Recently a friend of ours has been busy putting together a business plan for a new business he is thinking of launching in our sunny little corner of Hampshire and the discussions we’ve had with him really got us thinking. Whilst his business plan is coming together nicely, he seems to be struggling somewhat with the task of naming his eventual business. Since Flint & Tinder launched nearly four years ago, this is a common problem we’ve heard from clients who are (or were) in a similar position. As a result we’ve decided to write up our thoughts on the matter into the post below.
A lot of the advice provided here stems from not only absorbing the most successful branding and identity design work from across the globe for nearly ten years, but also from our own experience and the advice given by masters of the craft such as Wally Olins and Adrian Shaughnessy. Of course, all our opinions are open to debate, but regardless of whether you follow them to the letter, they should in some way help spark those little flames of creativity following around your head.
1) Think Different
Stand out from your competition, don’t mimic them.
Several years back I read an article that detailed how bands with longer names generally sold more records than those with more simplistic monikers. The reason for which – the article surmised – was that band who had called themselves more exotic names were more memorable to the general public and therefore more likely to be recalled when the user was ready to make a purchase. Whether or not this still makes a difference in today’s digital music economy is unclear, but it is hard to deny that Hootie And The Blowfish as a band name is far more likely to embed itself in your consciousness than say, The Band.
2) Think Digital
At some point very early in their existence any new business needs to think about their online presence. Whilst some business may not demand a HTML5 responsive e-commerce site with CMS at first, or ever, every business will probably need at least a simple website and social media accounts. When it comes to naming a business, thinking of the digital channels you will be using to market your services are incredibly important and picking a name without considering the following can be catastrophic.
Your website domain
There are many things to consider here, the first being whether your proposed business name is even available for purchase. Ideally any business should own the domain containing their business name. For example, we own and use www.flintandtinder.co.uk, but we do not own www.flintandtinder.com because it was not available and hasn’t been since we launched. This hasn’t been too much of a problem for us because most of our target customer base is situated in the UK. If however we were looking to expand globally a .co.uk domain could hinder us slightly in terms of search engine rankings.
Make your chosen domain name easy to say, write and type.
The second thing to consider is how your name looks in a URL, especially if your business name contains more than one word. With URLS, business names with several words have two options; 1) you either combine the words together (www.flintandtinder.co.uk) or 2) you separate the words with hyphens (www.flint-and-tinder.co.uk). As Google refines it’s algorhythms, neither option really has an SEO benefit over the other these days, but it’s not unfair to state that most users find the first option both easier to type either into a search engine field or to dictate verbally to others. The problem with the first option however is when you combine several words together into one string, sometimes new words are created which can detract and devalue your brand. For example:
Who Represents = www.whorepresents.com
Experts Exchange = www.expertsexchange.com
Therapist Finder = www.therapistfinder.com
Pen Island = www.penisland.net
Setting your business up as a global laughing stock might work for some companies who could thrive form the notoriety, but for most professional business using such a domain could cause irreparable damage. Remember, first impressions count.
Social media tags
A good way of getting your business to succeed is to produce content and events that get people talking about you in social media feeds, so it is worthwhile considering how people may use your business name in such a content. Much like the domain names problem above, a famous and notable example of social media tagging gone wrong was Susan Boyle’s infamous Album Launch Party. Why? …#susanalbumparty
Domain name SEO
A common technique to improve search engine rankings (perhaps initially at least), is to make sure your domain name contains Google keywords that you want your site to ultimately rank well for. This is the reason why every month someone tries to sell us either www.webdesignerhampshire.co.uk or www.graphicdesignhampshire.co.uk for an extortionate amount. We didn’t go this with Flint & Tinder because we knew ultimately our website would be build with a WordPress based Content Management System that allows us to tailor the URL of all our blog posts and design projects, but for a small business owner who might not have as much time (or budget) to spend on such matters, then making sure your business name contains one or two of your targeted keywords is something most SEO experts would still recommend in 2o13.
3) Think User
Never forget, it’s your customer’s opinion that counts the most.
Whilst naming your business after something personal to you might lend your business a personal connection or an intriguing story, what does it say to your customers about what you do? We live in a fast paced world where choice is in an abundance and very few ideas are truly unique. Therefore, unless you intend for your brand or business name to be intentionally vague or misleading, being succinct is not a bad route to pursue and has less chance of confusing or agitating potential customers. Think beyond the internet, for word of mouth is still the best form of marketing there is. Granted, Flint & Tinder is hardly the perfect precise name for a design agency, but it reflects the way we like to work and it is rare that clients in our industry are making purchases on a whim. Therefore we can afford to be somewhat mysterious with our brand name, but can you and can your business? If your business provides a low cost service or product that faces fierce competition from elsewhere, both your brand and name needs to be bold and direct.
Contrary to my earlier statement, brand back stories can be a great platform from what to launch an effective branding campaign, but only if they appeal to your intended audience and relate to your business. If not, once again it will only dilute your brand message and confuse potential customers. If, of course, the idea of creating a brand back story would involve the employment of a talented copywriter, then there is no need to fret, for a back story is only as good as the idea that packages it.
Ideas are bigger than names.
Ideas are the key ingredient in branding. All the big brands you know and could name have got where they are mainly because the ideas they had were better than the competitors they have inevitably faced until now. People buy into ideas. If you have a clear idea of who your intended clients are and what you want to say to them, then you are one step closer to having a great business name. If you haven’t got that far yet, ask yourself the following questions and complete the following exercises, writing down the answers as you go:
1) Describe your business in one sentence.
2) Describe your business in two words.
3) Who are your target clients?
4) Who are your competitors?
5) What makes your business different from theirs?
6) Describe that difference in two words.
That is just a snippet of the questions we ask our clients when undertaking branding exercises. Hopefully even those few answers should already provide you with a host of relevant word combinations that should describe your business in a precise and clear manner. And if you can tie in your great idea with a relevant name, then you are onto a winner. But, hold on, there a few more things to consider yet…
4) Think Bigger
There is nothing wrong with thinking like a big brand. In fact, thinking bigger from the start might give your business to impetus to grow and develop beyond your expectations. If you think and act like an established brand, people will assume you are an established brand. Think beyond your geographical location, think about what would happen if you sold your business or set up franchises. How would your name cope with a transition? Would the wrong name limit opportunities such as these?
Of course, not all businesses wish to appear or act like an established brand. Some would rather been seen as independent or offering a personal service. If that is the case, then once again, think bigger. But think bigger in terms of how you portray the message that you are an alternative to faceless corporations. Include words in your business name that denote personal relationships, friendly business ethics or independent business foundations.
5) Think Sales
Above all else, pick a name that you can say out loud with confidence and pride.
At Flint & Tinder we offer affordable branding packages that can include ideas for your business name, branding identity and marketing campaigns. For more information please complete the contact form below. For examples of existing brand identities we have created, view our logo design and branding archives.