How to come up with a catchy name and logo for your startup

This post was originally published on ribl.co.

Whenever we demo or talk with others about ribl, we always get questions about our name and logo. They ask us:

  • “Ribl is a really catchy name. What does it mean and how did you think of it?”
  • “Why the frog? It’s cool, I love it!”

They especially asked me that in Austin at SXSW, when I was hopping around in a frog costume.

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It sounds like we’re doing something right with our branding, so we decided to blog about it.

A memorable name and a recognizable logo can be valuable assets for a startup or company of any size. These are important components of a strong brand and if properly done, can give your startup a unique personality and a great story to tell.

Here is the process we used to come up with the name “ribl” and our frog logo.

1) Determine your value proposition and brand personality

The first step in creating a great name and logo is to is to really understand your product’s value proposition and how users will benefit from using it.

To achieve this, you’ll need to speak with potential users and get a good grasp on what they think about your product (or concept, if you’re pre-product) and what feelings and emotions are conjured when you talk about it.

This feedback will also influence the personality of your brand. A brand’s personality is typically a combination of the value proposition of the product, personality of the desired users of the product, and the temperament of the founding team. Brand personality is very subjective, and there isn’t a right nor wrong answer here, but just make sure that it aligns with who you and your customers are.

If you’re a business-to-business (B2B) software company, your personality may need to be a bit more serious and professional. If you’re building an app that caters to college students, a more fun and lively personality will resonate better.

In our case, we understood that our value proposition is local discovery, and our users are social butterflies who want to share their experiences with the people around them and discover news and happenings in their neighborhood. This led us to a brand personality that is casual and fun.

2) Name your startup

After you’ve spoken to a bunch of users and nailed down your value proposition and brand personality, it’s time to start thinking about a great name for your company.

Coming up with a catchy name is a creative exercise that can have as much or as little structure as you want. The creation of a name can be spontaneous and serendipitous; you may wake up with an awesome name for your startup or product. Or you may have to put some real work into the process to come up with that perfect moniker.

We fell into the latter category, and here are some of the steps we took to come up with “ribl.”

The first thing to understand when coming up with a moniker for your company is what makes a good name. This is highly subjective, so there’s no definitive answer to the question, but here are a few characteristics of good names:

  • Short — makes the name easy to remember
  • Distinct — a unique name really stands out in people’s minds
  • Descriptive — easy association with what the product or company provides to its customers
  • Can be turned into a verb (Google it, Snapchat me)
  • Available domain and social media names
  • Doesn’t violate any trademarks or copyrights

There are plenty more attributes of great names, but this list is just a start. It’s up to you to decide which of these characteristics are more important than others.

The next step is to think of and document all the words that pop up in your head when you think about your product.

Playing a game of word association could be helpful to conjure random thoughts that might make interesting names. You want to amass a large quantity of words, so don’t leave any options out, as dumb or crazy as they may seem.

Our product is a location-based message board where you can share and discover what’s happening right around you. So we came up with a bunch of words that were related to local, geography, and sharing. Some of the words and phrases we thought of included:

  • Geo, local, loc, plot, spot
  • Here, there, where
  • Talk, chat, post, shout, gab, say

Another key and unique feature of our product is that users can “boost” interesting posts so more people further away can see that content. So we thought of additional words to reflect this amplification effect, where the sphere of coverage of content increases. These included:

  • Amp, amplify, boost, grow
  • Sphere, bubble
  • Sonar, ripple, radio

We then logged all of these words in a Google Sheet so we wouldn’t forget them.

Now that you have a bunch of words related to your product, there are multiple ways you can generate a list of possible names. It may not be necessary to follow each and every step listed below, nor in the exact order they’re listed; you may think of the perfect name after completing only one of these steps. We actually bounced back and forth among the steps before we decided on “ribl”. But these exercises helped get the creative juices flowing and gave us plenty of options to consider.

Create combinations of some the words you just brainstormed

You can create a descriptive name by combining some of the related words you just conjured up during your brainstorm session. In our case, we came up with a bunch of potential names like these:

  • NearCast, ThereCast, WhereCast
  • LocalPost, LocalChat
  • GeoTalk, Geogram
  • HerePost, HearMeHere

Use a name generation site

You can also enter these related words into name generation websites to come up with potential options.

Wordoid is my favorite, but NameMesh, Naminum, and many others may be helpful as well.

These sites let you select preferences for your name, such as length, language, and how closely the names resemble English words, and then generate hundreds of potential names for your product or company. Even if you don’t pick an exact name generated by one of these sites, they can certainly help you come up with more name ideas.

Create alternate spellings of your related words

Another way to create a unique name is to create alternate spellings for the related words you brainstormed. “Tumblr” and “Reddit” are quintessential examples of this.

You can add, delete, or substitute letters to come to alternate spellings. In our case, we considered words like chatt, tawk and talkk (instead of “talk”), lokal, sedd (instead of “said”) and a few others and added them to our spreadsheet.

Create similar sounding names for your related words

The next step we took was creating words that sounded similar to our related words.

This is how we came up with “ribl” as our name. One of our related words was “ripple” so we thought about different words that sounded like it. “Rivvle” and “ribble” came to mind, and we went with a shorter form of the latter.

We also got a little lucky that “ribl”, because it’s so short, can also be an acronym, which stands for “relevant info by location.” We kind of backed into this one, but it turned out to be pretty sweet!

Throughout the process of name generation, you should check for the availability of domains and Twitter handles for your preferred names.

With respect to domain names, It’s still a good idea to try to obtain the .com top-level domain (TLD) for your company. But with the proliferation of other TLDs like .co, .io, .ly, and many others, companies have become much more creative with their URLs than in the past, and securing the .com TLD has become less important. Companies like Bitly (bit.ly), Intercom (intercom.io), and AngelList (angel.co) are good examples of this.

There is no website being hosted at ribl.com, but since four letter .com URLs are in high demand, it would have cost us over $20,000 to acquire (ouch). We were able to secure ribl.co and many other TLDs with ribl in it. We’ll wait until we’re well funded to buy ribl.com.

Once you’ve narrowed down your potential names to a short list, talk to a bunch of people to get feedback on your choices.

You may find that others have different opinions of your names that you may not have thought about, and they may even come up with other names that may be great options for your company. Get as much feedback as possible throughout the process and continually improve your list until you come to that perfect name.

3) Create your logo

After you’ve created that ideal brand name, it’s now time to come up with a great logo. This can be just as spontaneous as coming up with a name, or it can take a lot of thought and time. Here’s how we did it.

The next step is to think about images that relate to your new name and reflect the personality of your brand. Similar to thinking about related words when coming up with a name, the more imagery you can come up with, the better.

Because “ribl” came from “ripple” and the boost effect, we initially conjured up images of radio towers and waves emanating from them. We also imagined logos with spheres that would represent the geographical coverage of stories that the users would post to ribl.

But the more we thought about it, the more we believed these options were too technical, too explicitly linked to the product, and didn’t fit our brand personality.

We then realized that “ribl” kind of sounds like “ribbit,” the sound a frog makes. And we thought a frog would make a really fun mascot, and users could use the app to jump from neighborhood to neighborhood, like how a frog jumps from lilypad to lilypad.

We also wanted to incorporate the boost effect into the logo, so we imagined water rippling outward, like when you throw a rock into a lake.

And right then and there, we had the foundation for our logo and a pretty cool mascot as well.

Colors are an extremely important aspect of your brand personality and can say a lot about what your company stands for. Here’s a great summary of what each color represents.

Green and blue were natural color choices for ribl; frogs are green, and they hang out by water, which is blue. Perfect!

But these colors also have deeper meaning for our product. Green represents freshness, which describes the real-time sharing and discovery of local stories. It also represents growth, and a ribl story can grow big and go viral geographically. Blue symbolizes wisdom and intelligence; our users can share knowledge about their locations and also gain intelligence about what’s going on around them.

If you’re not a graphic designer, crowdsourcing designs from 99designs.com is the best way to create a great logo.

Even if you know a great graphic designer, using 99designs may still be a better option. By sourcing different logo ideas from many designers, you can be exposed to concepts that you may have never thought about, and the process is relatively cheap and very fast.

We knew that we wanted to have a frog as a mascot with the water rippling below, and most of the options looked something like this:

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Not bad, but it just didn’t feel exactly right.

If we hadn’t used 99designs, we would have never thought about the frog’s face being a little under the water, and we would have never arrived at the modern look and feel that we ended up with here:

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For only $300 and within one week, we obtained over 90 different designs and decided upon a great logo that represented our personality.

Conclusion

While it can be a difficult process, coming up with a memorable name and logo can also be fun and creative. A catchy name and remarkable logo are important aspects of a great brand that resonates with your customers, and following the steps above should help you develop them for your company or product.

If you liked this story, please recommend it!

Written by

Dad and husband! Growing @meter_io and @utu_trust. #crypto, #startup, ex-marketer @capitals, power napper

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