Benchmark your brand name against the best.

When it comes to naming your business, one of the things you may want to consider is benchmarking i.e. assessing whether the name you have chosen is in line with best practice. There are at least three levels to explore.
  • Local competitors — Specifically, you want to understand whether your name makes you stand apart from your competitors.
  • Sector leaders — Here you want to see how the top businesses in your sector (national and international) name their businesses. Perhaps there are some trends you can spot to name your business in keeping with the best in your field.
  • Global businesses — These are the top companies in the world. Regardless of sector, the objective here is to leverage the naming conventions they use to develop a name for your business.

In this article we will explore the naming conversions of the Top 100 most valuable brands in the world with the aim of giving you a starting point for developing a name for your own business that is in keeping with the very best of the best! Of course, this list is by no means exhaustive. What’s more, you could even get more creative by combining two or more naming conventions to create yet another way to name your business!

Note: Brand names in each category have been listed alphabetically.

#1. Acronyms & Abbreviations (20%)

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but 20 of the top 100 brands in the world are a basic jumble of alphabets, or a shortening of lengthier names. From Aramco and EY to Sinopec and VISA, naming your business with the relevant combination of alphabets, or shortened forms thereof, is absolutely legit. 

Names in this category: Aramco • AT&T • BMW • Citi • CRCC • CSCEC  • CVS • EY • IBM • ICBC • JD.com • LG Group • NTT Group • PWC • RBC • Sinopec • SK Group • TSMC • UPS

Note: VISA is actually (or technically) a “recursive acronym” where the first letter is the acronym itself. In this case, VISA is actually VISA International Service Association.

#2. Compound Words/ Portmanteau (28%)

Sometimes these names can look a bit similar to acronyms, but they are different. Names of this type are formed by joining together two words. Noteworthy examples include Volkswagen (combines German words for People + Car), Facebook (from the face book directories often given to American university students), and Hyundai (combines Korean words for Modern + Era). So the approach doesn’t have to be limited to compound words in English. Feel free to choose from other languages. After all, the principle is the same: invent a new word by joining two other words. Regardless of what language you speak, this approach can help create unique and memorable business names.

Names in this category : accenture • Aldi • Coca-Cola • Costco • Facebook • FedEx • Huawei • Hyundai Group • Instagram • Intel • Mastercard • Mitsubishi Group • Moutai • Netflix • Ping An • Samsung Group • Sony • Taobao • Tencent • Tmall • Uber • UnitedHealthcare • Vodafone • Volkswagen • WeChat • Wuliangye • Xfinity • YouTube

#3. Descriptor of Business/ Literal (14%)

Sounds boring, but a fair few of the world’s most valuable businesses have a name that literally says what they do. Home Depot, Bank of America and General Electric are notable brands in the US. But then you also have Allianz (original lengthier name meant Insurance Joint Stock Company in German), Petro China and State Grid. One could argue that both Allianz may be better categorised under Acronyms and Abbreviations. After all, the name is a shortened version of a longer German name. The same could be said for General Electric, which is now simply known as GE. Both are valid points. However, the reason they are listed in this category, is because their original approach to naming has been to literally describe what they do.

Names in this category: Agricultural Bank Of China • Allianz Group • American Express • Bank of America • Bank of China • China Construction Bank • China Life • China Merchants Bank • China Mobile • Deutsche Telekom • General Electric • Home Depot • PetroChina • State Grid

#4. Historical Characters (1%)

There’s only one company in the Top 100 most valuable brands that takes this naming approach. Can you guess which one it is? Correct, it’s Tesla! Named after Nikolai Tesla, the famous electrical engineer, it makes sense for an innovative electric car company to name itself after such a famous character.

#5. Invented Word (5%)

If you’re doing something nobody’s done before, you need a name that’s never been used before … which means you need to make one up! Tech brands are great at doing this. Think Google or Microsoft or even TikTok. Key point to remember is that simply changing the spelling of an existing word could make it new. What’s more, that simple tweak could make it yours!

Names in this category: Google • Microsoft • Pepsi • TikTok/Douyin • Verizon

#6. Literature/ Mythology (3%)

Another trick that some brands use for naming is to look in classic books. Or in the mythology of other cultures. Did you know that Nike is the greek goddess of victory? Or that Starbuck was the first mate of the ship in Moby Dick?

Names in this category: Alibaba.com • Nike • Starbucks

#7. Named after person/ founder (21%)

Person starts company. Names company after themselves! This is a no-brainer. Of course, it would help to have an interesting and unique name! Nevertheless, it is a totally legit way of naming a business. Possibly the only name that bucks the trend a bit in this category is Walmart. It’s a combination of Walton’s (founder name) Market. Other names include Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Dell … and other usual suspects.

Names in this category: Chase • Dell Technologies • Deloitte • Disney • Ford • Honda • JP Morgan • Louis Vuitton • Lowe’s • McDonald’s • Mercedes-Benz • Mitsui • Nestlé • Porsche • Siemens Group • Sumitomo Group • TATA Group • Toyota • Walgreens • Walmart • Wells Fargo

#8. Common noun (4%)

If there’s a naming convention that’s especially difficult to implement, it’s this one. Simply because we’re dealing with everyday dictionary words. Which means getting these names trademarked and the URLs registered is nigh impossible. The names in this category should come as no surprise: Amazon, Apple, Shell and Spectrum.

#9. Place of Origin / General place name (2%)

Like the category of historical, literary, or mythological characters, place names can be a treasure trove of inspiration. Cisco and Marlboro are the only two examples of this naming convention, being named after San Francisco and Great Marlborough Street (location of the company’s first factory) respectively. Spellings have been modified, presumably for uniqueness.

#10. Story-based (2%)

Great brands tell great stories. And stories are a great source of inspiration for name development. What’s more, stories become part of company legend, which often goes a long way in building culture. Apparently Oracle is named after a database that the founders had worked on for the CIA. 

Names in this category:  Oracle • Target

Well, there you have it — the naming conventions used by the world’s most valuable brands. Hope this helps spark some ideas for the business that you’re trying to name!

Source for the rankings: https://brandirectory.com/rankings/global/table