Crafting a name for your subscription box business can feel almost more difficult than coming up with the original idea. This is the first and foremost part of your marketing efforts, so put some deep thought into it! Ideally, your business name should convey your subscription box’s mission/values, niche, and value proposition clearly, as well as being catchy. (Bonus points if you can imply who your target customer is, as well.)
It’s a tall order, for sure. How can you narrow it down to settle on a word/phrase that conveys your specialty, value proposition, and target audience? But with our tips, you can navigate the linguistic labyrinth easily.
In today’s article, we’ll discuss:
- Where to start – and tools to help
- Things to consider when brainstorming
- Trademarks and patents
- Domains and social media handles
Take out a blank sheet of paper and a pen/pencil. Remember when you were a kid? Your teacher may have asked you to draw a brainstorming “web” or “mind map” in class. Research has proven that writing longhand improves memory retention and engages the brain’s processing center more than typing does, so it’s worth starting on paper and gravitating to the computer once you have a sense of what you’d like to get across.
First, write down the primary niche of your subscription box. Let’s say that you want to sell a subscription of organic pet food for health- and eco-conscious dog owners. In that case, you might begin with the word DOG in the center of the page. Circle it. Around DOG, write down anything you first think of when you hear “dog”: anything from BARK to BONES to CUTE. From there, write down what you associate with this new word group, and keep going as long as you can. Then do the same process for HEALTH and ENVIRONMENT.
Remember: Don’t hold yourself back! Our goal is to produce as many possible words/ideas as possible. If a word seems silly or unmarketable, write it down anyway – after all, this won’t be your final business name, just an entry point to find that name.
Some of these terms may resonate with you (and by default, get you in the ballpark of the right name).
Take the words that resonate with you and try them online. Not only is the Internet chock-full of word generators, but it’s full of name generators. Here are a few of our favorites…
Online Etymology Dictionary offers a compendium on the meanings and origins of nearly every word in the English language, as well as some non-English words. (For example, a search for “dog” on their site amounts in 185 results!) This could be good if you’re looking to conduct a play on words or want to refer back to another related word/phrase/concept you can’t think of. Additionally, it could highlight connotations of the word/phrase that you hadn’t thought of yet.
OneLook’s Reverse Dictionary. This generator is unique in that it allows you to search for a phrase, not just a singular word. Clicking on any word result will give you the definition of that term in a popup box, a link to search that term on Wikipedia, and a CTA button to re-search using that term. Our sample search for “organic food” resulted in terms as scientific as “biologics” and as common as “natural” or “preserves.”
Mondofacto and Visuwords. These “visual thesauri” are visual word generators, like a digital version of the activity we just conducted on paper. These are most useful in helping you identify any key terms you simply couldn’t recall. (Note that you’ll need to download & install Flash to use Mondofacto’s visualizer.)
Wordoid. Here, you can enter a key term you want to use in your business name and Wordoid will invent brand-new words that incorporate it. This is excellent if you want to coin a new term for your business name, but keep in mind trademarking concerns. (We’ll talk more about trademarks in a bit!)
Namelix. This name generator uses AI to not only discover (and coin) related names and ideas for your brand, but design basic logos as well. Our practice search for “dog food” resulted in options such as Sausager, Meatwell (a canine-centric spin on “eat well”), and Mealth (“meal” + “health”). If you love one of their suggestions, you can easily register and buy the domain name for that business through the Namelix site. (We’ll talk more about domain names below.)
Oberlo. The name generator tool offered by this dropshipping ecommerce company includes whatever search term you use as part of the resulting names. So a search for “dog” results in suggestions like DogVenture, Epic Dog and Delivery Dog. If you’re looking for a name that suggests a need without inventing new terms, this is the tool for you.
So you have a handful of options for a name – great. But you’re not even close to done yet! You’ll need to “test” these names with research and real-world study. Think of this phase as another way of validating your business idea; if the name doesn’t fit, your idea doesn’t get across to potential customers.
We recommend that you keep the following considerations in mind as you hone in on a brand name:
- Any unwanted connotations with that word or related concepts. In other words, do your best to channel the immature teenager you used to be. Is there any possibility for awkward misinterpretations of – or jokes about – your business if you gave it XYZ Name? If there is, don’t name your business anything like that. (One real-world example of this rule in action would be “V-Spot” for a vinyl record store.)
- Google your business name! Even if that word or phrase isn’t taken by another business, it may have other connotations you’re not thinking about. (For example, the shipping service Goin’ Postal riffs on the slang phrase “going postal”– which, unfortunately, originally referred to a series of mass shootings at post offices in the late ‘80s and ‘90s.)
- Check the records of your local Secretary of State to ensure no other business has that name – or a too-similar one – in your area. While you’re at it, you’ll also want to cross-check your name at the website for the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) and Trademarkia (which searches international trademark records, if your business is based outside the US).
- On that note, consider the different classes of trademarks and how that will impact your name selection. In brief, suggestive trademarks (like Pup-Peroni) work well while generic or descriptive trademarks (like HoneyBaked Ham) don’t. Consider consulting with a trademark lawyer through LegalZoom or locally.
Read more: Know what you can and can’t do when creating your own business name with our 4 tips on selecting an awesome trademark for your subscription box!
- Practice saying your chosen business name aloud. Does it sound good (i.e. is catchy and flows well) to your ear? Ask friends & family as well for their advice. What do they think of right away? If they had to guess/describe what this business offers – or to whom it’s directed – what would they say? Consider this part of validating your business idea. (For a great example, look at BarBella Box. That business conveys its CrossFit niche by playing on “barbell,” its founder’s name – Ella – and its target audience of women athletes by playing on “bella,” the Italian word for “beautiful girl” and a common woman’s name.)
- If you decide to coin a name (i.e. invent a word) for your business, do it for a good reason. The word you coin should evoke a particular quality or concept you want subscribers to think of immediately. In short, don’t select something random just because it hasn’t been used before. (For example, let’s take a look at Pinterest. Their name evokes instantly the image of a digital bulletin board by combining the words “pin” – the primary action on Pinterest – and “interest” – which appeals to their value proposition, the user’s ability to create bookmark “boards” for their unique interests.)
- Avoid using words that are difficult to spell – or purposely misspelling words to create a “unique” business name. Sure, people might know how to spell the name of photo-sharing site Flickr now, but that wasn’t the case when Flickr started. Make it easier on people searching for your business – or giving referrals – by using common words and spelling your name according to standard practice.
- Make sure that the domain URL is available for that name! Even if you start on a free platform now, you may want to buy a domain in future. Which leads us to our next point…
Well, a domain name is your business’s home address on the Internet. So even if you feel fairly settled on a business name, wait to register that name with your local SBA office until you check that the URL address for that name is available to use. And we recommend you buy that domain as soon as possible. You won’t want to risk your URL being too similar to another business’s website address, or snapped up by a digital scalper who resells domains for hundreds (or thousands!) of dollars.
Tip: All merchants on Cratejoy receive a free [yourbusiness].cratejoy.com domain for their CJ-hosted storefront, but if you purchase a domain from an external company, you can easily update your URL to read [yourbusiness].com. Read how in our help doc.
How to Establish a Strong Domain Name (and Social Media Handle)
Basically, keep your domain (and social media handles) short, catchy, and to the point. If possible, use simply your business name for your URL and any accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or other networks.
If your brand name isn’t available to use on a social media site, you might use a short and catchy phrase that conveys your value proposition, like @welove[yourbusiness]. In any case, however, do you best to keep your handle the same across social media platforms; this will avoid customer confusion.
For the same reason, try to keep your domain URL (including .com suffix) under 20 characters. Being brief minimizes the chances of your domain being remembered incorrectly or misspelled.
If using yourbusiness.com is not possible, you might put a spin on your business name with a catchy prefix or suffix-turned-TLD (“top level domain”). Let’s take a look back at our organic dog food subscription and say we named it Sausager. If sausager.com isn’t available, we might try a few different spins on our business name by using getsausager.com, sausagerfordogs.com, or sausag.er.
However, these domains still risk the possibility that people interested in your business will try to go to sausager.com… and that means you’ve lost them. The same problem exists for yourbusiness.net, yourbusiness.co, or other domains using your business name and an alternative TLD. (Even Bitly, a website that minimizes URL links, eventually transferred from their original address at bit.ly to bitly.com once they had the capital – and fame – to buy the .com domain.)
Domain Generation Tools
Here’s a list of our favorite generators for domain names. These are like the tools we discussed earlier, but with the bonus that these domain generators verify that these results do not exist yet and are available for purchase.
Domainr. As you type in your preferred brand name, Domainr will show you a dropdown list of URLs that are available free, available for purchase, or taken by another owner.
Sedo. This domain searcher & generator hosts auctions for domains you can purchase, if it’s not currently available.
Domain Hole. Users of this domain generator & search engine can filter results by price to buy the domain, the domain’s authority ranking and volume of backlinks (which helps the site’s SEO ranking in Google and other search engines), and other metrics.
Hover. This site offers unique email aliases for your domain as well (like firstname.lastname@example.org) and specializes in alternative TLDs.
Any more questions?
Remember, your name is just part of your branding – but it’s arguably the most important part. Keep it short, straightforward, and clever and you’ll have a hit on your hands. And let us know over at the Subscription School Facebook group what name options you’re playing with… our community of fellow subscription box owners would be happy to give you their thoughts!