Compelling Business Name

Do you have a compelling name for your business?
A.  No. Our Business name is uninspiring and uninformative. 
B. We’re not happy with our business name, but can’t consider changing it now.
C. Our business name is pretty good.  Perhaps it could be better.
D.  We are happy with our business name – it’s descriptive and memorable.
E.  We have a dynamic, descriptive and memorable business name that makes us stand out among our competitors.
[Score:  A=0, B=1, C=2, D=3 and E=4]
Why is this question important?

‘When it comes to small business success, the right business name can actually make or break your company.’ 
Allison Way

It’s this simple: your name says who you are as a company.  This is not merely a tag, like your own given name (which, after all, you didn’t choose for yourself); rather, it informs your customers who you are and what you do.  A good name sets you apart from your competitors, arouses interest and is memorable.  A bad name misleads, bores or confuses your customers and is easily forgotten.

Your name is the cornerstone of your brand, so take the time to get this right before building up from this foundation.

Compelling Name

Naming your business or products is a serious matter.  The name you choose can play an integral part in the marketing of your company.  Your name projects your image, brand, and position in the marketplace.  Consumers are bombarded with business names and advertising on a daily basis.  Your job is to make customers remember you.

But coming up with a compelling name can be much easier said than done.

What makes a good name?

There are many important attributes to consider when choosing a good business name:

  • Simple
    As with many aspects of branding, simplicity is a virtue.  The name should be easy to pronounce (especially if your market isn’t all in one country) and easy to spell or write.  It should also be as brief as possible.  ’The Dell Computer Manufacturing and Distribution Company’ is probably not an improvement on ‘Dell.’
  • Easy to Remember
    Have a look through your medicine cabinet for examples of brands that are hard to remember.  Why the manufacturers of drugs like diclofenac and phenylbutazone thought that naming their products ‘Cataflam’ and ‘Cotylbutazone,’ respectively, would make them easier to remember is anybody’s guess.  Don’t follow their lead.  A short, pronounceable name that accurately says who you are will be easiest for your customers to remember.
  • Comforting, familiar, pleasant
    Google and Yahoo, Twitter and Facebook, Amazon and Digg.  Internet companies have become adept at choosing names that resonate with customers, are easy and fun to pronounce and somehow make you feel good before you even visit their sites.
  • Appropriate
    The name you choose must be appropriate, even if, as in the examples above, it is a little ‘out there.’  A common mistake is naming a company that accidentally sounds like it belongs in another sector, or inadvertently puts your customers in mind of something else.  Naming your package delivery service ‘Drop Off,’ for example, or your capital investment advice company ‘CIA,’ probably won’t help your bottom line.
  • Unique
    Of course, you won’t get away with using an existing name for your company, but if the name you choose sounds anything like another company – especially a competitor – you will have a hard time standing out from the crowd. And clichés that simply mean versions of ‘best’ should be avoided at all cost (Acme, Summit, Apex etc).
  • Linked to your brand
    This may be the most critical aspect of a good company name, and can also be its source.  A name should not be chosen in isolation, but in conjunction with other aspects of the brand such as the strapline, tagline, company slogan and even the logo. These are all intimately interrelated and can therefore help in choosing the name itself.

Which brings us to …

The creative naming process

So where do you start?  Actually, you can start almost anywhere – with your own name, the name of your product or service, your key market sector, etc.  The trick is not to stop there.  Don’t just pick the most obvious description of your company and use that for your name.  If you are a freelance graphic designer named Sean Murphy living in Kilkenny, here are some names that will put your clients to sleep: Murphy Graphic Design , Kilkenny Design Company, SMGD …. Get the picture?

Take the time to consider other options.  Brainstorm key words (artistic design, creative design, creative thinking …), making as long a list as possible.  Then, as mentioned above, incorporate your thinking into other branding ideas of strapline, tagline, slogan and logo.  Is there a central message you want to convey?  Can you think of a word or image that embodies that message?  Is some version of that word a potential name?

Why is Apple called Apple?  What does an apple have to do with computers?  In his biography, Steve Jobs says that he was looking for something that was ‘fun, spirited and not intimidating,’ reflecting, in other words, the core values he sought for his new company.

And isn’t ‘Apple’ a better name than ‘The  Silicon Valley Computer Company?’

Your web address

Your website web address should be the same as your business name, and – depending on the nature of your business – your domain name may well be a critical decision, and you may find yourself limited by the price or availability of the desired name.  If, for instance, you are naming a photo sharing company you may find that your first choice (say, www.photoshare.com) is either taken or ludicrously expensive to acquire.  You could attempt to go the route of trying a .org, .net, or .ie domain, but very often these options will also have been reserved by domain name hoarders hoping to make a killing.

Here again creativity is your best solution.  Be as open-minded as possible when brainstorming keywords that could inspire a solid company name.  In the early phase of thinking, go for quantity, reserving judgment until you’ve accumulated a long list of options.

Then make a short list of your favourites, and go to a site like leandomainsearch.com which will instantly generate hundreds, even thousands of permutations, and whether they are available or registered, as well as checking Twitter and trademark availability.

Another approach is to go to a site such as wordoid.com and enter a short keyword.  It will generate made-up words using various versions of your keyword.  You can even choose whether you want the name to sound ‘natural,’ ‘almost natural’ or ‘hardly natural,’ in your chosen language.

Another solution, if you have the resources, is to hire a professional copywriter to come up with a name for you.  Sometimes you can be too close to your company to have objectivity, and an outsider’s view (what copywriters call a ‘naive resource’) can lead to an inspired name you would never have considered.



Examples

Apple

Comment:
For reasons mentioned above, this name rocks – epitomising a company’s ethos and conjuring an easily-remembered image.

 

PayPal  

Comment:
Okay … we’re prejudiced, because we love ‘Pal’ as a suffix.  It evokes ease of use and friendliness, just like our very own StrategyPal.

 

3M        

Comment:
Most people neither know nor care that this is the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing company.  This solution gives an enormously diverse company a short and sweet way to announce its brand.

 

Kodak  

Comment:
This word was invented because the company’s founder George Eastman thought the sound of the letter ‘k’ was compelling.  It worked, with Kodak being one of the most recognised brands in the world.

 

Nike      

Comment:
Named after the winged goddess of victory, this couldn’t be a more appropriate name for a running shoe manufacturer.  Be warned, though.  Most ancient or historical references will be lost on your audience, or actually backfire because of the sound of the name.  An outdoors shop named after the great hunter Nimrod will probably not have customers queuing up outside.

 

GlaxoSmithKline              

Comment:
After merging one company (or more) into another, simply jamming the names together into a mouthful like this is almost guaranteed to make you sound like a pharmaceutical giant.  Okay, so maybe it works for them …

 

Amedisys           

Comment:
This one makes two big mistakes.  First, it combines the word ‘medical’ with the word ‘system’ to come up with a bureaucratic-sounding ‘medisys’ and then it appends an ‘A’ in front – presumably to appear earlier in alphabetical listings, resulting in this clunky absurdity.

 

Dimdim               

Comment:
In an apparent attempt to be whimsical and cute, as so many Internet-based companies succeed at doing, this Internet conferencing company has come up with a name that is actually embarrassing to use.  Pretty logo, though.

 

AirTran Airways               

Comment:
This is an example of simply being lazy in choosing a name.  Let’s see?  We provide transportation in the air.  Presto!  AirTran.  Doesn’t the word ‘Airways’ already say that?

 

Soon Phat          

Comment:
Yes, this is actually the name of an Asian fusion takeaway.  No idea what it means in Chinese, but the owners probably should have run it past a native English speaker before buying the sign.