[Season 2] Ep 2: What to Think of When Choosing a Business Name or a Brand Name

Choosing a name for your business or brand is one of the most important parts in setting up your freelance career. It becomes your public identity and at times, it will also determine the first impression people have of you and your work. We talk about the power of names for brands and businesses, what to be aware of when you’re deciding on a name, and we provide some helpful guidelines to help you in the process.

Show Notes

To learn more about domain name extensions, you can read this article here. We found it quite helpful.

As for where to buy a domain name, we generally recommend using this or this.

The Igor Naming Guide provides a framework that helps you evaluate potential names for your brand or business. For more information and to download the free guide, visit their website here.

Do also remember to run a trademark search as you decide on a name for your brand or business. You can check if your ideal name if still available at the website of the Intellectual Property Corporation of Malaysia (MyIPO) here.

Let us know what you think of this episode in the comments section! If you have any questions, ask away in this form.



Sarah   00:00

Words are amazing. You can just say a word and it brings a certain feeling even if you don’t know what that word means.

Jean  00:06

One thing to think about in this digital age would be SEO. Like, I don’t think it should be your main priority when thinking about your brand name, mainly because I think you should go for I call it human value versus machine value.

Sarah   00:18

I think even with experiential names, for example, the upside is that it makes sense. And you’re indirectly telling the customer what to expect through the name itself. But the downside is that they are the most common.

Sarah   00:36

Hello, there. It’s Sarah and Jeanette, and this is Solo Sync, a podcast for the curious solopreneur, where we discover simple solutions to keep enjoying what we do together. 


Sarah   00:47

Choosing a name for your business or brand is one of the most important parts in setting out your freelance career. It becomes your public identity and at times, it will also determine the first impression people have of you and your work.

Jean  00:59

Yeah, I really believe that names are powerful. It can inspire trust in your audience and potential clients. It can also cause second guesses or it could be completely forgettable in an ocean of competing business brands out there. So in this episode, we talk about what to be aware of when choosing a brand name mistakes to avoid, and we’ll also be sharing some guidelines that might help you start choosing a suitable brand name. I’m guessing that’s why you’re listening to this episode in the first place.

Sarah   01:26

Yeah. So before we jump into it, let’s clarify the difference between business and brand name. Your business name is the one you use to register business. In Episode One of season two, we spoke about the four types of business registrations in Malaysia. As a sole proprietor, your business name simply takes your real name, your clients would probably only see this when they receive quotations, invoices receipts from you, because you’ll need to state your registered company name and business number on these documents. So that’s one less thing to think about. 

Sarah   01:58

Meanwhile, your brand name can be different. And you can spend more effort thinking about what that will be. It will be seen on your website, your logo, your name card (if you still find a need for one in this day and age) and all over your social media handles. If you’re registering a partnership, a limited liability partnership or a private limited company, you’ll need to think about what business name to register first. And then you can have multiple brand names under that one business if you like. Now, there are many creative and strategic ways to decide on these names and how your brand name might relate with the name of your main business entity. But first, let’s talk about things we should be aware of when it comes to choosing names for our brand, or even both business and brand.

Sarah   02:45

Yeah, so I guess the general rules of thumb when choosing any brand name is to ensure that it’s unique, definitely so that you can stand out from the competition. So avoid anything too generic. And besides, if it’s generic, it’s probably already taken. I guess mine is pretty generic, but we’ll talk about that later. It should be easy to pronounce, remember and identify. So avoid names that might be too hard to say here or spell especially among your target audience. You know, weird spellings of words…

Sarah   03:13

With a “Z”. 

Jean  03:16

Yeah, with the Z or like strange misspellings. You can make you memorable. But you can also make your brand name, unpronounceable or like, difficult to pronounce. Yeah, it should also relate to your product or service in some way. And it can offer an idea about the purpose, benefits and quality of your work. That’s even better. Like you want people to get a clear idea of what you do when they hear your brand name. They might mistake you for something else. Right. 

Sarah   03:41

And it’s hard to keep explaining yourself. Right? 

Jean  03:44

Yeah, like, eventually, if people keep asking you Oh, why is this your brand name? That’s kind of awkward.

Sarah   03:50

Oh, if your brand name sounds like a product or service that you completely don’t provide? That’s really frustrating.

Jean  03:57

Yeah totally. Yeah. What else? Um, I guess one thing to think about in this digital age would be SEO, I don’t think it should be your main priority when thinking about your brand name, because I think you should go for… I call it human value versus machine value. Like, you know, sometimes when people over optimized for search, it can turn into something that is not really attractive to humans,

Sarah   04:21

Like there’s no soul and personality in the name.

Jean  04:25

Yeah, like zero personality. And it can sometimes end up being a bit generic as well. Like, if let’s say you have a table company and and you know, your brand is like best tables in Malaysia or something like that. It’s totally, it’s totally generic. You know, it might be good for SEO, but I don’t know how attractive it will be if you’re trying to build like a lifestyle brand or something like that. So I think it’s something that you should think about, and I guess it’s also important not to be pretentious. Like you don’t want to come up with something that’s too out there as well.

Sarah   04:55

Yeah, absolutely. Well, I like yours. Write Stuff. As a brand name, it’s so simple and yet so brilliant for what you do. I like how it’s catchy, it’s real. And it gives you space to include all kinds of writing services, right? It doesn’t limit you to just say… ad copywriting or script writing, you literally write stuff.

Jean  05:16

Thanks for the plug. But I do personally think is a bit generic. And it was something that I came up with on the fly, because I didn’t know what else to. And I was a bit lazy, to be honest. So I guess those are some basic guidelines. But there are some mistakes that I think we should absolutely avoid doing. And there are plenty of listicles online that spell it out for you. So we’ll cover the top seven that you know, are the most important to us. 

Sarah   05:39

Yeah, go for it. 

Jean  05:40

So the first thing I guess, is the one that I did not do when I came up with my company name. Don’t forget to test the name in online searches. You just never know who else had the same idea. And it could be for a very different kind of service, perhaps one that you really do not want to be associated with. So I guess an example for this would be my own handles, I guess, which is real human girl. That word is something that has some kind of sexual connotation to it, you know, with all these like sex dolls and stuff. So I set up Google Alerts. And I’m always getting… every time it’s an alert for Real Human Girl. It’s always some sex news article.

Sarah   06:17

That’s so annoying. Oh, but didn’t you do that for research as well? Right?

Jean  06:21

Yeah, so that’s fine for me. But imagine if that happened to like some other company that did not want to be associated with that kind of thing. I think we should also remember to research competitor names. So even if you didn’t choose the exact brand name, just having one that is too similar to your competitor will only confuse your audience and potential clients. Don’t just choose a name based on domain availability. So a lot of people now are looking for like dot coms, right? They think that’s the only domain extension that you can go with. And there are some people working in, you know, marketing or digital marketing, who would say yeah.com is the only domain extension you should go for. But I tend to disagree with that. If your domain name on a  dot com is not available. I think there are other extensions you can look at as well that are becoming more popular people are used to typing them into the URL bar. Yeah, so things like dot co. If you’re in Malaysia, you can go for like a dot my. I don’t really like dot my so much. But some people choose to go for it. And that’s fine, too. There’s even dot org. 

Sarah   07:20

Would you say that if you’re a dot my, it means that you’re planning for your service to only be formulations like within the Malaysian region?

Jean  07:29

Yeah, not necessarily. I think we visit dot co dot uk websites from here, right. So while using a dot my signals that you’re based in Malaysia, and I don’t know maybe can affect your future expansion plans or something, I don’t think limits you in terms of customers. I think when it comes to this kind of thing, thinking about the user experience, and how people will actually access your website, or find you online. I think thinking about that user journey is important when it comes to like choosing your domain extension. I guess we don’t have time to go into it. In this episode, I will provide some useful links in our show notes. What else do you think?

Sarah   08:05

I think it’s always important to do a trademark search. I mean, you don’t want to go through all the effort of building a brand around your name, only to later find out that it’s trademarked by another company, or we’re still to get sued, right. So there’s a website to go to Malaysia to check on that. We’ll include that in the show notes as well. And then I think, just think about your names associations. So similar to what we talked about earlier, think about what kind of associations your brand or business name might potentially bring to people’s minds when they first hear it. Ask yourself “Does this is name that I have in mind, sound like something that I would resonate with, if I were my target audience?” or something that my target audience would resonate with? Is it a term that is commonly used for anything that I don’t want? Like real human girl? And it goes without saying, I mean, if you’re not intending for it to have any form of cheeky sexual innuendos, then avoid that altogether. But if you are, that’s fine. I guess. 

Sarah   09:00

Testing your name with your target audience is important as well if you’re able to. So maybe just get a sample of about 10 or 20 people whom you think fits your audience persona audience profile best. They could be friends or family. Ask them what comes to mind when they hear your brand name, you can get them to describe their perceptions. Ask them if they think they will buy or hire from a company with this name, and why this would definitely give you important insight I feel. I also think it’s important to pick a name that doesn’t limit your business growth. And this can be tricky, but yeah, specifically, this is relevant for brand names. If you plan to expand your business beyond just one product or service, we would highly recommend you to consider that as well, especially in these uncertain times. Don’t give your business a name that limits you. Ideally, consider a play on words like choose a business name that creates an umbrella for your brands like each brand name can be associated with your business name so far. If your business name is kinda like a tree, and the brands under it are like leaves, branches, roots, bark, fruits, you get what I mean? 

Jean  10:08

Yeah, that’s a lot. I do have a friend who was doing this, like her business does a few different types of things. So besides offering services offers classes and it offers like different kinds of services as well. So she has a company name, which is like something ventures and then she’s got separate brand name for her digital services. And then she’s got another brand name for like her academy. I think it’s along those lines, right? 

Sarah   10:34

And I guess if you make a mistake or later, you find that the name just isn’t working for you – the brand name that is – you can always rebrand later if it comes to that, but obviously, it’s not recommended that you set yourself up for a rebrand. Like that’s a lot more work. I think what we’re saying is that it’s just good practice to consider all the above.

Jean  10:54

It is just something to think about. Like sometimes I personally think that sometimes brand names are something that you grow into as well. So I guess we’ve covered some generic guidelines, mistakes to avoid, things that absolutely remember… So where can one start? When it comes to choosing a name? There was this book that you passed me ones that I thought was really interesting that Igor Naming Guide, maybe we can share some stuff from there. 

Sarah   11:18

Yeah, sure.

Sarah   11:19

So this Igor Naming Guide was developed by the ego naming agency. Yes, it’s an entire agency dedicated to creating brand names, some of which you might recognize, like The North Face. Yeah, the outdoor clothing brand. Yep. Or Target, which is like a department store in Australia. They’re a US company founded by Jay Jurisich. I hope I’m pronouncing that right. And Steve Manning in 2002. The duo wrote their naming guide called Building The Perfect Beast in 2004. And they have generously provided it online for free with regular updates too, so we’ll put that link into the show notes.

Jean  11:58

I love it when companies share their like, you know, they share these resources.

Sarah   12:03

Yeah, man. So cool. Yeah. So thank you. 

Sarah   12:06

Yeah, thank you so much. I like how they call it Building The Perfect Beast as well.

Sarah   12:10

It is quite a beast, isn’t it? Yeah, I think what I really like about the guide is that, it provides a very clear and a very organized approach towards coming out with a brand name. According to Igor, name types usually fall into one of the following categories or  along a spectrum of these four la. So the first one functional and descriptive names, for example, Jet Star… jet, so planes, airlines, or Jaya Grocer in local context, it’s a grocery right. Second one invented names. So this could be based on Greek and Latin roots as well, like Agilent, or even poetically, constructed names that are based on the rhythm of saying them like Apple, Google Oreo. And then we have experiential names. These offer a direct connection to the real human experience of the product or service. So like Explorer, as in the Internet Explorer browser you’re using, right? Yeah. And then we have evocative names. And these names evoke a positioning of the product or service instead of simply describing a functional aspect, or a direct experience of it. So like Uber, Virgin, or Apple,

Jean  13:22

and I guess these different types all have their pros and cons, like I imagine invented names can, you know, be a hit or miss hit, if it’s catchy, and has a strong association to your product and service and you know, it could be a complete flop as well. And even if it’s a success, you probably need a really like solid brand story to back it up, right?

Sarah   13:41

I think even with experiential names, for example, the upside is that it makes sense. And you’re indirectly telling the customer what to expect through the name itself. But the downside is that they are the most common. And because it’s so intuitive, it’s harder to find a unique one that isn’t already trademarked or being used by another competitor. I mean, the guy goes on to provide plenty of examples, and also a few naming tools, it’s really helpful. They recommend creating your own filter that checks all the important criteria,

Jean  14:10

Right. When they say filter, it means like coming up with your own set of like criteria or something like that?

Sarah   14:15

Yeah, that’s right. Because it’ll be different for everyone, right? You want different things out of your brand name or your audience. 

Jean  14:22

Other than the obvious areas you mentioned earlier, like making sure it’s easy to pronounce, not trademark, I guess one of the criteria would be based on you know, the kind of positioning or quality that you want for your business and brand. So if you’re providing web development services, and you want to position your brand as one that is forward thinking and fun, it shouldn’t alert to anything. That’s that’s the opposite of that. Right? Like some archaic…

Sarah   14:46

or like too technical, you know,

Jean  14:48

yeah, unless it’s intentional, like you’re trying to turn something that was boring or something fun, right.

Sarah   14:54

And I think if you want people to know that the qualities you’re bringing to the table as a company or service provider is exciting, problem solving, and full of personality, you will pick words that sound or feel like those qualities, right? I mean, words are amazing. You can just say a word and it brings a certain feeling, or someone can say a word. And you may not know what that word means. But you can kind of guess like it brings feelings. So yeah, that’s kind of what we’re talking about. 

Sarah   15:19

So here’s a fun and personal exercise for you. For those listening. If you like, you can list down all the brands that you can think of across any industry, if you have a few brands by industry, even better. Then categorize them according to the for name types, and think about the positioning or quality that each of them have to you. Like, to your perception, your opinion. And this might help you differentiate between brand name types and see the pros and cons for yourself,

Jean  15:46

I guess take note of which brands are favorites to like, you know, the based on the name alone, not based on their product or anything else, or think about why you feel a certain way towards them. Like what is it about the brand name that makes you like it and maybe do this with a friend, another freelancer, it’s always nice to have someone to bounce ideas with. 

Sarah   16:05

Yeah, they could bring about something that you didn’t see before. As a starting freelancer, you may not find everything we’ve covered here immediately relevant, but it’s a great starting point to learn. I feel it helps you make a more informed and strategic decision for your brand or your business name, rather than just choosing a name on a whim. And honestly, that’s just my personal preference. 

Jean  16:27

Yeah, totally, because… I did that! But in all honesty, I don’t think my name is a standout. And it’s too generic to be a brand name, you know, It functions as a company name. But you know, when developing new products or anything like that, I do still need to come up with a separate brand name.

Sarah   16:43

Yeah, and you can because it’s a brand new right, so you just keep developing and then build around it.

Jean  16:48

Yeah, yeah. And you know, if it doesn’t work, what’s the worst thing could happen? Maybe you’ve got a domain name, just you know, let it expire!

Sarah   16:55

Yeah, buy another one! 

Jean  16:57

So thank you so much for listening. Show Notes for this episode are on our website, www.solosync.xyz. And if you’d like to get in touch with us to suggest a topic for an upcoming episode, you can email us at hello@solosync.xyz. Follow us on Instagram for more updates too. Our handle is @solosyncpodcast. See ya.

Featured Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash