You’ve started a business – what do you call it?

Finding an original, memorable and appealing name for a new brand is no easy feat. We talk to copywriters Nick Asbury and Mike Reed about what makes a good brand name (and what doesn’t)

These days, it’s hard to find a brand name that hasn’t been trademarked or registered online. Almost every conceivable word exists as a url somewhere – forcing new businesses to explore abstract phrases and unusual pairings. Portmanteaus and alternative spellings have become commonplace as brands seek to find a name that no-one else has (think Laundrapp, Breethe and Memrise). Sometimes, weird can be good – Google being a prime example – but too weird, and you risk having a name that no-one remembers (or worse, a name that no-one likes).

Below, we talk to copywriters Nick Asbury and Mike Reed about their favourite brand names, current trends in naming and how to approach finding a word to represent your business

CR: What do you think makes for a great brand name? 
Mike Reed: It’s hard to make rules for these things. There are guidelines, but always exceptions. So, a good name is short, simple and easy to spell – but what about Häagen-Dazs? It should be easily pronounced – but Aesop gets pronounced at least two ways. It should be memorable – but why should anyone recall the name Patagonia? And it seems sensible for your name to be relevant to your business – but what do apples have to do with personal computing?

What a name can never be is everything. Many clients agonise over finding a silver bullet: the simple, unique, instantly memorable name that communicates everything important about their brand. [My] advice is to stop looking because you won’t find it – and you don’t need to. Names matter, but never as much as they seem to when you’re trying to think of one.

So many names are meaningless in themselves: Xerox, IKEA, Sony. And how many people know (or care) that IBM once meant ‘International Business Machines’, or that Esso comes from S.O. – Standard Oil? These names have meaning because of what those business do and say – not what they’re called.

Of course, a good name can help a lot. Bulb is great example: a simple, friendly, cheerful word that instantly suggests power and bright ideas – perfect for an energy start-up. It fits beautifully with their wider brand strategy of making energy simpler, fairer and more transparent. And with the overall personality of the brand.