How to choose a great brandable domain - the six golden rules
If you want your business to have a brand name, rather than a descriptive name or a name made up of category generic keywords, you might have found yourself looking at sites like BrandBucket or Novanym.
But there’s a lot of names to choose from. How do you choose between them? Are they any good? How do you spot a name that could become your company’s brand name - and, over time, an asset for your business?
These six golden rules should help you to make the right choice.
1. Don’t forget branding basics
Look for names that are short or succinct; focus on the number of syllables, not just letter count. And make sure they’re easily spelled and clearly pronounced. Test any contenders by saying them out loud. Even if it’s a synthetic or made up word, or an unusual re-spelling of a dictionary word, it should still obey some basic orthographic rules where letters are paired, sequenced or grouped in conventional ways. Every English speaker broadly knows how to pronounce Uneek and will remember it once they've seen it, even though it’s not a real word; but they might struggle to say and recall Gnzddri.
2. It’s got to be a dot com domain
There are an ever-increasing number of domain endings available - from country domains like .us or .uk to trendy .ly or .io domains and even the new breed of ‘not com’ domains like .pizza or .ninja. Ignore them. If you want a brand name with gravitas and substance, go with the .com. The world has had 30 years to get used to it, and everyone (from grandmothers to teenagers) instantly recognises it as being the standard and primary web address format. The dot com is still king of the domains.
3. Make sure it’s distinctive
Don’t choose a name that feels comfortable because it’s similar to a competitor or a well-known major-player. Don’t follow trends. A name that’s pretty much the same as everyone else’s - or a subtle re-working of a familiar type of name - is never going to be an effective brand name.
4. Be right-brained, not left-brained
Don’t try to be logical and rational. Great brand names seldom explain or describe what a business does. People are very comfortable with brand names that don’t immediately ‘make sense’. So focus on tone, feelings or emotions - not facts and features. Names can sound techy or traditional, they can convey authority, fun or precision - all without spelling anything out. Trust your instincts and go for a name that resonates with you and might make a connection with your audience.
5. Look to your brand's future
Don’t restrict yourself by being too specific. When it comes to brandable names, being a bit vague is not a weakness. Overtime businesses can and do evolve - they respond to opportunities and develop strengths that were not apparent from Day One. So a company might move from making cakes to running restaurants or catering for events: so a name base don the word ‘cake’ might make sense today, but could send out confusing signals two years later. So avoid being too specific. Instead, concentrate on characteristics that will never change, like personality, attitude or approach - or just give a few clues, or hints.
6. Run a few quick checks
If you’re considering a brandable domain as a potential brand name for your business, run a few quick checks before you purchase it. First, google it. Don’t expect the domain to be totally unique - but make sure that there are no relevant businesses using the name or something very close to it. (If you’re a German carpet maker, don’t worry too much if a business once used the name for a type of yoghurt in Madagascar.)
Next, run a trademark check in your chosen category in the relevant markets. Remember to be realistic - there will almost certainly be something that is vaguely similar, so don’t reject your name unless it’s very similar or likely to get confused with an existing registered trademark. If you’re unsure, consult a trademark specialist.