Aspirational or descriptive: The two ways to name your brand

How do you name your business? There are a million ways to do it - whether you’re building a blog, an internet brand or a physical business, there are a ton of ways to come up with a name - but there are two directions that I think stand out above the rest.

You can either name your company in a descriptive way or an aspirational way. I’ve done both, and they both work in their own ways, but it always depends on the company, the products you’re selling and you. 

However, if you’re stuck on the edge and want to figure out what strategy might be best for your situation, here are some questions you can ask yourself to help you narrow down the names you’ve got in your head and  make sure you pick the right one for your brand new business. 

Descriptive vs. aspirational – what to consider when deciding

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What are you selling?

Ask yourself what you’re selling, and often you can find your answer to this question right away. 

For our Paleo Meal Plans business, we went descriptive and named it just that - PaleoMealPlans.com. It’s a straightforward name for a straightforward product. It lets the customer know exactly what they’re getting and gets straight to the point.

If you’re selling something a bit more complex or varied, a brand can be much more helpful - because it’s not tied to one specific product - and can provide an umbrella across multiple products that pulls it all together. We do this with my company IMPOSSIBLE, and it works as well.

Does SEO matter to you?

In some ways, a descriptive brand can be better from an SEO standpoint (especially at first). If you name your product after a highly searched keyword, you can rank really well at first and maybe even find customers quickly. This requires your brand name being available.

If search doesn’t matter to you initially and you have other methods of getting customers, then you might be better off long term if you name it something aspirational. While keywords and search trends can change over time, an aspirational brand can sometimes have more staying power and perform better over the long term.

Read: Is traditional branding due a re-brand?

What type of customers do you want?

This is a biggie. What type of customer relationship do you want? 

If you’re looking for a quick and transactional relationship with your customers, you may not have to worry about a brand. You can just name the product to be exactly what it is and people looking for that thing will find it.

If you’re building multiple products or have a long-term relationship with your customers, you may want to consider building in an aspirational element to your brand name or product, so they can grow with you over their customer lifetime.

What other initiatives are you pursuing?

Naming your brand matters especially if or when you want to dive into giving back in some way. Many companies have organisations which serve to directly tie their philanthropic efforts to their main brand.

We followed suit and recently started Impossible.org - it’s not a registered non-profit, but it’s the entity through which we raise awareness and funds for causes we care about.

If you’re interested in pursuing some of these alternative venues to give back, it may make sense to make your brand name something that fits in with the initiatives that you undertake. 

If you’re not interested in pursuing those (or just want to funnel those efforts through other organisations), then you may not need to consider it and can name your company simply something descriptive instead.

What’s your personal goal as a business owner?

This might matter the most of all.

Ask yourself: as a business owner, what’s your goal with your business?

If you’re starting your own business and the goal is to sell it, it may make sense to think of it as a siloed business that stands on its own. In that sense, you can make it more descriptive and less aspirational. You’re simply building the product and the customer base to be attractive for a sale down the road. 

However, if your goal is to continue to build the business while maximizing your freedom, you may consider a more aspirational brand (or a one word brand) where you can bring customers along to your various new businesses and products.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.

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