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  • Jessica Eaves Mathews

What's in a Name? The Top Two Rules on Choosing a Strong Brand Name for Your Business.


I've spent thousands of hours in recent years counseling clients on trademark applications, and the theme that keeps repeating itself is "how do you choose a strong business name?"

What I am seeing are many, many entrepreneurs who are choosing names that are a lot like the names used by everyone else in their industry, and so when they come to apply for a trademark, we get the fun job of telling them that their name is likely not something they can protect. It pains me to have these conversations, so I'm going to share my top two tips with you all in hopes that it helps you choose a strong name for your business.

Rule #1: DO NOT choose something that is descriptive of what you do.

This might seem counter-intuitive, but if you want a strong brand and a federal trademark, your name must be fanciful and totally unique. If you use commonly used words or phrases, you will have a hard time getting a trademark. You will also be lumped together with every other company doing what you do. And since your goal is to stand out and above the crowd in your industry, the last thing you need is a business name that sounds like everyone else around you.

PLEASE get away from thinking your business name needs to describe what you do. Instead, use good SEO and keywords on your website to make it clear what you do, but make your name something that stands out from the crowd.

The strongest brand names out there are made up words or phrases that didn't exist before or were not used in the industry for the new brand, such as Google, Twitter, Facebook, Banana Republic, Virgin, Walmart, Amazon.com, etc..... None of those names suggest what the company does and it has only made for a stronger brand, not a weaker one. In fact, a fanciful name is what makes you memorable. Your name does not have to relate in any way to what you do to be a strong name.

Rule #2: If you must use a name that suggests what your company does, use a totally fanciful and unique word or phrase to do so. Best case scenario, you make a word up that didn't exist before but that suggests your offerings.

Strong examples that come to mind are Netflix, Chick-fil-a, Post-It, Microsoft, Pinterest, and You Tube. The great thing about a made up word or phrase is that the URL is likely available and no one else likely has the name already in use. It makes getting a trademark and brand traction all that much easier.

I have had so many clients lately deal with issues for their trademarks because they chose a totally descriptive word or phrase for their business name. It will be much harder to get trademark protection with a descriptive name, and it will also water down your brand, making it harder to stand out in a crowded field.

Take a chance and pick something off the beaten path. Your brand and your business will thank you for it.


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