How to choose a name with minimal stress

Our process for naming new products at Krit.

Does a name even matter? 🤔

Yes and no. 

It won't achieve product-market fit for you and it's not in the top 20 reasons startups fail. So it’s not worth weeks of anxiety. 

But it can help you market effectively. It will be one of the first words out of your mouth when you pitch, and it will be all over your website, app, and ads. So you shouldn’t choose a name flippantly. 

Find a name with Krit’s process 🙌

At Krit, we have a process for coming up with product names and it’s something you can easily replicate. It’ll guide you through thoughtful naming without getting you too bogged down in the decision. 🙇

Think of it as Krit's process for finding a good name, without losing your mind. 😌

1. Get it all out there 💭

Grab a marker + whiteboard and list every name you can think of. ✍Don't wonder, "is this dumb?" or, "what if someone else already has it?" We'll ask all that later. Just write down what comes to mind. Feel free to make up words, too, because made-up names, like Kleenex, can work! 🤧
  
If your brain needs a boost, use these prompts:

  • What literal words and associations come to mind?
  • Are there any synonyms for what you've listed?
  • Do other languages have interesting translations? Fun fact: Asana is a Sanskrit word. 😳
  • Can you combine any two of your words into a new word? 
  • What prefixes or suffixes could you add? e.g. -ly, -er, -ing, -ify, re-, pro-

If you need even more inspiration, then check out: mythology (ever heard of Nike?), street names, plant names, city/location names (Amazon), color samples, Namium, Shopify’s name generator, and this mega-resource on all things naming.

2. Cull your options 🚮

Once you have a whiteboard full of names, switch gears and filter them. Your end goal is to have 10 or fewer options to take into step 3.

If you can associate a name with any of these descriptions, toss it: 

  • Sounds like a major competitor
  • Hard to pronounce or spell. No one is going to fight through Zwerxvy.  😑
  • Overly weird or complex. Weird-ish names are memorable but very weird names won't stick. 
  • Politically or culturally loaded for your target audience. This isn't cards against humanity - there are no points for offensiveness.  🙊
  • A Google search turns up loads of existing companies
  • Misleading. Don't name a soccer product HockeyStick, for example. ⚽🏒
  • Really lengthy. Aim for 10 or fewer characters. 🔟
  • Limits the product's scalability. E.g., HolaMargaritas would make selling beer and wine glasses difficult for a drinkware company. 🍷
  • Words you hate. You can love or tolerate a name but you shouldn't hate it.  ❌

3. Do a trademark search 🔎

Here's how we check for existing trademarks:

  • Go to the USPTO search page and select Search Trademark Database. It's a small gray button that's easy to miss. 
  • Select a search option. You want to perform a Basic Wordmark search. 
  • Search for plural and singular versions of the word, but only search live trademarks. Enter your potential name and hit search.

If you receive results, you can click each result to view the industry. Ideally, you want a name that has zero live trademarks for your industry.

Disclaimer: a trademark search and a quick Google search can't replace an attorney. Have your name legally vetted for extra security and peace of mind. 

4. Research domains & social handles 👀

Some of your name options will be more expensive than others or unavailable as a .com. 

Here’s what you should know about domains:

  • If your audience is technical, a .io or .guru domain is fine. Otherwise, stick with .com. It's more respected. 
  • Say your product name is PBR. You can attach other words to your name in the domain, e.g. getPBR.com or tryPBR.com but PBR.com or PBRapp.com is preferable. Browser searches auto-populate URL suggestions so you want your product name to be the first thing users type. 
  • There are some scenarios where it's okay to drop a lot of cash on a domain name: if you have a lot of funding and it will add considerable legitimacy to your company, or if the price is likely to skyrocket in the future. However, those scenarios aren't the norm. In most cases, a cheap domain name is what you want. 
  • If there's a domain name you want to haggle over, check out this guide for tips.

Lastly, make sure that you can snag a respectable Twitter, Instagram and/or Facebook handle for your name. Check those platforms before keeping an option around.  

5. Just pick one. 😬

At this point, choosing a name will feel like the most important thing you've ever done.

That's normal. It's also not true.

Once you have 3-5 legitimate options, just pick one. If the decision-agony is unbearable, draw it out of a hat. 🎩

Remember, "had a bad name" isn't even one of the top 20 reasons startups fail. So pick a name, move forward, and drink a beer to celebrate the decision. 🍻🙌

"A great name can’t fix a bad experience. But a bad experience can kill a great name."
- Interbrand, a global brand consultancy

Want to see us cover a topic? Have major startup questions or sticking points? Email andrew@builtbykrit.com