Years ago businesses chose a brand name that started with A, or AA or even AAA in order to be at the top of the telephone directory listing.
Fast forward to the internet age and recently a company called "Reputation Changer" paid 6 figures for the domain name 'brand.com' in order to 'own a patch' of online real estate in the same way.
How important it really is to have a brand name that works for search purposes?
Perhaps we are jumping on the SEO 'brandwagon' so fast we are putting the 'cart before the horse' and forgetting how important it is to truly understand branding and brand naming.
It is vitally important that your brand name resonates and is instantly recognisable, but it's so much more than just being search engine friendly.
Your brand is your identity. It's your business's personality and culture.
Brand is more than just a name.
Your brand name needs to clearly communicate your uniqueness and it needs to do so using a specific voice that your ideal prospect recognises.
Have you noticed how a baby responds to the voice of its parents differently to others? Or how a pet will come to its owners voice, and not to strangers who call its name?
They don't know what the word means, but they recognise the voice and when they are in trouble, they definitely recognise the tone!
Yes it is vital to be found on-line, but is choosing an SEO friendly brand name more important than instant recognition?
It probably does make sense that your local plumber, electrician or pest control guy have a geographical brand name to help with SEO and 'own' their patch. But even then, is being local really that important when it comes to brand perception?
The 'Santa Monica Plumbing Co' basically indicates to the consumers who live in the area, that they can trust this brand to be there the instant your pipes break, because he's just around the corner.
And chances are if you live in Santa Monica and need a plumber, that's what you might type into Google.
But Google's algorithms are getting smarter with automated location services that no longer need you to type in your location, it can simply send you results based on GPS, and there are other ways of creating reliability and credibility with a brand name.
Here are some key factors to be aware of around development of your brand name:
Many established businesses have a brand name that no longer identifies who they are or what they do, because over the years they have evolved and now offer different services, products or have a different customer base. But because they have an 'established brand name' they are reluctant to evolve the brand.
In reality, their existing customers are more loyal to the reputation and personality of the brand and the services, products and support they get, than they are to a name and it would probably be better for the company to move their brand forwards and resonate with all prospects as well as existing audiences.
2) Combined Names.
Some start-ups begin as partnerships and decide the brand name should be a combination of the founding partners names. Unfortunately this can be short term thinking if the partnership breaks down and suddenly you have a business that actually has a brand name with no meaning whatsoever.
A better approach, especially if the brand is all about the owners, is to brainstorm a 'mood board' with images and words you both resonate with and then develop a brand name from your shared passion and drivers.
3) Lost in translation.
Often brands can grow in markets you don't expect, and if they do go global, your brand name may have quite different connotations in another language.
"Bimbo" bread always use to make me smile when I lived in Spain, along with Kraps Crackers, Barfy Burgers and Shitto Soup!
Google your competitors products or brands and check out what brand names exist overseas. When you do decide on a short list of names, check out the domain name availability with an online translation tool.
Wordoid is a great tool we use to create brand names and check domain availability at the same time.
4) The long and the short of it.
Many people are concerned that their brand name doesn't clearly tell people what it is that they do. They want to add descriptive words or taglines to 'explain' their brand. Often this leads to a convoluted and confusing bunch of words that does exactly what the brand owners was trying to avoid - confusing people.
Some of the most valuable brand names that exist don't actually have anything to do with the company offering, in fact they are completely made up - Kodak, Nissan and Skype.
There are brands based on an experience, location or personal connection with the founder - Mercedes, Wendys, Adobe.
And other famous brands are founders names like Addidas, others came from small beginnings and have grown into their name, like Virgin.
In reality they all have one thing in common - they are short and they are easy to remember.
5) Mixed Messages.
When you start-up a business often it can be a family and friends affair and everyone has their 2c worth of input about what you should call yourself.
It's really important that you don't just choose a name because you 'like' it or that 'everyone involved' likes it.
It's far more significant that you can totally embrace the name you have in everything you do and that your target audience resonates with it.
What does your brand name sound like when you answer the phone, or introduce your business to prospects. How will it look embroidered on a cap, in the newspaper, on a digital advert?
It's a bit like considering of names for your child; the best advice I was given was to practice calling out that name in the supermarket or park - did it feel uncomfortable or embarrassing?
Probably not the best name then!
The most vital tip to choosing the right brand name is to make sure it is timeless.
Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, wanted a name that started with an A, so it was alphabetically listed at the top (like in the phone book) and he liked the idea of his company growing to be like the river, one of the largest in the world.
Select a brand name that can move with you, grow and still be relevant in many years time, in many different markets, one with a voice you will be proud to shout from the roof top.
If you want to know more about brand names and the three formulas to create a brand name CLICK HERE to read another article about choosing a brand name.