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How to Choose a Business Name That Aligns With Your Brand Tone

Grant Polachek

Grant Polachek

Director of Marketing at Squadhelp
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.
Grant Polachek

Imagine walking into a fashion boutique called “Surfside Vintage” and finding yourself in a shop offering a variety of sleek, cutting-edge urban trend styles. You would probably do a double-take, maybe even walk back outside to double check the signage. Your confusion would come from the dissonance between your expectations of the brand based on its name and what the brand actually offers. This is why setting the correct brand tone, starting with your business name, is so important.

Tone is a broad term that refers to the general character or attitude of a brand, place, story, situation, etc. In this article, you will learn how to create an overarching tone for your brand and use this desired tone to create a business name that will help you succeed.

Having a strong, traceable brand tone boosts your business by providing your audience with an experience that fulfills their expectations. This leads to a greater brand credibility. A unified tone also contributes to a stronger sense of brand identity, helping your business maintain a presence in your audience’s mind.

For example, think about the brands Squatty Potty and Berkshire Hathaway. These two brands fall on opposite ends of the tone spectrum. Squatty Potty is playful and amusing, while Berkshire Hathaway is a name weighted by trust and prestige.

But how exactly can you begin to think about what tone you’re setting with your brand? We can start by examining the five styles of catchy business names.  

Name styles and tone

Your business name plays an important role in setting your brand tone. Your business name is often the first thing people learn about your brand, and it sets up an expectation for the customer’s experience. How you frame that experience is controlled by the tone implied by your name.

The style of your business name greatly influences the tone of your brand. A restaurant called “Saucy Side” will offer a completely different experience from one called “Cucinio.” A name aligns your business with a particular attitude. Fun names like “Love Bites” for a chocolate company convey a sense of playfulness. Preeminent names like “Godiva,” on the other hand, imply luxury and decadence.

When choosing a company name, be sure to consider your ideal brand tone. This will set you off in the right direction from the first moment a potential customer hears about your business.


Related: 4 Ways Your Business Name Impacts Your Bottom Line

Classic

A classic name like “Greystone Avenue” or “Barnes and Noble” sets a tone of prestige and authority. Typically, classic names work best for businesses that want to align with values shared by an industry.

These secondary characteristics may include:

  • Trust
  • Value
  • Prestige
  • Strength

Oftentimes, startups in finance, law, realty and more choose to use classic names in order to set a tone of authority and trust. These names showcase the seriousness of the business.

Clever

Clever names veer away from the values outlined by the classic style. These names are lighthearted and unafraid to play. Businesses like “Squatty Potty,” “Whey to Go” and “Deja Brew” use clever names to come across as approachable and friendly.

Clever names tend to capture the following characteristics:

  • Creative
  • Playful
  • Fun
  • Approachable

Businesses that use clever names often apply puns or poetic techniques such as rhyme or alliteration to their names. This aids in memorability and creates a lighthearted approach. Names like “Piggly Wiggly” come across as clever and because of this tactic, and is one your startup might consider.

Modern

Modern names are often considered a blank slate to build on, but that does not mean that they cannot control the tone of your brand. Examples of brands with modern names include “Hulu” or “Red Wind.”

Modern names are perfect for businesses that want to come across as:

  • Futuristic
  • Progressive
  • Forward-thinking
  • Innovative

Often, brands with modern, abstract names set a fresh or futuristic tone. “Apple” is a great example of this. An innovative tech company, Apple uses a familiar organic object (which is unrelated to the company’s products on a surface level) to instantly create a connection in their customers’ heads. When you hear “Apple,” do you think technology or fruit first? We thought so. 

Pragmatic

Pragmatic names are descriptive and to the point, so they are great for startup companies that want to be seen as down to earth and straightforward. “Dollar Shave Club” is a business that uses a pragmatic name that is friendly, yet straight to the point. Similarly, “Bluntly” is a pragmatic name for a cannabis business that is also slightly clever.

Here are some secondary branding characteristics that pragmatic names capture:

  • Honest
  • Straightforward
  • Practical
  • Unpretentious

Business names that use the pragmatic approach tend to come across as honest and practical, like “Brandless” or “DataMap.” These businesses are usually taking a slightly serious approach, and overall want to highlight their purpose by communicating clearly.


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Emotional

Using emotion to set the tone of your business can be a powerful move. Brands such as “Triumph” and “WorkJoy” use emotional pulls to connect with their audiences.

Emotional names often align with a variety of brand characteristics:

  • Hope
  • Joy
  • Anger
  • Ambition

Names like “Promise Hill” and “Bold Move” use different emotional appeals to set different tones. One focuses on aspiration and hope, while the latter is a more energetic, daring brand. Emotional undertones in a business name can be a powerful branding tool because they can be used to appeal to the audience’s core desires.

Conclusion

A name is a great foundation for a brand name. As you begin generating business name ideas, it is important that you consider how you will appeal to and connect with your audience.

Come up with a short list of characteristics you want your brand to convey. Then, begin brainstorming brand names around these by trying out some different name types.

A good business name is not simply plucked from thin air. It is formed with a direction in mind. Before you settle on a name, make sure to consider how you want to come across to your audience. Do you want your business to be perceived as serious, practical, fun, playful or innovative?

Setting a tone for your brand sets an expectation for the customer experience, and impacts the way customers receive your brand. If your business name conflicts with the overall tone you want to achieve, you risk confusing (and losing) customers.

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