Finding a suitable skincare brand name can be frustrating at best and big bucks at worst. There are specialist creative agencies dealing only with cosmetic, skincare, beauty and spa businesses, crafting their entire brand persona from fledgling idea to a vision that goes viral.
Starting an indie skincare brand is more than nabbing that domain name. Even if the domain is available, you can hit the end of the brand name road very quickly once you apply for a trademark. Even generic words like ‘naked’ can stir the wrath of the legal departments of megalithic global cosmetics’ brands. L’Oréal is not adverse to taking legal action to protect ‘naked’ – and probably a host of other generic words – even when the object of their TM battle is a small artisan soapmaker in Scotland or a still born natural beauty brand yet to put up more than a half dozen posts on Instagram. Who would have thought one could trademark those words that we use every day?
If you want the tips and to-do’s, which I learnt the hard way in my own skincare brand name game, feel free to scroll to the end. If you’d like an insight into our backstory to our brand name, in case it sparks some ideas for yours (think geography and history as prompts), read on to find out how and why I came up with Alchemy du Corps.
Alchemy du Corps brand name story
The name Alchemy du Corps popped into my head around three years ago way before I thought about any legal, business or other official aspects of using it. Why did I pick such a mishmash of English and French to say what translates loosely as ‘body alchemy / chemistry’, other than to sound a bit more suave? There are several intertwined stories behind the Alchemy du Corps name, which span language, geography and advances in science.
In tackling the lingo question first, I’ll need to talk geography and a bit about my adoptive home.
Location, location, location and skincare brand name authenticity
Alchemy du Corps was dreamed up on Malta, a small archipelago in the near centre of the Mediterranean. This isolated rocky outcrop has been of immense strategic importance over the millennia given its midway point on shipping lanes and its vast natural harbours.
In prehistory, a culture we call ‘temple builders’ lived in Malta. They may have been a migratory Sicilian tribe, and we have evidence they traded goods with Sicily if not cultural mores, but we know little of their lives although they were here for some 3,500 years. Their mysterious temple structures survive still.
The first known settlers were the seafaring traders, the Phoenicians. After them, came waves of settlers, traders, conquerors and colonisers each leaving a legacy in the native islanders’ psyche, cultural ways and language – Maltese, a unique Semitic language with ancient Phoenician and Sicilian-Arabic roots but written in Latin script.
After Arab rule in the 8th – 11th centuries, and coming under various European noble houses in the Middle Ages, the Islands were given to the Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. The Knights of Malta ruled the Islands for over 250 years from 1535 to 1798 when Napoleon ousted them. The Knights were from across Europe but dominated by French, Spanish and Italian noblemen; French was a main administrative language during much of their rule. Napoleon’s forces were in turn ousted by the British. The British then ruled Malta until the Islands gained independence in the early 1960s. English is still today an official language along with Maltese in this bilingual nation.
Malta therefore saw a mix of languages used over the centuries, and adopted of course quite a lot of English and French into its own language Maltese. Bonġu, meaning good day, is a corruption of Bonjour. Alchemy du Corps for us seems quite natural a creation from two distinct languages. It reflects the reality outside our door that even today sees locals swap languages and as the Islands are so multicultural a place, you’re just as likely to hear any European language spoken.
Now to the Alchemy part
Alchemy is the name given to a movement that blended proto-science with mystic beliefs that basically claimed all objects were imbibed with spiritual qualities. The age of alchemy came to the fore in the late Medieval period when alchemists’ work, still shrouded in secrecy and mystery, was aimed often at trying to create precious metals from base metals. It’s a complicated movement to pin down and define, but there’s a good overview of alchemy here. This pseudo science, doomed to fail as it lacked the basic knowledge of physics and chemistry, was disseminated further by Arabic translations of ancient Greek texts.
So how does a pseudo science take a place in our name? We use it to allude in part to the magic that goes into using naturals in modern-day artisan cosmetic formulation. There is something undeniably magical about formulating with naturals whose properties change with each harvest, each year, and according to provenance.
One reason major global cosmetic firms formulate including synthetics or nature identical materials is to ensure there are no variations from batch to batch and that there are consistent supplies of ingredients at a stable price. The natural cosmetics’ formulator must be prepared to accommodate nature’s whims and reformulate if need be, subjecting their output to further tests if one ingredient is changed. This means that most natural formulators remain true to their artisan roots by design and desire. A small indie natural brand once bought by a larger concern may find its formulas tweaked to ensure it can scale up to provide suitable returns for its new mother company.
I chose the word Alchemy also because at the time the foundations of modern medical science were getting under way, Alchemy still had some sway as it passed into the annals. Just as Malta was being put on the map as the new home of the Knights of Malta, alchemy may have been a dying practice but new science was looking again at the properties of precious metals. The Knights of Malta were among the first to understand, for example, the antibacterial properties of silver. Their pioneering hospital, the Sacra Infermeria in their glittering new capital Valletta, was one of Europe’s most advanced in its day. It used silverware, not pottery that could chip and harbour germs, for all its patients, whether rich or poor.
This was a bit of a history lesson, and of course, we don’t go around lecturing. But I do feel that knowing all these elements does give me a solid feeling about what lies behind what I am doing with Alchemy du Corps. Sure, it’s a made-up name, but pick it apart and there’s a wonderful tale to tell behind this middle of the Mediterranean loving brand!
Naming your Indie Skincare Brand: tips and to-do’s
Where to begin…
Look at the list below, and see if you can write down one or two words that relate to each bullet point. This way, you can tease out any USPs (unique selling propositions) to underpin your skincare brand name.
- Nothing related
For example, under family, you might like a family member’s name to include in the brand. I know someone who very naturally included her daughter’s name ‘Anais’. Perhaps you are focusing your brand on a single ingredients or would like to include a place name.
On the other hand, try not thinking about yourself and your background and try to identify with your ideal customer. How might they like to be talked about or referenced? Words like ‘Tribe’ or ‘Society’ might work tacked on the end of another word.
Or think totally out of the box and of words that have nothing to do with skincare, place, customers and the like. Brands like Drunk Elephant have used this tactic to great effect and certainly get noticed in the rows of skincare and cosmetics in Sephora!
Domains are everything. And yes, ideally try to get a dotcom unless you are selling in your country predominantly and wish to use your country domain suffix. If a suitable domain is available, grab it, along with variations of its spelling. Domains are cheap (we use GoDaddy for domains – but not hosting) so buying it on a whim and hunch won’t set you back much even if you decide not to use it.
I recommend checking domain availability on reliable providers like GoDaddy only. Do not type the domain into a search engine. It may be just myth, but some folks say that a chosen domain that was free a day back, might mysteriously be nabbed by a domain squatter if you search for it other than in a bona fide place. I’ve not had this happen, but I don’t like to risk it.
Before you buy though, pause to check out the social handles. Ideally, these are all available. If not, work out if you can place a suffix like ‘official’ or some other word on the name. This can be confusing if a brand in a similar space already has the social handles so at this stage, perhaps go back to the domain name brainstorming.
Avoid using hyphens between words. They just add to the misspelling issues and look awkward on labels or anywhere you place your url.
Can your domain name be pronounced easily by your target customers and in your target market languages?
Does your domain resonate with your target customers? Can they see in an instant what that it does what it says on the tin; or if it isn’t plain to them, does it rouse their curiosity (like Drunk Elephant does)? Get some feedback on your domain from friends and family about how they feel when they hear the name. Remember that they may well not be your target customers!
What about the age range of your customers? Is it going to feel too young or old a brand name for them?
Is it a trending style of name or will it stay the course and not date?
What product range are you launching with? Can the skincare brand name flex over time to accommodate other products like homewares or accessories? You might be thinking only of skincare right now, but in time, you may wish to add on other ranges. This is also important to think about when you check trademarks.
Go Social Right Away
Use social media as a cost-free early testbed of your brand name and positioning.
One quick way to see how your domain / brand name works is to get going on social media, particularly Instagram. A few posts on and you’ll see who is attracted to your brand and get a feel for them. After 100 followers, Instagram offers insights into the demographics of your followers. While broad brush, it can help you and surprise you. I discovered Alchemy du Corps has a younger age range of followers than I’d expected.
Having bought your domain cheaply, the next major step is to see if the trademark is likely to be available. Be aware that if your chosen indie skincare brand name has several words in it, you may find one of them is already trademark protected. I mentioned this issue in the intro above. While the UK Trademark Office information infers that one can’t trademark generic words, I’ve found that several have been TM’d in the past and, just as the Scottish soap maker found out, the trademark owner may well come after you at some point.
Most small indie brands can’t afford to run the risk of a lengthy, costly court case and will end up deferring to the big players. So, do your trademark checks* carefully and work out if you can at least put in an application, and wait to see if anyone comes forward during the provisional publication period under which they can object. If this happens, you just remove your application (or fight on, once you’ve taken legal advice).
In the UK, the only place I have experience of registering trademarks, it’s a simple online process to apply for a TM, and one that you can do yourself, for a cost of Stg 170, for a single mark in a single category. That’s the base cost. If you hire intermediaries – lawyers for example or other third-party trademark services – expect to pay way more. They will do searches for you to see if you’ve good odds. The UK Trademark Office has an online search though. It’s really a case of whether you feel able to take on the application alone or not. I can’t vouch for other jurisdictions, but I found the UK online application easy enough.
In the EU, it’s normal to first apply in your home country and then apply separately for an EU-wide Trademark. That of course is the next step and more costly. But again, can be done online. You may have noticed some brands trade under different names in different parts of the world. This may be for cultural or linguistic reasons or because they couldn’t get the trademark in the other jurisdiction.
*Disclaimer: I am not a trademark expert and am posting this information based on my own personal experience. Please take legal advice at your own discretion relating to your particular needs.
I hope this round-up helps in your quest to find a suitable indie skincare brand name. Ultimately, though, the name and brand voice and promise has to make your heart sing each day. It’s about pleasing you as much as resonating with your potential customers. So in the end, be true to yourself! Domain, TM and other technicalities permitting.