Crafting unforgettable startup names that resonate, inspire thought, and make competitors wince

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David Placek is the president and founder of Lexicon Branding. In developing category-changing names like Sonos, Pentium, OnStar, Swiffer, Febreze and BlackBerry, Lexicon has become one of the most influential branding agencies in the world with more than 3,700 naming assignments in 22 countries.

With a slowing venture capital (VC) market and potentially less money for disruptive startups, those looking to attract capital need a strong brand now more than ever. A strong brand starts with its name — nothing will be used more often or for longer. Plus, it’s the one thing your competitors can’t take away from you.

A brand name is a cornerstone that immediately impacts consumers and investors. In today’s digital and global economy, it can mean the difference between a brand that is immediately remembered or completely forgotten.

Brand names are much more than simple labels and clever descriptors. They can serve as powerful marketing tools for creating or changing consumer perceptions and as the first step in constructing an entirely new market.

Startups in particular need names that signal the company and its products are about the future, not the past. They need a company name that shapes their brand image, resonates with their target market, and supports their business plan.

Startups need names that signal the company and its products are about the future, not the past.

A brand name is usually the first thing a potential customer sees or hears for software and other digital intangible products. In entirely new industries that are just emerging, brands need distinct breakthrough names to generate interest and early market share.

When we partner with startups to develop new names, we use an internal checklist to ask if our recommendations pass the test. Here are five questions we ask ourselves to ensure the names we create for startups are memorable, distinctive, and stand out from the crowd.

Is the name an original idea?

Don’t be fooled by the adage that a good brand name tells your story. That’s impossible to do with just one word. Instead, brand names are the foundation upon which your brand’s story is built. Do you want to build on a foundation of rock or sand?

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