We analyzed 400+ best-selling products. Here’s what we learned about unique business names.
What makes a good business name?
Brand names have a challenging job: making an offer clear and memorable. Names can increase interest, create curiosity, and spread word of mouth.
But how important is having a strong, unique business name?
It’s difficult to objectively measure the impact that names have on the success of a brand since there are so many variables at play: the offer, the market, the demographics, the timing, the marketing, and the team structure.
On top of that, many companies rebrand over time.
Apple started as Apple Computer Company until the company decided to expand to other markets by launching the iPod, iPhone, and then many other products and accessories.
The company that started as TransferWise rebranded to Wise once it added more banking services to its focus on international transfers.
Nike started its success as Blue Ribbon (though it only exploded after what was a forced change of name); Domino’s Pizza shortened to Domino’s (as part of a business revitalisation).
As you can see, business names can evolve, often going from specific to more generic.
Names are very important, but they’re not everything: a terrible offer with a great name may attract attention, but it won’t go very far after people realize the (lack of) value behind it. A great offer with a bad name will not attract many people, but it’s more likely to retain them than a bad offer with a great name.
To unleash your business success, you want a combination of a great name that attracts and persuades, and a great offer that converts and retains.
With all that in mind, we wanted to see whether there are any patterns amongst successful brands: do best-seller products and top-performing businesses have anything in common when it comes to their names?
So we decided to study over 400+ best-selling products across different industries and four separate marketplaces to see if we could find the characteristics of a top-performing business name.
Here’s what we found out, and how you can use it to name your business or product.
In this study, we looked at over 400 products from the following sources:
Amazon.com’s best sellers in 4 categories (office products, sports & outdoors, beauty & personal care, home & kitchen), representing physical products
Product Hunt’s top launches in 6 topics (internet of things, marketing, artificial intelligence, home, productivity, design tools), representing a mix of physical and digital products
The AppStore’s top free and paid downloads, representing digital products
We also looked at the Fortune 500 list of largest companies in the world by revenue—we decided to exclude these results for a couple of reasons.
Many of these names are unknown to the consumer and have no impact on the company’s fortune because they represent a holding with many companies, products, and offers underneath. Moreover, most of these companies are at a very advanced stage in their growth and have gone through M&As and rebranding.
With this out of the way, let’s jump into the first characteristic: name length and word count.
Character and word count
Across our sources, the average name length was ten characters, and the median (the most common) length was nine characters. GoodNotes (AppStore) and HotHands (Amazon) are two examples of such names.
As you can see from the graph, digital products tended to have slightly longer names than physical products, with Amazon bestsellers averaging 8 characters, and ProductHunt’s top products and the AppStore’s popular downloads averaging 10 and 12 characters respectively.
What about single-word names? How common are names made up of one word?
To answer that question, we first have to define what a single-word name is. Does merging two words into one count as one word? If so, does capitalisation in the middle of the name change things?
To keep things simple, we decided that individual words were defined by the use of space in between. So Facetune counted as one word, and so did GoYoga.
With that definition in mind, we found that over 65% of brand names analyzed were one word (no space).
This is even more prominent for physical products (Amazon bestsellers), where 89% of names were made up of a single word without spaces. The lowest incidence of this was the AppStore at 51%, partly because many apps had more descriptive names, or were part of a series of many different available apps (such as Toca Kitchen).
Overall, short names and single-word names represent the majority of bestsellers across all marketplaces analyzed, with this pattern being even more prominent for physical products.
What’s in a “catchy” name?
Analyzing the 400+ popular business names and zooming out to see the overall data, one pattern stood out relating to sound and structure. On average, over 29% of names were made up of only two syllables: two distinct sounds.
Skyview or Mapwize are two examples from the list of short names that consist of only two syllables. Apple and Dunkin’ are some other popular examples of names made up of two sounds.
This makes the name very snappy and memorable, which explains why it’s such a recurring pattern amongst top brands.
Physical products were the ones with the highest recurrence of 2-syllable names: perhaps unsurprisingly since they scored at the top for shortest names too.
Other literary devices: alternative spelling, alliterations, and more
First, let’s define what literary devices are: techniques to take writing beyond the straightforward, literal meaning, and make it more evocative and compelling.
Some common ones that we looked out for in our study were: rhyme (and near rhyme), alliteration, portmanteau, and alternative spelling.
If you’re not familiar with them, here’s a quick cheat sheet:
Rhyme: when two words (or the ending of two words) sound the same (e.g. Book Nook)
Alliteration: when two words start with the same letter or sound (e.g. CapCut)
Portmanteau: when two words are combined in sound and meaning into a new one (e.g. Breathalyzer)
Alternative spelling: adding or removing letters, especially vowels, while keeping the original sound and meaning (e.g. Breathwrk)
How common were these amongst the top names we analyzed?
Well, not very common overall.
Alternative spellings were a bit more common (nearly 8%) in the tech and startup-oriented Product Hunt charts, while alliterations were somehow common (6% and 5% respectively) on Amazon and the AppStore.
However, none of these stood out: they were used by a significant number of names, but still a small minority across all three communities and datasets.
Are bestselling names self-explanatory?
The last thing we wanted to find out is: do these names tend to be abstract, or do they relate to the offer? Do top-performing names say what the product is about (e.g. Mr Clean), or are they more often unrelated words (e.g. Apple)?
Over a third of the names analyzed were somewhat revealing as to what the offer was about. Netflix, Messenger and the less known Light Phone (which, you guessed it, is a very light phone) are all examples of related names alluding to what the product is about.
About half of related names fell within a subcategory too: they somehow alluded to the benefit of using the product, and not only the industry, mechanics, or overall focus of the business.
Some clear examples are PayPal (clearly alluding to making payments easy and friendly), How to Acquire More Users (a top-ranking ebook on Product Hunt), or remove.bg (a website removing the background from photos).
After looking at over 400 names from three different “top product” charts, the following patterns seem to be consistent amongst top-performing names:
Avoid spaces: 65% of the names analyzed didn’t contain a space, being made up of either a single word or two words merged.
Short is better: the average character count was 10, and the median was 9.
Keep it simple: over a third of the names analyzed were related to what the product was about. Half of these were somehow linked to the benefit of engaging with the brand.
Bonus points: while “catchy” is a subjective concept, 29% of the top brands we looked at were made up of only two syllables—for Amazon’s physical product charts, this was over 40%. Snappy is the new catchy.
Now you have some idea of what makes a great name. If you’re confident that your business has solid fundamentals and are ready to upgrade your brand, check out this guide on how to come up with a persuasive business name.
If you need some help the nuneam team can come up with fresh name ideas for you—go ahead and get in touch with us today.