What’s in a name? Turns out—a whole lot. Your brand’s name is the message that you broadcast to the world. While companies may come and go, their name lasts forever. But too often entrepreneurs treat the naming process as an afterthought, a fun thing to brainstorm about over bagels or a drink, not a serious step of a brand development strategy.
Because the legal cannabis industry is relatively new and booming and because there are so many niche markets within the industry, there are a ton of new naming possibilities. The key is to find a name that both describes the essence of your brand and differentiates you in the marketplace. Here are some key questions to ask yourself.
What’s the soul of my company?
Before writing anything down, ask yourself what your product or service is all about. What story do you want to tell? Cannabis is a “very intimate product that people want to connect with,” says Scott Milano the founder and managing director of Tanj, a boutique marketing agency that specializes in names (they were responsible for the name Wii). “Getting a clearer picture of what your brand should represent in the world can be very beneficial.”
Can my name withstand the test of time?
“Try to pick at least one aspect of your business that will be permanent, and see if you can reflect that in a name,” recommends Joe Goldstein, the director of SEO and operations at TrailBlazer SEO, web design and SEO specialists for the cannabis industry. The reason for this is that businesses change. What might be a priority one year may be completely different the next. You don’t want to be stuck with a name that’s yesterday’s news.
For example, he says, “if you want to open a medical dispensary that may eventually evolve into a recreational dispensary, a name that includes “medical,” “doctor,” or “RX” could send the wrong message.”
Instead, look for words that distill the essence of your company and won’t be subject to change. If you’re a delivery business that focuses on speed, for example, focus on words like “express” and “direct.”
What are my competitors’ names?
Write down a list of all your competitions names. “You want to understand what is going on with the messages behind their names,” explains Milano. The purpose of this practice is not to copy their names, but to take note of the names and brands that are successful and unsuccessful and understand why.
Milano did a quick survey of the cannabis company names and broke it down into a few different categories.
- Puns–such as Cannavore, Incredibles, MedMen
- Personifications–Chong’s Choice, Auntie Dolores
- Natural/Green–Terra, Leafs by Snoop, Willie’s Reserve
- Places–California Finest, Colorado Harvest Company
- No frills– THC factory
Goldstein suggests going through your competitors’ reviews and flagging all the negative ones. Not to be a jerk but to “see if you can spot any patterns or underserved market segments,” he says. “For example, senior citizens are one of the fastest growing cannabis consumer bases, but very few cannabis businesses cater to them.” By identifying niches and needs such as these, you can carve out a unique market for yourself in your name.
Is the name trademarked already?
Once you have a solid list of names (Molinari suggest 1000!), do a trademark screening on the ones you like to make sure they’re available. You don’t want to get dinged with a lawsuit right out of the gate. The U.S. Patent and Trade Office website should be your first line of defense. If your findings there are inconclusive, you might want to consider hiring a private trademark attorney.
Is the name too narrow?
While your core customer is very important to your core business, you don’t want to just play to your base. A successful business caters to their fans but leaves room to expand into other markets. Says Goldstein, “No matter what you name your business, remember that your customers aren’t the only ones you need to worry about. A dispensary named The Dank Dojo might amuse your customers, but will it stand in the way of attracting serious investors, winning cooperation from local authorities, or being treated as a legitimate business by your community?”
What do my peers think?
Once you come up with your name wish list, it helps to take it outside your familiar bubble and expose some of your top names to colleagues, friends, and even complete strangers. Milano suggests running simple tests online, using social media, free services like Survey Monkey, or paid audience testing. But take these results with a “grain of salt,” he says. Use them to test the barometer but don’t let them dissuade you from ideas you might like.
“It’s important to develop a long list of options and attack them from every angle until you’re only left with options that will serve your business on all fronts,” says Goldstein.