Future Forward Branding: How to Choose a Brand Name that Accommodates Growth

17 April, 2023

Brand names hold power. 

As the first impression and lasting, non-visible representation of your company, the name you choose for your brand has the capacity to make or break, well, everything. A well-chosen name can help you stand out and accelerate growth; while a poorly chosen one can limit – if not inhibit – your company’s potential. So let’s discuss strategic points to consider that will ensure a strong and lasting brand name.


Look Toward the Future

What do you see in your future? Think big. Do you envision expanding product lines or services? Or growth through M&A? Whatever your biggest visions are, plan for them. Acknowledging your long-term goals before taking a stroll down the naming path will help you understand which names may or may not lead you to a pigeonhole that makes pivoting, adapting to market trends, and growth difficult.

Changing your name, your branding, and everything that accompanies the outgrowth of a company name is all-consuming. Not only does it require time and money, it also requires stakeholder buy-in to ensure success, which is a whole other topic.

Brands that Evolved their Services, and Names

  1. Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing, also known as 3M, was founded in Minnesota in 1902 as a mining company. However, the company quickly shifted its focus to manufacturing products such as sandpaper and masking tape. In 2002, the company changed its name to 3M to reflect its broader focus on innovation and technology.
  2. American Telephone and Telegraph, established in 1885, obviously evolved over time. As the company expanded to offer a wide range of telecommunications services, it began to use the initials AT&T instead of the full name. In 1994, the company officially changed its name to AT&T Corporation.
  3. Dunkin’, née Dunkin’ Donuts, rebranded as Dunkin’ in 2019 to reflect its broader focus on beverages and snacks. While we still love those crullers, their Impossible turkey sausage biscuit is well worth the effort of a name change, in our opinion.


Look Past Your Current Footprint

While hyper-local or regional names may spur audience loyalty, they can limit your potential to expand into new geographic regions. You get the deal. If you’re “Southeastern INSERT SERVICE,” you don’t really have consumer access to the Northwest, do you? Nobody up there knows what grits are. You don’t belong. If your goal is to only and always serve your specific region, then by all means, choose a brand name that states so. But if you do plan to expand one day, consider an alternative – or be ready to brand and message very well. 

A couple examples of brands that outgrew their roots:

  1. Southern Bell was founded in 1899 as a regional telephone company, primarily serving customers in the Southern United States. As the company merged with other regional telephone companies and expanded its services, it modified its name and became BellSouth.
  2. Southern Pacific Railroad was founded in 1865 and played a significant role in the development of the American West. However, as the company expanded beyond the Southern and Western regions of the United States, it dropped the “Southern” from its name and became simply the Pacific Railroad.
  3. Originally known as Toronto-Dominion Bank, was founded in Toronto, Canada, in 1955. The bank expanded its operations to the United States and other countries, and in 2011, changed its name to simply TD Bank to reflect its broader focus beyond Canada.


Unleashing Potential with Your Brand Name

A well-chosen brand name can unleash a company’s potential – helping it stand out in the market and accommodating whatever shifts that market may demand. A great example of this is Amazon, which, as we all know, started as an online bookstore but has since expanded into a variety of products and services. The name Amazon is not specific to any particular product or category and implies vastness, which continues to allow the company to expand and pivot as needed without being pigeonholed.

Factors to Consider When Naming a Brand

Let’s get right to the meat of this. Here are the top factors to address when developing a brand name.

  1. Future product lines: Think about additional product lines your company may expand into in the future. A name that is too specific to one product or category may limit your ability to expand into other areas.
  2. Growth potential: Consider the potential for growth and scalability when choosing a brand name. Then, begin to develop and consider names that will help you reach new markets and audiences. 
  3. Mergers and acquisitions: If your company plans to merge with or acquire other companies, consider how your brand name will fit with those other brands. A name that is too specific may make it challenging to integrate with other brands and create a cohesive identity.
  4. Global appeal: If your company plans to expand globally, consider how your brand name will resonate with your expanding audience. Further, study how your brand name will translate into other languages and cultures. A name that is too culturally specific or difficult to pronounce may make it challenging to build brand recognition in other regions. This is why some brands have completely different names abroad. 

    Lays is Walkers in the UK. 

    Burger King is Hungry Jack’s in Australia. 

    3 Musketeers is a Milky Way everywhere else. 

    This list goes on and on. 

  5. Trademark registration: Before finalizing a name, conduct a thorough search to ensure that it is not already registered or being used by another company in a similar industry. Choosing a name that is too similar to an existing brand can lead to legal issues and damage to your brand’s reputation. Therefore, it is essential to select a brand name that is distinct, memorable, and legally available


Choose a Brand Name You Can Grow Into

As we’ve discussed, your brand name can have a significant impact on the success of your company. A well-chosen name can set you up for success, while a poorly chosen name can hinder growth. But don’t let the pressure get to you. Start with the basics: 

  1. Consider the key factors above
  2. Review common brand name structures to discover best matches
  3. Reference common sound and phrase connotations and associations

These three simple steps will start you off on the right track to naming a well-received and adaptable brand. Best of luck and have fun!