Is that brandable business name actually brandable at all?
First things first: what is ‘brandable business name’?
A 'brandable business name' is simply an available domain name that can be developed into a business brand name. That's why 'brandable business names' are often called 'brandable domains'. In this article, we'll use both terms interchangeably.
The key thing is that the availability of a domain name (usually a .com domain) is the start point and is used as the name of the business, rather than the other way around.
Searching for a brandable business name
If you’re in the market for buying a brandable business name for your venture, you may well have found yourself bewildered by the vast array of choice.
No wonder; there are dozens of websites selling ready-to-go brandable domains, including our own Novanym, along with Brandbucket, Brandroot, Branddo, Excitemental, and so on. And on each of these websites you’ll find hundreds – sometimes thousands – of names to choose from. You sense that the right name for you is in there ...somewhere. And you’re right, it is. But it's like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
So here’s a useful insight that might help: Most of the brandable domains for sale are not brandable at all.
'Available' is not the same as 'brandable'.
Some business names can become brand names, and some names can’t.
For a domain name to become a brand name it needs to be memorable and distinctive - not just available.
For example, whilst you might be able to register RooflineAerials.com as a domain, 'RooflineAerials' would never become a brand name. Why? Because it’s generic - it consists of very common keywords already used by countless competitors. It’s also un-engaging, so nobody will remember it. And it’ll be extremely hard to find online because it uses words you'll find on millions of websites, including those of its competitors.
On the other hand, a domain name like ‘Flairial.com' is not generic, it’s nice and short and it delivers a bit of personality - so it will get remembered. And, because its unusual (and possibly unique), search engines will like it – so it would be easy to find online.
'Flairial' has the potential to become a brand name, in a way that RooflineAerials hasn't. The downside is that because it isn't generic, some people might not like it. So what; when you think about it 'Spotify' is an odd name for a music service, but we’ve all got used to it. To summarise: Flairial.com is brandable, RooflineAerials.com is not.
By outlining the four main types of business names available, this article should help your search for a brandable domain, by providing some pointers to help you spot the truly brandable among the rest.
So what types of brandable names are there?
Broadly there are four types of brandable business names:
- COMPOUND NAMES
- BLENDED NAMES
- SYNTHETIC NAMES
- HYBRID NAMES
Each type of name has the potential to be brandable. Here's an overview of each name type, along with tips for spotting the brandable – and the un-brandable – within each...
1. Compound names
These are made by putting two whole words together to create a new word, for example Greyhammer, Farthingdale, Queensmith or Chartford. Compound names like this feel natural, roll effortlessly off the tongue, evoke certain feelings, or create a mind's-eye image.
When successful, joining two words can create something original, evocative and new, with real brand potential. Unfortunately, compound names are usually not successful. Often it’s hard to explain exactly why some work and some don’t, but we’ve spotted a couple of compound name ‘trends’ that you can filter out of your searching:
The keyword trap
When searching through hundreds (or thousands) of brandable business names, it’s hard to know how best to filter them down to a list of contenders. So using a keyword to search for names is very tempting.
For example, if your new business makes and sells hand tools, it’s logical for you to try to find names using the keyword ‘tool’. Therefore, if you get any results at all, you’ll get stuff like ToolRocket, ClickTools and MountainTool. Keyword names like this tend to be very common (there will be hundreds of businesses with the word Tool in their name) and are effectively invisible online. These names are not just predictable and characterless - they are unbrandable, too.
It would be a whole lot better if our imaginary tool company was called something like Makersbury or Craftsworth. Whilst these names don’t use the words ‘hand’ or 'tool', somehow they're more distinctive and memorable, and create an impression or feel that seems relevant to a hand tools business. And they certainly feel like brands.
Similarly, a name like Greyhammer might be the right name for all sorts of businesses, but it wouldn’t be a great choice for a company that makes hand tools. It's too specific in this context – it’s too descriptive, and means the company would find it hard to build a reputation in anything other than hammers.
Avoid resorting to keywords; the results you’ll get come from a cold, unsophisticated computer algorithm. Your customers are human.
When two completely incongruous words come together, like RocketBadger or HipsterBanana, the resulting name often has a ‘humorous’ tone. These might be amusing at first, and there’s an argument that names like this can engage with people, which is great for creating a brand. Sadly, jokes tend not to mature well with age, and unless you’re in the business of entertainment in some way, you’ll probably want to establish long term credibility. An amusing business name might in theory be brandable, but real examples of successes, like MoonPig and FunkyPigeon, are rare exceptions.
2. Blended names
Similar to a ‘portmanteau’, this is where two words (or parts of words) are blended together to form a new one. For example, ‘biopic’ is made from combining ‘biography’ and ‘picture’ ...and ‘chillaxing' is made from blending ‘chilling’ and ‘relaxing’.
This blended structure can make for genuinely brandable names. For example Maxinique (maximum + technique) or Fynamics (financial + dynamics) have clear roots, and Enovana (energy + nirvana) adopts a looser approach.
The reason these names work is that they feel natural and provide a flavour of the business without being literal. The combinations produce unusual - sometimes unique - words that a business can really own. But using familiar words as a start point means that they don't feel too unusual.
Blended names work really well when they are derived from two words that aren’t necessarily obvious bedfellows. Those that combine generic keywords in obvious ways, are generally NOT brandable. So the name DataSpec is unlikely to develop into a strong brand name for a data specialist. Whereas Datamora (data + amora) would be a much stronger option.
The significant advantage that blended names offer is that, at their best, they are good at establishing tone, style or personality. These are 'emotional' human qualities that customers respond to, rather than 'rational' qualities that might be logical but fail to make connections with people.
Creating a blended name seems straightforward and relatively easy - but it isn't anywhere near as easy as it sounds. It's important to be ruthlessly focussed when you're assessing the potential of a blended name. There's a fine line between interesting and elegant, and ungainly and awkward. You are creating a new word, so don't dismiss it out of hand if it initially sounds or feels unusual - but strike it form your shortlist it if you continue to struggle with it even after giving it some time to 'bed in'.
3. Synthetic names
These are names that are created from scratch by assembling letters in new and unusual ways to create new 'words'. By their very nature, synthetic names have the potential to be genuinely unique. This uniqueness can be a powerful tool for businesses whose online presence and 'findability' is important. (Let's face it, there aren't many businesses that don't want to be visible online.)
But there's a big problem: the more unusual synthetic words get, the weirder they get. And the less weird they are, the more likely it is that the domains will be owned and registered by someone else. Whilst a lot of companies would like to be distinctive, few want to perceived as weird. If customers think your business is weird, zany, edgy, or 'out there', then gaining credibility is going to be an uphill battle.
There are also practical considerations that make names like this problematic. Most synthetic names are hard to read and awkward to pronounce, which in turn makes them hard to remember. This is a matter of language and linguistics.
In any language, there are general rules that make some words look and sound natural, and others unnatural. And this is because there are certain combinations of syllables and word parts (called 'morphemes' in written language, and ‘phonemes’ in spoken language) that appear commonly in word structures. The way words are put together within a language is known as ‘orthography’, and through experiencing language, we all become attuned to this orthography, and instinctively know when words look and sound right ...and we recognise when they look and sound wrong, too.
This is why, to be successful, synthetic names still need to obey basic linguistic rules. When they break these rules, people trip over them ...rather like hearing a musician playing a bum note.
For example, names like Vyado, Zeinac, Jaketa or Troolo are entirely synthetic, don’t describe anything in particular, and don’t contain keywords. But they do include word parts (morphemes/phonemes) that people know how to read and pronounce, and that fit naturally together. They might be ‘made up’, but they don’t break orthographic rules, so they sound ‘right’. This makes them brandable.
Whereas names like Ekgocy, Mejrl, Obwir or Invsot are also synthetic, but contain morphemes/phonemes that don’t belong together (at least not in English), they break all the orthographic rules. Names like this will be hard to say, spell and remember. They’re not brandable.
Of course, the rules of liguistics, orthography and phonology apply to names of all types, not just synthetic names. And as you’d expect, there are academic tomes that explain the principles and rules in excruciating detail so, especially as non-academics, we can’t do the subject justice here. But suffice to say; most of us will instinctively know – or feel – when a word has inherent awkwardness.
When you trip over a so-called brandable name because it looks really weird and you don't know how to say it, just remember: this means it’s not brandable, so you should disregard it.
Synthetic names that still obey the rules of orthography can still be ambiguous when it comes to pronunciation. Don't let this worry you too much - most words can be pronounced in a variety of ways depending on your accent, habit or personal preferences. Many people will pronounce the European oil giant Total as 'To-Tul', even though it's actually pronounced 'To-Tahl'; and the savoury spread Marmite was originally pronounced as 'Mar-Meet'. Both are strong brand names. Whether Zeinac is pronounced 'Zay-Nack' or 'Zee-Nack' will be established as soon as a customer hears you say the name for the first time.
4. Hybrid names
Hybrid names are synthetic names that are part-compound, or part-blended. Put another way, they are synthetic names that contain a real word, or part of a real word. For example, the name Aceptive uses the ending from ‘perceptive’ or ‘receptive’, so the name suggests intelligence, understanding and observance. Briota starts with the word ‘brio’, which gives the name a certain energy and vigour. Idenica is clearly derived from the word ‘identity’ – which will mean different things within different business contexts, making it a highly flexible name.
Because hybrid names don't just obey orthographic rules but also contain recognisable morphemes, they are usually more comfortable than fully synthetic names. They can also give people a gentle hint of what a business does, or the style of business, without laying it on with a trowel by using keywords.
Combining some of the most positive features of all name types, Hybrid names can be highly brandable.
There are of course other types of brand names, but the majority of those for sale on brandable domain websites fall into these four categories. There really are some fantastic names out there, and the right name for your business will be tucked away on a brandable business name site (like Novanym!) somewhere. And we hope that these pointers will help you find that pearl.
A quick brandability checklist
A name is NOT brandable if:
- It looks weird
- It sounds weird
- You don’t know how to say it
- You can't spell if after having seen it a few times
- It's similar in construction to others in the market
- It just describes what your business does
- It’s made from commonly-used keywords
A name IS brandable if:
- It looks and feels comfortable
- It obeys orthographic rules: ie. you know how to say it
- It evokes thoughts or feelings
- It's distinctive in the context of your marketplace
- It gives people a gentle hint about your business
- It instinctively feels right for your type of business