How to Choose the Best Name for Your Brand

Opinion: Make sure it has the right tone

The names 'Apple' and 'Hulu' are modern, whereas a name like PayPal is purely pragmatic and 'Greepeace' is emotional. Greenpeace, Apple, Paypal, Hulu

When you’re trying to come up with a business name, you may feel like all the names that you consider “good names” are taken.  

Over 50 million new businesses start each year. Coming up with a name that will help your business stand out is a challenge. One mistake you should not make is coveting the names of your forefathers. You may look at the top names of companies that were the first in those spaces and pine after a similar name, only to discover that nothing like it is available.

Make sure that your business name supports your unique brand. A business name should be viewed as a genetically keyed tool–only you can use it, because it was designed for your business.

Pick your brand tone

When picking a business name, it’s important that you consider the way your brand is immediately perceived by your audience. We think of branding and names in five tones:

Modern: This style of name works great for businesses that want to come across as fresh, intriguing or cutting edge. “Apple” and “Hulu” are great examples of this.

Classic: This style is great for high-end brands or businesses that want to establish themselves as preeminent in their industries. Names like “Barnes and Noble” or “Vanguard” are classic.

Playful: A playful name can help a brand seem fun and approachable, like “Squatty Potty.”

Pragmatic: Descriptive or practical names like “PayPal” or “Eugene Teahouse” fall in this category.

Emotional: These names appeal to emotions, like “Triumph Motorcycles” or “Greenpeace.”

You can use your brand tone to set your business up in relation to existing businesses. Apple showed that they went against the grain by picking an organic object as their name when everyone at the time was using tech-focused words and acronyms. Just because most people in your industry use a classic name, say if you were in finance, doesn’t mean you have to. Just make sure that whatever name you pick fits what your business is doing, and what it’s doing differently.

Add your unique aspects

While your name should capture the big picture sense of who your business is, it should also pinpoint some of your unique selling points. Including other brand elements like values, big ideas, stories about why you do what you do, any emotions you want to elicit and a value proposition can help hone ideas. Make sure you know what secondary branding elements make up your brand–these will help you choose a business name that supports your brand and boost your business.

Appeal to your audience

Make sure you resonate with audience values. It is more important that your audience like your name than it is that you (or the other leader in your industry) like your name. Audience testing is a good way to vet business names against each other for unbiased feedback. It can give you a good idea of what kinds of names perform well and what performs poorly with your target audience.


Ensuring that your business name fits your business rather than the businesses that came before you will make sure that you stand out for the right reasons. Don’t try to mimic larger companies that came before you.

Due diligence in setting up your naming criteria and researching your audience will help ensure that your business name is more than a name–it is a tool to help your brand succeed. 

Grant Polachek is the director of marketing at