traffic. I actually have another idea.
What if you could conduct a poll from the people in your demographic and see how they feel? 
There’s a service out there called PickFu

A Rose by Any Other Name Would Smell Just as Sweet

This Shakespeare quote doesn’t only apply to marketing.
If you start a supplement company called DookieSupplements because “it’s the shit,” I don’t think it’s going to do too well. 
The name is important, but don’t let it be a bottleneck.
Featured Image by Elnur_

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                The posts published by Charles are prepared and analyzed, including the author’s own experience…

The posts published by Charles are prepared and analyzed, including the author’s own experience…

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