Should You Choose a Descriptive, Brandable, or Hybrid Business Name?
The Three Main Types of Business Name
As you brainstorm name ideas for a design agency or another type of creative business, you’ll need to decide whether to choose a more descriptive, brandable, or hybrid business name.
First, let’s begin by describing each of these types of names!
Descriptive names describe what your product or service is.
For example, if you were starting another graphic design agency in Northern Ireland, an idea for a descriptive name could be something like “N.I. Graphic Design.”
When a prospective customer looks at your name, they will know what you do, and potentially where you are located.
It’s harder to create a brand around these names, and your potential service offerings will be limited, but you won’t run the risk of confusing potential customers!
Brandable names are on the opposite end of the spectrum.
When a prospective customer sees your name with no surrounding context, they might be able to get an idea of what your business is, but it won’t be entirely clear.
The upside with brandable names is that they are more flexible when you’re looking to create a cohesive brand identity, and you’ll be able to keep using the name if you expand your product and service offerings.
Examples of brandable names include Google, Amazon, and Zillow.
Finally, hybrid names combine elements of brandable names and descriptive names.
These are often great options because you can still have some flexibility with your brand identity and your service offerings.
Inkbot Design is an excellent example of a hybrid name.
The word “Inkbot” falls more on the brandable side; it creates imagery that you’d associate with a printing company or creative agency.
Then, adding the more descriptive word “design” at the end makes it clear that Inkbot Design is a design agency.
By the time you go to the home page to see the full menu of service offerings, you already have an idea of what you’re going to see.
In my opinion, it’s always better to choose either a brandable or hybrid name, especially working in the creative space.
Let’s explore why this is the best option for you in more detail!
Why You Should Avoid Purely Descriptive Names
Before I dive into the three sections below, it’s important to know that many of the premium descriptive domain names have been registered for years.
You likely won’t be deciding between using “design.com” or “graphics.com.” To buy one of these names, you would probably need to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds.
When I refer to descriptive names, the name options that you’ll be able to use are going to be longer and even more specific, like the “N.I. Graphic Design” example listed above.
Reason One: Service Limitations
The services your business offers may change over time.
You might start by just doing graphic design, but you may end up finding that your customers also want help with branding, advertising strategy, or any number of other areas.
If you pick a descriptive name, your name will make it more challenging to expand your service offerings.
There are two significant service limitations in our example of “N.I. Graphic Design.”
First, a business using this name will confuse customers if it offers services unrelated to graphic design.
Second, this business may be able to serve clients from all over the world.
However, prospective customers outside of Northern Ireland may not even click on the page!
While it’s unlikely that you’ll start with a creative business and change to a completely different field, you should at least consider the possibility that you’ll add services over time.
While rebranding can be extremely helpful for your business, it’s much easier to pick a flexible name the first time around.
Reason Two: It’s Harder to Create a Brand Identity
When a customer is looking to hire someone in a creative space, they have many options.
In 2018, there were over 400,000 graphic design businesses worldwide, and graphic design is just a percentage of the total creative workforce!
Given the competitiveness of creative fields, it’s essential to create a cohesive brand identity system so that you can stand out to potential customers.
On top of that, your name can communicate your values as a business.
Even if your business is conducted entirely over the phone and via email, customers want to deal with a person and be treated as individuals.
As such, it’s important to show the human side of your brand.
Let’s go back to our “N.I. Graphic Design” example.
If you started this company, you might want to target exciting new startups, rugged outdoor companies, or high-end real estate brokerages.
However, you can’t look at that name and extract any brand values that cater to those types of companies.
In the early stages of starting your business, it’s crucial to find a niche for your new business and embrace it. Having a descriptive name makes it harder to do that.
Reason Three: It Doesn’t Showcase Creativity
This point follows on reason two.
When you hire the following types of companies or freelancers, here are some examples of what you might expect to see from them:
SEO Agency: You would expect to see a clean, well-optimised website that was ranking well for competitive search terms on Google.
Content Writer: You would want to see that their blog posts are well-written and that they’ve enhanced the brand value of their clients.
Conversion Rate Optimisation Specialist: You’d want to look at their website to see if they’re selling you on their service!
So, what does that mean in the creative space?
In the creative space, your customers will want to see that you’re creative yourself. Your brand is the foundation of your company.
If you can’t be creative with your brand name, it will be more difficult for them to trust that you will be creative with their business.
Finding the right name is even more important in the creative space for this reason.
No name is perfect, but it’s vital to showcase some level of creativity so that you can communicate it to your prospective customers!
Deciding Between a Brandable or Hybrid Name
Both brandable and hybrid names can be an excellent option for your new creative business.
Below, I outlined some of the significant factors to consider when deciding between a brandable or hybrid name.
Service Limitations (Again!)
When you choose a hybrid name, the “service limitations” factor listed above still applies.
You’ll want to make the descriptive part of the name as flexible as possible to accommodate any future expansions of your service.
A great example of this flexibility in action is Inkbot Design!
On top of that, more specific hybrid names (like “Inkbot Graphic Design”) are generally longer.
It will be more challenging to fit these names onto your branding materials, and for customers to remember your business.
Your Marketing Budget
If you have a limited marketing budget, a hybrid name may be a better option for you than a brandable name.
The name “Google” doesn’t have a direct meaning.
The only reason it has meaning now is due to a massive amount of marketing and investment in developing the brand.
Even names like “Amazon” that aren’t made-up words still require investment in branding and marketing.
If you choose a name that doesn’t have a direct association with your product or service, you’ll need to spend money to create brand associations with prospective customers.
However, the good news is that you won’t need to spend to the extent that Google and Amazon did!
Choosing a hybrid name that gives you the flexibility to expand your services will help you save money in the early stages of starting your business.
Trademarks can be tricky business.
When you’re starting your business, you’ll want to make sure to do a thorough trademark search to make sure that you can use your chosen name.
When starting a new business, the last thing you’d want is to have a trademark dispute.
If you’re unsure about whether you can get a trademark for your name, I recommend contacting a lawyer experienced in UK intellectual property law, or a comprehensive trademark search service.
Generally, brandable names are easier to get a trademark on.
If you use a made-up word, it’s unlikely that the same word will have an associated trademark.
I recommend doing the trademark search no matter which name you choose, but picking a brandable name means that you’ll be less likely to have conflicts.
Tips for Finding a Business Name
In your business name search, you’ll want to create a brainstorming list with potential business name ideas.
I highly recommend Alexandra Watkins’ book, “Hello, My Name is Awesome.”
It is packed full of ideas and has a process that you can follow to generate creative name ideas.
Some of my favourite creative inspiration ideas in the book are finding words that you want to associate with your brand, using Google Images to find associations with those words, and plugging the words into a Thesaurus.
It’s also helpful to use online business/domain name generators.
You’ll want to pick a business name that has a good domain name extension available. The domain name generators have the bonus of finding names and pre-checking them for domain availability.
Some of the best domain name generators include NameBounce (to find names based on the keywords you enter), Wordoid (to find made-up words), and Instant Domain Search (where names appear instantly as you type).
Many factors go into choosing a business name.
You’ll want to choose a name that fits your marketing budget, allows you to expand your service offerings, and has an available trademark.
Above all, it’s essential for your name to showcase your creativity to prospective customers.
If you can find a great name, you’ll have a fantastic foundation for your new creative business!
Author Bio: Axel DeAngelis is the founder of NameBounce, a business name generator that finds business names with matching available domain names. Using NameBounce, you can find names that are descriptive, brandable, and everything in between. Follow NameBounce on Twitter at @NameBounceHQ.