- You have written down your brand core values
- You know how to define your branding strategy by applying the 3 best practices in private labeling branding
But for people to identify your product with your message, you need a brand name.
How do you pick a brand name? It is important that you put some thought into picking a brand name. There are certain do’s and don’ts in picking a brand name that can make all the difference in whether or not your brand name will resonate with your target audience.
A great book on this topic is Hello, My Name Is Awesome: How to Create Brand Names That Stick by Alexandra Watkins. In her book, Watkins uses the acronyms S.M.I.L.E. (do’s) and S.C.R.A.T.C.H. (don’ts) to guide brand owners into picking a name.
Here are the steps what we suggest you take:
- Take out a pen and a piece of paper, go over the S.M.I.L.E. steps and come up with around 10 potential brand names.
- Then go over the S.C.R.A.T.C.H. steps and scratch out any brand names that fall in one of the categories listed there. Then choose a favorite brand name.
- Check if the brand name is available.
- Register a domain name that includes your brand name.
Okay, on to the fun stuff! What do S.M.I.L.E. and S.C.R.A.T.C.H. stand for?
S.M.I.L.E. – The Do’s When Creating Your Brand Name
When creating your list of potential brand names, here’s what you should consider:
- Suggestive. You want to have a name that suggests something positive about your product. You don’t want a name that doesn’t give people a clue. Since you are starting an FBA business, here’s an example close to home. One of the reasons why Jeff Bezos chose the name Amazon is that the Amazon river is the biggest river on earth, so the name suggests enormous scale.
- Meaningful. You want to have a name that is meaningful to your customers, not just to you. Don’t name it after your late grandma. Choose a name that resonates with your potential customers. A good example is Repel, which is an insect repellent brand.
- Imagery. People remember pictures and images much more easily than words or letters. Choose a name that conjures up an image that sticks. An example is Red Bull (energy drink), which is a name that lends itself to visual imagery.
- Legs. Ideally, you have a brand name that lends itself to a theme for extended mileage. This may not be the most important factor when starting your FBA business, but if you have the vision of building a brand with multiple products, pay attention to the potential for wordplay. An example is Love Puppies Brownies. This is a fun name, and they sell brownies with names like ‘You Mocha Me Crazy’ and ‘Peanut Butter Nutcase’.
- Emotional. According to Gerald Zaltman, a Harvard professor of Business Administration, 95 percent of our purchase decision making takes place in the subconscious mind. Therefore, you will want to choose a brand name that creates an emotional connection. An example is the Love Puppies Brownies mentioned above (who doesn’t love puppies?). Another example is Obsession fragrance.
S.C.R.A.T.C.H. – The Don’ts When Creating Your Brand Name
Awesome, you should now have a list of around 10 potential brand names. Now let’s put them to the S.C.R.A.T.C.H. test and see which ones are keepers and which ones you need to scratch off your list.
- Spelling challenged. If your name looks like a typo, scratch it off the list. Did you know that Amazon was very nearly called ‘Cadabra’, as in ‘abracadabra’? However, Jeff Bezos quickly dropped that name when his lawyer misheard the name as ‘cadaver’. You don’t want this to happen with your customers! Say your brand name into your iPhone, see if Siri knows what you are talking about. Type it into a word processor, see if it gets flagged as misspelled. If it does, that’s a name you will probably want to scratch off your list.
- Copycat. Be original. Don’t put the i in front of anything as in iPod or iPhone. Apple does this. You don’t. You will come across as a copycat, which will hurt your brand.
- Restrictive. Don’t choose a name that is too restrictive. Whole Foods Market is a great name for a healthy groceries store. But it is a restrictive name if they intend to also sell televisions, construction tools or cars. This actually happened with Canadian Tire. They started out selling tires, but now they also sell items like chairs, toilet seats, and toys. They outgrew their name. Which isn’t a problem in Canada, because 90% of Canadians shop regularly at Canadian Tire. But it would be a marketing nightmare if they wanted to expand internationally and had to explain: well, actually, we sell way more than tires…
- Annoying. One of the S.M.I.L.E. factors is creating an emotional connection. You don’t want this to be a negative emotional connection! Don’t choose a brand name that annoys your customers. So no spelling backwards, no forcing 2 words together. An example of an annoying brand name is Glearch, which is a combination of Global and Search.
- Tame. Don’t choose a brand name that doesn’t stand out in a sea of sameness. Don’t be tame.
- Curse of Knowledge. This happens to many experts. You know something, and you can’t even imagine that your prospective customers don’t. Step outside of yourself and make sure your name is not a curse. For example, you may be fluent in Vietnamese and come up with this amazing Vietnamese brand name. This is a no go, you are not targeting Vietnamese customers. Your actual customers won’t understand the brand name. So drop it.
- Hard to pronounce. Anytime a name is hard to pronounce, it is unapproachable, unfriendly. Have you ever been to a French restaurant, and the whole menu is in French? You notice ‘Bouchée à la reine’, and would like to try it. But you don’t know how to pronounce it. So, in the end you don’t order it. This happened to all of us. You don’t want a brand name that has the same effect. Your name is part of the customer service experience. Don’t make it unapproachable. Make it easy to pronounce. By the way: Bouchée à la reine’ is a shell puff pastry with cream sauce and chicken!
Check If The Brand Name Is Available
You should now have picked your brand name. Next, you will have to check whether you can actually use this brand name.
First, go to the Amazon website and search for your chosen brand name. Make sure it’s not already taken by another seller.
Once you have cleared that, you will next need to check if your brand name isn’t already registered as a trademark by someone else.
Before we get into that, here’s the disclaimer you always read when there’s legal information on a website. Sorry, just gotta cover our behind here:
Legal disclaimer: What follows below is not legal advice. Use it at your own risk. Although we try to make our information accurate and useful, you should consult a lawyer to interpret and apply this information to your particular situation.
Ok, so now that we are cool on that, let’s talk trademarks. You don’t want to choose a brand name that is already trademarked by someone else. And even when there is no exact match, your brand name can still infringe on a trademark if it resembles that trademark to such extent that customers get confused and mistakenly assume the brands are related. For example, don’t sell diet coke under the name Koca Cola. And if you choose the brand name ‘Drunken Donuts’ to sell donuts with liquor in it, Dunkin’ Donuts will probably come after you.
It may not always be clear if the brand name you have in mind actually infringes on a trademark. A big thing with trademarks is that they are registered for specific categories of goods or services. Your FBA product may fall in a totally different category than that trademark that matches or is similar to your chosen brand name.
Nevertheless, go for the safe option. Even if it’s not a clear trademark infringement, legal advice and especially litigation is very expensive (costs for legal advice can easily amount to thousands of dollars, and litigation tens of thousands of dollars) and it’s a distraction that you don’t need when building your FBA business. Also, think of your long-term strategy. You are building a real business. if you ever want to sell your FBA business later on, pending trademark litigation will negatively impact the purchase price, which means less money in your pocket. Keep it simple, and save your money for inventory and marketing.
There are three trademark databases you should search in to check whether your brand name is already trademarked:
- United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). This is the database for US trademarks, and most important for you to check since you will probably launch your first FBA product on Amazon’s U.S. website.
- European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). This is the database for European Community Trademarks. Check this if you will launch your FBA product in one of Amazon’s European websites.
- World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). There is no such thing as a world trademark, but the WIPO database gives an impression of locally registered trademarks. This is a good secondary source to check.
If after your database search you have to scratch your favorite brand name off the list, either go back to your brand name list and pick another one, or brainstorm new brand names using S.M.I.L.E. and S.C.R.A.T.C.H.
Once you have chosen your brand name, move on to registering your domain name.
Register a Domain Name That Includes Your Brand Name
Registering your domain name is the last step in the process of choosing your brand name.
There are just 2 steps:
- Go to a whois register, for example https://whois.icann.org/en, and check if your brand name is available as a domain name.
- Register that domain name with a hosting provider, for example Namecheap. We are just registering a domain name now. Later on in this course, we will discuss building a website for that domain name.
Keep the following in mind when checking the availability of a domain name:
- The extension .com is still king! Ignore weird or fancy new extensions.
- Exact domain and brand name match is overrated. It doesn’t matter, as long as your domain name includes your brand name. How do people find your website? How do you find a company website? You Google it and then select the correct search result. So do your potential customers. This is why choosing a domain name is mentioned last here, and not a part of the brand name creation process. Not yet convinced? Here are some examples to illustrate our point:
The lesson: don’t focus too much on exact match. Tesla and Square became big with domain names that weren’t an exact match. So can you. And if you really make it big, you might one day be in a position to buy that exact match domain name. Don’t worry about that now.