The smart way to name your business  

Brand Power #2 - 7 ways to a name that establishes differentiation

Posted on July 31, 2015 by Dave Clark

How to achieve brand differentiation

Powerful brands rely on two things: Engagement and Differentiation

This is the second of two blogs which cover each of these aspects of effective branding and outline ways to incorporate brand power into your business name.

Creating engagement and differentiation is crucial to effective branding - and it’s a vital element of an effective business business name, too.

Brand power #2: Differentiation

It’s an ungainly word, for sure. But what does it really mean

It is, of course, about being different. It’s based on the simple premise that there is no point in having the best product, service or business if it looks, sounds and feels the same as everybody else’s. If you’re good, make sure you stand out. And make sure the features and qualities that make you good belong to you, not your industry sector in general …and definitely not to your competitors.

What differentiation isn’t about, is uniqueness. Or shouting to get noticed. It’s about identifying what it is about your business that’s special or different and making sure this is conveyed.

Brand differentiation starts from day one - with the name you give to your business.

There are many ways that you can establish differentiation - some are obvious, some less so, and some are about what you shouldn’t do. Here are 7 simple tips that will help you to keep focused on differentiation when you are naming your business.

1. Know your market

Before you know how to be different from everyone else in your market, it makes good sense to get to know it. You’re probably an expert in your field, but you may not be consciously aware of the names that other, similar businesses use. So make Google your friend and list the names of all the businesses you can find - not just in your area, but in other regions and countries, too.

Then take the list and group the types of name you find into categories. You might find our infographic useful for this - it breaks down business names into the 14 core name types.

Which name types are most used? The answer to this question will usually be very clear.

Your challenge is to identify the type of name that is never used. This is where your focus should be.

2. Don’t copy

It’s perhaps stating the obvious, but whatever you do, don’t imitate other names. Of course, you won’t copy any of your competitors; but you might be tempted to mimic another, successful brand name in the hope that some of the magic will rub off on to your business. It won’t. You should also avoid the temptation to create a version of another familiar name by tweaking it to make it ‘yours’. The key to creating differentiation is to have the confidence to be yourself.

3. Be unfashionable

There are lots of new businesses out there with very on-trend names, that have been very successful indeed. So why not follow one of these trends with your name? Wouldn’t it be good to add -ify at the end of your name, like Spotify? Or remove a letter near the end, like Flickr? Or join two random words together, like MoonPig? It worked for them…

Unfortunately, your potential customers will not think you’re funky, contemporary or innovative if your name simply reminds them of something else with those qualities. They’ll groan at your lack of imagination. Remember all those businesses that added an i to the beginning of a word to make a cool company name? Thought not. By definition, fashions go out of date.

Don’t follow a fashion. Why would you want someone to think about another business when they see your company name? That’s the opposite of differentiation.

4. Ignore the classics

Sure, you want your business name to sound an look credible. And you don’t want to make a mistake you’ll regret. So you might consider opting for a reassuring, timeless name that’s clearly linked with certain qualities: like Kingfisher which is fast and elegant; Orion, the strong hunter; Neptune, related to water. You get the picture - they’re reassuring, safe and credible.

But familiarity is all they offer. ‘Classic’ business names don’t help your business to get noticed or to stand out. They blend in. If there was a word for the opposite of differentiation, it would be used to describe business names like these.

5. Don’t be descriptive or generic

Many businesses fall into the trap of describing what they do. It’s understandable, because they want their audience to recognise what they’re all about from the get-go. Similarly, businesses tend to use generic words as part of their name - words that are common, so they’re clearly understood.

The results of this approach are business names like Project Planning Solutions. Or Dependable Building Services. Or Fast Delivery Couriers. This type of business name is not only anonymous and bland - it could also very well describe each one of your competitors. In turn, this means that people searching for your business online will struggle to find you amongst your rivals.

6. Be contradictory 

Being different doesn’t necessarily mean being unique. You could adopt an approach that is so different it metaphorically stops people in their tracks. In fact, an incongruous name can be a very strong signal that your business is different - and proud of it.

A road haulage specialist called Tomato stands out. As does an estate agent called Tepilo. And a frozen yoghurt called Snog certainly does. Each business has chosen a name which says something about their business with one word: “we’re different from everybody else”.

So if your business name is a little enigmatic, raises an eyebrow or two because of its incongruity, or creates a bit of impact with surprise, then you will have already set yourself apart from your competitors.

7. Be brave

If you’ve read part 1 of this blog, you’ll be familiar with this tip. Whether you’re trying to create engagement or establish differentiation, it’s probably the most important of all.

You shouldn’t choose your business name because it feels comfortable and safe. It should be at the very least, a little exciting. It might make you a bit nervous. Or make you smile. It’s an emotional thing; go with it.

Naming isn’t easy, especially if you want a brand name, not just a name. Novanym offers a smart solution to businesses that are struggling to come up with an engaging business name. Our store sells brandable domains - names with great brand potential, just waiting for the right business to find them and make them their own. 


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