As pretty much everyone knows by now, company branding is a lot more than just a name and a logo (…yada yada).

But it does START with the name – and business names are more powerful when they’re engaging.

In branding, engagement is about making a connection with people. By definition, this makes it an emotional thing. If your branding makes some sort of emotional connection, it will get people’s attention and hold it. It can also build affinity, and make your business memorable and encourage referrals. And it tells people that your business is relevant to them.

Engagement is a powerful branding opportunity.

Here are some simple tips to guide you towards an engaging brand name:

Show them your human side

Many businesses seem wary of showing that they’re run by people, for people. An effective brand name will have personality and character, and there are lots of ways to get this across. Your name could be random, enigmatic, gently witty, surprising, quirky, clever …I could go on. But however you do it, choosing a business name that isn’t bland, predictable and anonymous will make for stronger branding.

How does it make you feel?

Words and their syllables have certain characteristics beyond their meaning. Some sound friendly, warm and rounded, some feel cold, angular or clinical. For example, words where letters k, p, or t dominate tend to sound hard or ‘clipped’, whereas words based on the letters l, m, or n will sound softer. There are no rights or wrongs – but you should make sure your business name sounds and feels appropriate for your business.

Go break some rules

A dash of ‘incongruity’ is a great way to get attention. If your company name is surprising because it doesn’t follow the conventions of your sector, then your audience has to get a bit involved (often subconsciously) to work out what it means. People are more engaged if they have to resolve this incongruity. For a perfect example of this, I give you … Open Entries.

Give us a clue

By providing a hint or subtle allusion to your company in its name, you can help people to remember who you are and what you do. But avoid spelling it out by using keywords – letting your audience make connections themselves will make your brand name powerful.

Keep it simple

Names with few letters (or few syllables) are easier to recall, easier to say, and easier to tell people about. With company naming, the shorter, the better.

Tell us a story

For generations, people have bonded by sharing stories, and those who understand and take advantage of the power of branding often tell stories about their businesses. Names can play a role in these ‘narratives’. So a name with a rationale, or back story, can be powerful.

Again, Open Entries is a great example. And – keep this to yourself – you can even employ a bit of ‘post-rationalisation’: find a name you like and weave yourself a story to suit! However you get there, everyone loves a story.

Be brave, little one

Branding isn’t about facts and figures. It’s not rational; it’s emotional. So listen to your heart. If there’s a name on your shortlist that makes you excited, makes you smile or makes you a little bit nervous, then you’re on to something.

If your ideas feel too comfortable and ‘safe’ then keep looking, because a safe, familiar name won’t be engaging, and won’t help your business name become a brand name. Anyone can have a business name, but a brand name is where it’s at.

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