It is a simple reality of the business world: Every new business wants to stand out to attract more attention—and connect with and appeal to an audience of potential customers.
One way to do that is with a memorable business name. (Article updated February 2022.)
Because one of the first things a potential customer learns about your business is its name, it's vital that the name make an impact.
And when someone comes up with an intriguing or interesting naming technique, others follow suit, creating a name trend.
Here are six name trends popular among startups and new businesses.
1. 'This and That' Names
This and That names are just what it sounds like: brand names composed of two words, usually nouns, to form a striking mental image.
You may have heard of Cloth and Stone, Oak + Fort, or Cat and Cloud. Those names are often considered "hipster" names.
Though using two names—like Barnes and Noble, or Dolce and Gabbana—has been a common naming practice, using names of random objects to create a brand name has risen to popularity only recently. Even "Crate and Barrel" does not quite capture this new trend.
To get in on this trend, businesses should pick two short words that create a sense of tension or intrigue when paired together.
For example, Rag and Bone is a clothing brand specializing in wearable urban apparel. The name captures a degree of edginess while speaking to bare-bones authenticity and a down-to-earth fashion sense.
The combination of two seemingly unrelated words creates an intriguing, captivating image and often a sense of a certain aesthetic in the mind. That's probably why this style of name usually crops up in the fashion scene and hipster-associated industries, such as coffee.
However, the application of This and That names can extend far beyond those industries.
2. Human Names as Brand Names
A growing number of startups is putting on personable faces by christening their apps, platforms, software, and more with human names. Oscar, Winnie, Earny, Benny, Leo, and Andy are just a few examples.
Whether you love or hate this trend, it is growing in popularity. Brands are embracing it as a way to find a name that is available, memorable, and short.
The bonus of this name trend is that it helps brands seem approachable, friendly, and personable. The personification of brands is a rising branding trend, and human names' being used as brand names is a part of it.
3. Compound Names
As more brands search for available business names, they are coming up with creative compound names made of two short words.
Think of Cloudstitch, Snapchat, Facebook, Netflix, and Cloudflare. They create a cohesive, one-word statement (out of two words) that describes what the company does in an intriguing, modern way.
Those are overly descriptive, but they create a level of curiosity in the audience's mind.
For example, Crowdstrike is a cybersecurity technology company that provides protection against cybersecurity threats. The name generates a unified sense of power and protection, like an elite squad of soldiers or powerful phalanx.
Using two short words joined to create one cohesive idea, the name captures attention. That singular idea sums up the business, creates a solid brand foundation, and captures audience attention.
By keeping to two words short, you end up with a snappy and memorable brand name.
4. Visual Names
Because a name is meant to connect with an audience and stick in their minds, an effective way to do that is to create a name that evokes a striking image that sticks in the audience's head.
Some successful visual names are Apple, Blue Bottle Coffee, GoldBelly, Airfox, Red Bull, and Zipline. Those names work because they associate a business with an image that many people are familiar with, or they create a new, striking visual.
Generally, that visual says something about the brand, product, or business. For example, Red Bull is an energy drink—the visual image of a red bull connotes vigor, energy, and endurance.
Visual names tend to be memorable because the image creates a memorable visual story in someone's head. For example, people see a shop called Foxtrot Market. They become curious, so they learn more about the business, and they find out that Foxtrot is a delivery market, a reinvented corner store selling craft drinks and foods in their neighborhood. They then associate the image of the smooth, flowing movements of the dance and a fox trotting down the street with a bag of goods in tow. That is a memorable, impactful visual that works for the Chicago-based company.
Visual names, as long as they use relevant or intriguing visuals, have the power to tell a story and stick in people's minds.
5. Negative-Turned-Positive Names
Slack, Swarm, Stilt... when we hear those words, they are not necessarily associated with positive actions or outcomes. However, a budding trend in startup names is selecting traditionally negative words to use as a brand name, spinning it into something positive.
The most recognizable use of a negative-turned-positive name (a neg-to-po name, if you will) is Slack. This Cloud-based software of team collaboration tools takes a word you don't want to hear in the work environment and turns it positive.
No one wants to be told that they're "slacking off." However, slack is a word with a tidy double meaning that fits the brand perfectly. When you give someone slack, you give them more freedom to move around and take a breath.
Some other good examples of negative-turned-positive name are Drift, a conversation bot, and Spoil, which describes itself as "gifting for the snapchat generation."
To stand out from their competition, those companies are using words that may traditionally come across as negative. In the process, they also change the audience's perceptions of the words.
6. Getting Creative With Domains
Exact-match Internet domain names are growing scarcer every day, and some companies lack the budget for a highly coveted premium domain. That's OK. It just means they have to get creative about cutting back domain costs.
Creative domain phrases are a fun way to create memorable domains that are relatively short. Ruby Receptionists uses the catchy CallRuby.com as its domain, and plenty of other companies have adopted this domain strategy: SquareUp.com, JustFlip.com, and TrySwell.com are just a few examples.
Various extensions are also being rotated into use more frequently: As .co and .io top-level domains (TLDs) are cropping up more and more, so are newer TLDs, such as .gg, .agency, and more.
Industry backend add-ons are another way for companies to obtain the URLs they need. Tesla used TeslaMotors.com for years. Many businesses use industry add-ons like -Agency.com, -Homes.com, and -Apparel.com.
The annoying reality for many businesses is that they cannot acquire the exact match domain for their business name, either because it is already in use or because it is out of their price range. Still, life finds a way.
Creative domaining strategies are rising in popularity as the supply of available, marketable domains dwindles.
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Naming is a key component of branding that should not be overlooked. These name trends can guide and inform a new business's name decision as well as provide some insight on how to name a business.
A name should function as a tool to support a brand's development. It should resonate with an audience and set a solid foundation for a brand to build on.
Don't simply jump on a trend. Instead, make sure you carefully consider how a brand name will best support you. After all, every decision counts when starting a new business.
Get inspired by exploring these winning company name ideas.
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