Bad brand names are one of the most consistent forms of self-sabotage I see in marketing today. Ironically, they’re also one of the easiest fixes around. There is no reason to stick with a lousy handle!

Do you have a bad brand name?

Ask yourself:

  1. Does your brand name infer what your brand does best?
  2. Or, alternately, does it infer the biggest benefit customers derive from your brand?
  3. When you tell people your brand name, do their eyes light up, or do they give you a puzzled look?

If alarm bells are going off, read on.

the pain of a bad name

A bad brand name is like Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility. When the name comes up in a search – especially online – prospects have no way of connecting what you call yourself with what you do. Sure, you can explain your offering in the copy that goes with your Google listing, but, let’s face it, people don’t bother. They click, scan the top entries, and go with the one that sounds immediately like the magic bullet.

I know, what I’m saying sounds ridiculous. A bad brand name ‘forces’ prospective buyers to read two lousy lines of copy. Once they read, they know what you do best. Easy, right?

Here’s the fact. Any point of friction between a prospective buyer and yourself is a very, very bad thing. There are simply too many other brands out there that do what you do. Forcing a prospect to read – even two lines of copy – is asking them to put in effort, and they simply aren’t willing to do that anymore.

Depressing, but true.

Making prospects read even 2 lousy lines of copy on Google describing what you do is too much work. They’ll simply click to the next company. Depressing, but true.

can’T change your brand name?

In an ideal world, you’re reading this just as you’re starting your business.

If that’s the case, don’t name yourself right away. Instead, get a few projects under your belt, land a few sales, before you nail down your company name. Doing so will give you the chance to get a feel for what people really value about your offering. With those insights, you can come up with a better name.

If you aren’t just starting your business (about 99% of us), doing a name change is a royal pain in the butt.

Don’t despair. You don’t need to go through the hassle of changing your name. What you need instead is a modifier.

then modify it

Boeing 747 is a terrible brand name. Is it a computer? Frying pan? Even if you know it’s a plane, does the name tell you what the 747  does better than any other plane?

Enter the modifier ‘Jumbo Jet’. Snap! If you want a really really big plane, you’re getting a Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet.

If you can’t change your name, add a modifier that describes what your brand is, or what it does better. No name change necessary!

A modifier doesn’t need to be a registered part of your name. Therein lies the beauty. You can try on several modifiers until you find one that engenders the ‘snap’ reaction in your prospects.

You can add the modifier to your business card, make it the headline on your website, use it as the first line in your Google listing. In fact, you can buy up domain names that feature your modifier, and have them link to your site.

The goal here is to give yourself a name that sticks, and excites prospects. Not create a pile of work registering new names and phrases.

or tag it

I’m not a fan of taglines. We all know Think Different and Just Do It, but most of us can’t name another tagline. To most consumers, the tagline is a signal that the ad is over, like the period on the end of the sentence. Nothing more.

Still, a tagline has another very good use. It can be a clever iteration of your benefit or differentiator, giving prospects a good idea of what you do, or do best. Even if they can’t recite your tagline in their sleep, seeing it gives them a great idea of what you do best.

For a tagline to succeed at this, you need to carefully weed out lines that simply sound cool or impressive. Which will eliminate your first 50 attempts at crafting a line. People who care, The pursuit of excellence, and Our passion is innovation absolutely need to go in the garbage.

tagline or modifier?

Sometimes you need both. Sometimes you don’t.

A modifier is terrific if it sidles up to your brand name. Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet, for example.

A tagline is terrific if it presents a slam dunk closing argument for your communication. An amazing commercial with Just Do It in the last 3 seconds, for example.

In truth, this is fuzzy science. So you need to worry less about the inevitable fumbling around or pivoting that comes with experimentation, and worry more about always striving to communicate to prospects what you do, and do better – either in your name, or in a few words after.

If you liked this story and want more, make sure to subscribe to get my insights and ideas delivered straight to your inbox.

If you’d like help with your brand, let’s have a chat. Just book a time in my calendar.

And please, don’t forget to share!