How to Find the Perfect Name for Your Brand

American Salon is pleased to welcome the Business of Balayage, a collective of brilliant independent educators, as they launch their first of a series of business building blogs on americansalon.com. For more information, visit www.thebusinessofbalayage.com.

When it comes to naming your brand, there are so many options and ideas floating around that you can find yourself easily settling for the sake of being DONE.

We’re excited to help you simplify the process and find the perfect fit for your brand personality, style, and ideal clientele!

Before we dive into finding your name, let's chat a bit about the types of brand names that we’re working with…

95% of brands fall into one of three categories: Literal, Suggestive, and Fantastical. (Option D. is Arbitrary aka “I gave up on hunting for domain names” or those that like to just be ironically out of the box 😜)

Literal is just as it sounds, a straightforward and usually description of the business or product offering. These brand names are both functional and tangible.

Suggestive brands evoke some thought, a line of thought beyond just what your brand does.  These are important for brands that want focus on their personality and experience as well as their offering.

Finally, we have fantastical. (Doesn’t that sound fun?) Fantastical brand names don’t usually mention the product, service or even industry but they go into cultivating a brand’s personality.

While each has its place, some might be a better fit for your business and goals than others so let’s look at the pros & cons of each type while we look to understand them more.

Literal or Descriptive:

Pros:

  • Easy for Search Engine Traffic
  • Easy to communicate to your customer what you’re bringing to the table without “the pitch” You’ll find this a lot in our industry’s Instagram names, like @XYZdoeshair or even simpler, @XYZhair
  • Great for traditional brands that can lean on their product or service quality for its innovation

Cons:

  • Can be boring- If you’re building a brand from the ground up, having a name without some personality is going to make it even harder for you to create that identity and personality for your brand.
  • Often times, literal branding can lead to saturation- for example, if you use your name in your branding you face a few possible issues
    • People searching your name and finding that Myspace profile from high school (so profesh)
    • If your name is difficult to spell, you face the issue of people misspelling your name and giving up before ever tracking down your glory
    • If your name is more common, there’s a chance that there is another person by your very name with an affinity for hair… Even if there isn’t one now, there's still a chance they start to appear
    • Lastly, people LOVE using their names on IG, so chances are your name has been swiped up if your mom didn’t reserve it at birth (yes people do that now) and that will leave you with a name filled with underscores, periods or extra vowels to keep your namesake. (which is really not fun to spell aloud when speaking to new potential clients, “yes, I said Erin with five e’s, no that's six, make sure to count the one in my name”)

Suggestive:

Pros:

  • Great for imprinting a personality right out of the gate as you speak about your brand
  • These can be playful and for those that are lovers of alliteration like us, you can find something that will speak to your function while exploring what you bring to the table in some simple words. For example, Lyft- while lift, even spelled correctly doesn’t directly relate to ride sharing, the idea of hiring someone to give you a lift doesn’t take too much thought!
  • Saves marketing time because your name does most of the pitch!

Cons:

  • These names often times receive the most “copycats” – aka people who are “inspired by what you do” and decide to create something “brand new” and happen to rip off your name and hard work with something like The Business Side of Balayage {eye roll}… “Yes, it's so groundbreaking, however to did you think of it?”
  • Different words mean different things to people, so be delicate with your selection and abuse your online thesaurus and seek double the input from friends before settling on a name.

Fantastical:
Pros:

  • Trailblazing companies like Google have had huge success setting themselves outside the lines of their industry by focusing on their personality rather than their function.
  • It saves tons of time on marketing because you’re diving deep into your brand identity
  • It can be fun! (what more needs to be said about that… I mean, really)

Cons:

  • It’s going to be super hard to target and attract people when you’re starting from scratch so prepare to devote time and effort into your website & SEO
  • If you’re targeting anyone above the age of 35, chances are they are going to struggle with understanding your branding because they’re conditioned to seek out the functionality in the name
  • Fantastical brands have to work double time on presenting their purpose and perfecting their pitch because their name doesn’t do it for them.

Let’s do a little quiz to find out what kind of brand name would fit your business best!

  1. What is your priority in creating a new brand?
    1. To inspire a way of thinking
    2. To create an identity
    3. To share the purpose of what I do
  2. What’s your goal?
    • To set my brand apart
    • To reinforce my service offerings
    • To create something new
  3. My brand is:
    • Repositioning to reach a new clientele
    • Introducing something new or a new specialty
    • Drawing attention to my new beautiful brand
  4. Which of the three BEST describes your brand?
    • Classic & Traditional
    • New & Innovative
    • Straightforward

Answers:

ʎʇılɐuosɹǝd s’puɐɹq ɹnoʎ uo ƃuıpuǝdǝp lɐɔıʇsɐʇuɐɟ ɹo lɐɹǝʇıl ˙ɔ lɐɔıʇsɐʇuɐɟ ɹo ǝʌıʇsǝƃƃns ˙q lɐɹǝʇıl ɹo ǝʌıʇsǝƃƃns ˙ɐ (4   ǝʌıʇsǝƃƃns ɹo lɐɔıʇsɐʇuɐɟ ˙ɔ ǝʌıʇsǝƃƃns ˙q lɐɹǝʇıl ˙ɐ (3   lɐɔıʇsɐʇuɐɟ ˙ɔ lɐɹǝʇıl ˙q ǝʌıʇsǝƃƃns ˙ɐ (2  lɐɹǝʇıl ˙ɔ lɐɔıʇsɐʇuɐɟ ˙q ǝʌıʇsǝƃƃns ˙ɐ (1

Now that we know what we’re aiming for, let's dive into building your brand… Consider this a purge session, put anything and everything that comes to mind down, we’ll have a chance to eliminate those that don’t fit quite right later but seeing all your options on paper might inspire an idea that you otherwise might have passed up!

  1. Analyze the industry: become your industry's biggest groupie, this means cyberstalking, magazine reading, obsessive pinning, and heavy gossiping (okay, maybe not that last part)
  2. Make a list of your Direct & Indirect Competition
    1. Direct Competition are those that do or sell what you do, to your same target client. For most stylists, these are fellow stylists in the area that are strong on their branding game and have similar specializations
    2. Indirect Competition are those that might talk to your same ideal clients but they’re offering them something different, like their nail service if you do their hair- it all depends on what you know about how your ideal client spends their time.
  3. Get a good read on what your clients and fellow stylists are talking about. Having a good understanding of current trends and what words roll off people's tongues more than they did a year ago is a good identifier for what’s growing and what’s going in our industry.
  4. Find your identity inspo OUTSIDE of our industry. Look at the brands of clothing or bags your clients wear. Pay attention to where they spend their time or get their coffee- chances are that these brands have killed it in their marketing game and can tell you a whole heck of a lot about your customer. It's also great to look outside the industry for identity inspiration, the last thing you want is for your brand to blend in, seeking outside direction will help your brand to stand out.
  5. Remember there is no right or wrong way, ultimately when branding your solo-empire, we recommend you go with your gut because passion is a marketing tactic you cannot easily create. If you love your brand and what you’re putting out to the world, your customers will too.
  6. Talk through your brand story- we recommend putting pen to paper and writing a Nicholas Sparks-style love story on what brought you and your brand to the place you are at today. Things to consider when writing in your notebook: What your client was missing that you fulfilled for them, the point at which the need to do something about it overcome your doubt, and what your clients say that keeps you going each day.

Now that you’ve had some chances to build your list, let’s evaluate your options:

  1. Teamwork makes dreams work! {Praise Hands Here} Gather a group of 5-7 people that for the sake of sounding legit, we’ll refer to as your focus group. This group ideally shares the interests and style of your ideal client that you want in your chair. AKA just because you trust your husband to help name your kid, does not mean he knows anything about your business or your clients
  2. Don’t be afraid to casually ask your favorite clients. Pick their brains, not necessarily on your whole brand name- but on what words come to mind when they think of your work and your brand. You might be surprised and inspired by their fresh perspective.
  3. Once you’ve added all the feeling words from your friends, your focus group and your clients, it’s time to start the elimination process!! With a blue pen, circle five words that FEEL good for your brand, next take a red pen and mark out five that don’t fit just right. Go back and forth doing this until all names or words are marked. Next, we’ll make a fresh list of all the circled keepers, often times we recommend repeating this process until you’ve narrowed yourself down to ten. Once you have the final list, we’ll take it to our research team. {aka you, wearing your awesome nerd cape and preparing for total world domination}
  4. Let’s make it legit. In this step, we’re going to investigate what’s available on the web.
    1. Google Search: We start with a simple google search to see what's out there, what comes up from the name search and if it’s already being used in your industry. This is also a first step in making sure you aren’t accidentally affiliating yourself and your brand with something that could taint it. This is especially important in service industries like ours if there is another person doing business under your name or one similar enough to it- their bad yelp reviews could cost you some serious business because let’s face it- most people don’t read.
    2. Trademark Search: This search is especially important for salon names as our industry can be a saturated on, this site will let you search your prospective name and have a good idea of what is and is not available to you/
    3. Domain Search: Even if you don’t plan to have a website out of the gate, this is an important step to triple checking if your possible names have any underlying connotations, we believe that GoDaddy’s domain search function can be equated to offering the perspective of that annoying middle school boy who somehow made every reference to a pencil sharpener into a dirty joke. The last thing you want is to find out after you’ve gone through the trouble of creating your brand that you share a name someone less than decent.
    4. Social Name Search: This little tool will tell you if a name is or isn’t available on nearly every platform- a miracle time saver when you’re on the hunt for a new name. Best of all, you can click the link and register each one right there, it doesn’t get too much more simple than that!

Now that we’ve eliminated the ones that just won’t work, you should now have a short but sweet list of what new name is going to work for your brand! If it’s passed all of these tests, there really is no going wrong with which one you choose… Go with what you’re most drawn to and a perfect last step is practicing saying it aloud. We’ve even tested it on our voice memo section, to hear what will sound best on answering machines, videos and as you tell it to all of your new potential clients.

Finally, allow us to be the first to congratulate you on your new name, it’s simple, perfect, and it suits you. 😘

Now that you’ve nailed that down, be sure to share it with us! We can’t wait to watch you grow ❤

@American_Salon & @TheBusinessofBalayage