How to Write a Naming Brief

By Lisa McGrimmon | Published May 8, 2020
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A naming brief is a document that helps you name your company. It outlines key characteristics of your business, your competition, and your customers to provide a clear picture of the nature of the business and the qualities you want to embody in your company name.

What is a Naming Brief?

You might see different terms used in conjunction with  "naming brief" such as creative brief or brand brief. These documents are each slightly different but closely related. They form a set of guidelines that are often used to help clarify goals and expectations when working with creative professionals and branding experts.

A creative or naming brief will include information about a company such as:

  • type of business
  • products or services offered
  • concepts to communicate to customers
  • tone or personality of the brand
  • target customer information
  • key competitors

All three types of briefs are used to clarify the nature of your business and the nature of a creative project. For the most part, I'll stick with the term "naming brief" here since we're talking about naming a business.

Why a naming brief is important

Any type of creative brief, like a naming brief, is used to develop an understanding of a company and clarify what you, the business owner, want to accomplish with the project.

4 page naming brief. Text - Printable business naming guide

If you work with an outside creative company to get help naming a business or developing company marketing or branding, the first step will likely involve developing a creative brief. 

In that case, developing a naming brief makes sense. They are outsiders, so they need a way to get to know your company.

If, like many creative entrepreneurs, you're naming your business yourself without the help of an outside company, completing a naming brief is still an extremely helpful task.

You don't have to communicate your ideas to others if you're DIYing your business name. But you do need to get clarity for yourself about the nature of your business before you can dive in and start brainstorming business name ideas.

Experts say one of the most common naming mistakes is failing to see the value in developing and using a good naming brief.

Your company name should, in a word or two, tell a story about your business. How can you possibly come up with a name that communicates anything important about your company if you don't have a clear picture of who your customers are and what your company is all about?

Writing a naming brief for yourself will help you gain that clarity.

It will form a set of guidelines that you use every step of the way in the process of naming your business.

A naming brief will provide:

  • core concepts you can use to start your brainstorming
  • key criteria to remember when choosing your business name
  • an outline of things you want to avoid in your business name
  • a constant reminder of your goals and what you want your business name to communicate

If you keep your naming brief beside you and refer to it often through every stage of the process of choosing a business name, it will become a valuable tool that keeps you on track. You won't get distracted by other ideas that look good but aren't right for your business. You'll be less likely to settle for a name that's okay but not ideal because you'll have a constant reminder of your goals.

How to Write a Naming Brief

You're writing this set of guidelines for yourself, so you can be flexible in the format you use.

It doesn't have to be long. Just include the essential information you need to keep your business naming project on track. A concise set of guidelines will help keep you focused.

Different people will have slightly different approaches to writing a naming brief, but there are several elements you'll consistently see.

What to include in a naming brief

1. What is being named?

Write 1 or 2 simple sentences or bullet points briefly describing the company or product you are naming.

2. Key concepts to communicate

What do you want your business name to say about your company?

List a few important ideas and words to explore. These concepts will be a useful starting point when you're ready to start brainstorming business name ideas.

3. Type of name

Business names fall into a few common categories. Do you want to create a business name that has any specific characteristics?

4. Key criteria

Is there anything you definitely want to include in your company name? Or is there anything you want to avoid?

For example, you might have in mind:

  • domain name requirements
  • a type of name you love
  • a type of name you dislike
  • certain words to avoid

5. Tone

Is your business playful? serious? whimsical? elegant?

Describe the personality of your brand and the tone you want to strike with your business name.

6. Target customer

Who are your customers? What appeals to them?

Is there anything you should avoid because it wouldn't resonate well with your target customers?

You may also want to consider where you will do business and any languages or cultures the name will have to fit.

7. Competitors' names

What are other companies that do the same or similar work called?

Pay particular attention to competitors in the area where you'll be doing business. You're looking to avoid duplication and uncover key trends to see what is typical in your niche.

Finally, make note of your opinions of these names.

8. Other notes

Keep a spot to make note of any other thoughts that are important to you.

NAming Brief Template

I've made a printable naming brief template with all 8 sections that are outlined above and space for you fill out your own thoughts about what you want to achieve with your new business name.

Related: How to Name a Business from Start to Finish

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