You have made the most important decision as an entrepreneur: you have decided to start a business. However, now it is time to dive headlong into the construction of your brand. Every business needs a brand, because the brand is what engages customers, and the cornerstone of your brand is your name.
Coming up with a solid business name is no easy task. The right business name can set your brand up for success, and the wrong one can be a dead weight slowing you down. The only way that a business name can help you succeed is if it sets the correct brand tone.
In this article, you will learn how to organize your business ideas to set up an appropriate brand tone, which will ultimately help you meaningfully resonate with your audience.
What is Tone?
Tone is a general term for a character or attitude of a place, story, song, business, and more.
Your brand tone lives at the intersection of your business plan and your target audience. It should speak to your audience while also appealing to your business aspirations. Your tone is what provokes a response from your audience.
Think about the business names Vanguard and Robinhood. Both businesses deal with finance and investing. However, the names communicate vastly different tones. Vanguard is a classic name that emits trust, prestige, and protection. Robinhood, on the other hand, is an edgier, more modern name. It speaks to the brand’s disruptive values and gives them a heroic, bold tone.
Tone controls how you come across. As you begin to distill your business ideas into a name, consider what tone your brand should take on, and make sure your name will help you achieve this. At the end of the day, choosing the right tone will help you connect with your target audience, tell your brand story, get more referrals, and grow faster.
Some of our favorite brand tones:
- Fun and Playful
- Warm and inviting
- Emotionally impactful
Determining Your Tone
A helpful way to think about your business name and tone is to visualize the kind of business you want to be.
- Who are your customers?
- What attracts them to you?
- Why should be people be excited about your brand?
Aspects like this are what set you apart, and they can help you find a name that aligns with your desired brand tone.
The style of your name greatly influences your tone. If you want your business to have a friendly, approachable tone, try a clever business name.
Pragmatic names are honest and descriptive. Want to be seen as innovative and new? Go for a modern name. Classic names embody trust, luxury, and prestige, while emotional names appeal to our more sensitive sides.
The tone of your brand sets the overall direction of your name, but oftentimes you need a little more details about your business to really flesh out a successful name. Below, you’ll find the Secondary Branding Elements that support a unique name.
Secondary Branding Elements
To help build a successful name, you should write down other aspects that contribute to your brand. The elements below can all be materials to help shape your business name. Try to write down a few ideas for each category.
The powerful, driving ideas behind your business are important to consider when brainstorming names. While you may have decided that you want a classic name, consider why. Is it because you want to embody trust? Do you need a modern name because you want to appear disruptive? A name like Lululemon highlights a young, fun, female-focused, and energetic brand. Nike captures broad visions of victory and aspiration. Salesforce uses their name to support their position as the most powerful business solutions with great results.
As a summary here are some examples of Big Ideas:
- Young, fun, female-focused, and energetic
- Victor and aspiration
- The most powerful business solutions with great results
What are your big ideas?
Take time to consider what your values are. As a business, it is important to be aware of how you resonate with customers. The values of your brand should align with the values of your audience. Your tone can help audiences identify and meet those values. A great example of a business that does this is United By Blue, an outdoor apparel company that focuses on preserving Earth’s waterways. The brand name speaks to customers who are passionate about environmental conservation. These shared values establish a common ground between the customers and the company, and the name immediately highlights this connection.
The story of your business has the power to inspire your audience. Storytelling can be an important tool in naming your business. Take Burt’s Bees, a natural product line which began when Roxanne Quimby, an artist, met Burt Shavit’s, beekeeper and honey seller in rural Maine. They began making high-quality candles with Burt’s excess beeswax, then expanded into natural cosmetics like their iconic lip balm. Though the brand has boomed into success, the name speaks of its humble roots and story of growth. You can also work stories into your name through metaphors, like Amazon, which uses the largest forest in the world to conjure a story of exploration, endless discovery, and wide expanse.
Just as your own personal values impact your brand, so do the overarching shared values on your industry. Consider organic food as an industry. Oftentimes, organic brands highlight values of honesty, safety, and nature like Whole Foods, Annie’s Homegrown, and Naked Juice. Finance businesses generally like to come across as safe, trustworthy, and strong, as illustrated by names like Roth and Blackstone. Whether you are looking to align with these values or become an industry disruptor, you should be aware of the shared values in your industry so you know how to approach them when it comes to shaping your own brand.
When it comes down to it, your customers are probably seeking companies that can provide direct benefits. Write down a few of your core benefits–why should people want your product and service over other similar options? What specific benefits set you apart? For some companies like Dollar Shave Club and Brandless, it’s the affordability. For other companies, like Madewell, it is the fact that customers are purchasing quality goods. Highlighting the direct benefits to the customer in your business name is a direct way to set a helpful, honest tone.
Are there any strong feelings you are trying to elicit from your audience? If yes, your brand name is the perfect place to set up that response. Your brand name is often the first thing potential customer learn about your business, so it is important to set the right expectations. Triumph Motorcycles and Greenpeace do this by appealing to positive emotions like victory and peace. The general feeling your brand gives off is closely related to tone, so this is a powerful way to set up your brand tone.
A value proposition sums up the core direction and benefits of your business. For example, PayPal’s value proposition is “Pay securely. Here, there, anywhere.” The value proposition is a concise statement that illustrates why your business stands out. As you brainstorm names, a value proposition helps you identify the bare essentials of your brand so you can distill your ideas into a name.
Back to You
At this point, you should have a long list of ideas and elements that drive your brand. Pick between one and four elements to focus on, and think about your tone. What do you immediately want people to understand about your business? A name like Colectivo Coffee instantly reminds the audience of collectivity and coming together, so the coffee shop sets itself up as a welcoming, unified spot.
Whatever core ideas you settle on, an underlying thought and it’s few supporting elements are where your name will come from. Your brand name ideas will speak to the core elements of your brand.
Creating a unified tone for your brand is an important business decision that controls how people respond to your brand. With the right business name, you can appeal to your target audience and elicit powerful responses. Controlling your tone will help you hone your business naming process and allow your brand to resonate with your audience, ultimately guiding your business to a smoother path of success.
About the Author: Grant Polachek is the Director of Marketing at Inc 500 company Squadhelp.com, the worlds #1 naming platform, with nearly 20,000 customers from the smallest startups across the globe to the largest corporations including Nestle, Philips, Hilton, Pepsi, and AutoNation. Get inspired by exploring these winning brand name ideas.