How to Name Your Brand

The DNA of Dope

A series about brand building.

What's in a name?

I’ve always had a lot of fun naming companies. I think brands should be a bit clever. Avoid being too clever though. I like to be playful with mine. 

Vaudeville Magazine, Nyood Yoga, Lost in Reality, No Years Lost, It’s All Sad™ and Artful Record®. You’ll notice with the last two: I started taking more care of my intellectual property, and registering the trademarks. It’s a good idea to protect your brand.

Dopesite Co. isn’t exactly what you’d expect to come across when you think of the onslaught of website building products on the market. Mainly, because I had fun with it. There’s Shopify, Squarespace, Weebly, Wix, WordPress, and others. Lot’s of “Ss” and “Ws.” Why’s that? Well, “(s)ite,” and “(w)ebsite.” Kind of on the nose, but it makes sense.

These companies were also named when it was very important that your TLD was a .com. That’s no longer the case, there are many more TLDs available now, like .art, that can even become a part of your brand name. Thinking playfully can help people remember your website quickly, and thus, inspire greater brand retention.

In a way, the brand name is more than just your unique market identifier. It embodies the spirit, and ethos of the brand. It becomes the philosophy behind everything you do. It will inform your aesthetic, your design, and even your customers. Nike was the goddess of victory. How many people are naming their daughters “Karen” right now?

Names mean something.

I think a good name requires a few things.

It must be unique. Duh.
It must connect to what you do.
It must generate curiosity, excitement, and thoughtfulness.

Ambiguity is good, but make sure, you set the narrative. An about page, a mission statement, a series of posts, in your social media bios, wherever, just make sure it isn’t hijacked, and manipulated into something you don’t want it to be. Off White™ is defined as, “The grey area between black and white,” while broadly defined (purposefully,) it’s also clearly defined.

Bonus points if it becomes synonymous with what you do somehow. You know, just google it. When I tell people about Dopesite Co., without ever mentioning the name, 90% of the time, they respond, “Oh, dope!” Exactly.

There are some considerations to keep in mind.

You’ll likely have to be flexible. It’s great if you already have a name in mind. You can see people saying it and wearing it. Maybe you’ve even mocked up some logos or designs, only to find out your name is taken. If it is, don’t be discouraged, your vision is intact, dig in, and rethink it.

I’ve had this happen to me a few times. It’s hard not to get excited, and take a few too many steps forward, without handling the boring stuff. The business side of business can be boring, but trust me, it’s the most important part of your success. It pays dividends to start this early in your brand journey.

As I’ve gotten older, I think of this as a blessing in disguise. Nobody’s out there right now thinking, “I’d like to call my new company Uber,” because everybody knows Uber. However, if you’re thinking, “I’d like to call my new company Tears Tears,” and you discover someone you’ve never heard of owns it, maybe that’s a good indication that you are onto something.

Remember, you’ve never heard of it, so perhaps the name wasn’t as good as you thought it was. A name isn’t everything, and you might’ve done something different with it, but it’s likely a good indicator that the name wasn’t quite as groundbreaking as you’d thought.

Either way, the best way to avoid this kind of disappointment, is to have a few names in mind, or even variations on the names. 

The next thing I would do is a search of your name on any social media platform you intend to operate on. This is the quickest way to find out if your brand name is in use somewhere else. It might be something in a totally different market, it might even be a personal account, all that matters, is that it’s not yours. You’ll have to work around it, because Instagram does not bump accounts. Basically, if a user is using your name, they own that account, and Instagram won’t force them to hand it over to you. 

After that, like, right after that. I’d do a domain name search. We’ll have a solution in place soon, but for now, we recommend Google Domains. If your desired domain happens to be available, snatch it up right away. If it’s not, play with the variations discussed above. If it makes sense for your vision, go with it.

Now that you have your domain, go back to whatever social media platforms you think your brand might use, we’d overreach on this, and snatch them all. Don’t think you’ll use Pinterest? Get it anyway.

Lastly, (and most importantly) hit up your local, and or, federal business registry. It’s unlikely that if your name wasn’t being used anywhere online, that it’s being used elsewhere, however, that still might be the case. You can still register the business as something else. The one thing to keep in mind if an identical or even similar name pops up during this process is what sector it operates in. You’ll need to be careful:. There might be a Tears Tears Inc. that sells baby toys, but if they sell baby clothing, you’re in trouble.

Please, register your business.  

Most importantly, have fun with this process. Your brand name will live with you as long as you want it to. It should be something you love, because you’ll be talking about it every single day. 

Lastly, when you first start out, you are the brand, so don’t forget about how you’re branding yourself as well. Here’s a look at one of my business cards that I use for It’s All Sad™ to give you an example.

How to create a great brand name
I make things like Dopesite Co., Artful Record® and It's All Sad™. I've worked with musicians like Janet Jackson and DVBBS. And I've consulted for brands like Budweiser and Adidas.