Branding

Startup Cheat Sheet for Branding, Domain Selection and Logo Design

Brands that have grown decade after decade weren’t the epitome of perfection when they began. Think of Google when it launched the search engine; it was not the powerhouse it presently is. But Google had a clear vision about its product and laid the foundation in the very beginning.

I started two ventures in 2016, and because I had prior experience in branding, I did fairly well with the building blocks. Sadly, every aspiring entrepreneur doesn’t have that. To help young entrepreneurs get started on the right note, I created this cheat sheet to finalize brand name, domain and logo design.

Let’s first tackle the brand name dilemma!

Choosing a brand name

Great brand names are easy to remember, spell and pronounce. They are also reflective of brand vision and make perfect sense to your audience. The real trick to find a great name for your venture is to underline what you want it to communicate.

Are you selling fresh vegetables and fruits online? Something like “Farmfresh” may be a good option. Do you focus on selling organic foods? Then, “Naturally” might fit within your brand name.

What I’m trying to illustrate with the above examples is that you’ve got to look at your product, which should get the ideas flowing.

How I did it

I took a piece of paper and started writing whatever came to my mind while thinking of the problem I wanted to solve. I wrote the brilliant names as well as the silly ones. This will not be a lone brainstorming session, as you will have to do it at least five times. In every sitting, try to come up with 10 names.

Do you have a team working on your startup? Assign them the task as well. In a couple of days, you will have a truckload of names to choose from.

Name selection

Once you have the names, it is time to filter out the nonsense. Get rid of the names that:

  • Don’t fit the envisioned brand identity
  • Are too complicated to pronounce, too lengthy or too obvious

After this exercise, you will be left with only a handful of names. Here are some more points to help you come up with something unique:

Bonus points for brand naming

  • Don’t utilize slang unless there is a very strong reason that your audience will love and understand it
  • Selecting a name in local dialect will be problematic if your product or service caters globally

Congratulations! You have a small list of names. Now begins the painful part.


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Domain availability and selection

You worked incredibly hard to finalize a brand name, but obviously a brand name that isn’t part of your domain won’t do. Open GoDaddy, HostGator or any other domain provider and see if any of the names on your list are available.

Be ready to embrace the fact that your favorite name might not make it. If it is available, it may only be available at a premium price. This is where you make a practical decision and get the closest version of what you like.

Here are some points that might come handy:

  • Place “the” in front of your brand name
  • Consider domain extensions like .co, and .biz
  • Play with spellings just like Tumblr and Lyft did
  • Think about abbreviations
  • If catering locally, consider country extensions

My suggestion

Brand name matters, and you have to choose a good one, but don’t get hung up on it. If you are on a small budget, don’t go for premium domains. Your product will decide the future of your venture. Brand name and domain are important, but they are worth only so much time. If you have the money and not the time, then, consider hiring a domain name consultant.

Now let’s get down to the logo business.

Getting the logo right

Logo is oftentimes the last thing that startups think about. Blame it on the lack of branding insights or popularity of marketplaces like Fiverr that can get you a logo for pennies.

Though no one will buy your product or hire you because you have a great logo, it is a critical part of a brand’s personality and deserves a good amount of attention. Below are tips for designing your brand’s logo:

Back to the basics

In order to come up with something truly representative of your business, think about your idea and see if there are any elements that can be part of the logo. Try to keep away from clichés, as well (I’m tired of looking at e-Commerce stores with a shopping cart in the logo).

Have members of your design team create drafts of your logo, and once you have at least 15 of them, pick the best ones. Your logo will be on your website, company brochure, merchandise and almost everywhere else to represent your brand. So, don’t fret even if it costs you some money to hire an outside source.

Remember, changing a logo completely after being in business for a couple of years is problematic if your business has already grown, as customers start identifying you by your logo.

More points to keep in mind:

  • Don’t clutter your design with too many elements
  • Keep it simple, and focus on picking the right typeface
  • Pick bright colors for your logo so that it stands out
  • Don’t fall for industry clichés (remember the shopping cart syndrome)
  • Focus on educating your designer about your brand
  • Most importantly, think about your audience and what they care about

Logos evolve with time, but a complete makeover is rare. So, come up with something promising if you want your company to be there in the long run.

Bottom line

Look at the domain-name-logo game of any established online brand for inspiration. Many of these companies have the advantage of deep pockets and expensive consultants, but that doesn’t mean you can’t create something just as awesome. Use this cheat sheet and you will do a great job. In case you come across doubts and questions, I’m just a message or comment away!

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