It’s common for people to view naming a new business (or product/service) as a fun rather than the serious activity it should be. Having a good name will boost your brand while having a poor name can inadvertently cause ongoing difficulties and unintended consequences. Without forethought, many naming problems are only found in hindsight.
My Early Adventures in Naming
My first company, in 1992, was called Surerange Analysis Ltd. I didn’t choose the name. It was bought, what’s called, ‘off the shelf’, cheaply and quickly, as a new ready made company that had never traded. It was supplied as a computing-sounding business name.
In 1992, you tended to get Internet access from a company called Demon Internet. They provided dial up access and an email address. Without thinking too deeply, I chose the first four letters of the company name for the email address: firstname.lastname@example.org and web site sureanal.demon.co.uk. Unfortunately sure anal had other connotations!
The second problem surfaced when exhibiting in the US at Comdex in Las Vegas. “Quick tip”, someone said as they passed our stand. “Change the name. ‘Analysis’ means shrink in the US!”.
Since then I have witnessed further problems, particularly with customers’ names. This article provides some tips to minimise future problems.
- Choose a memorable, quirky and simple name.
- Discard corny names and superlatives. They really will put people off.
- Steer clear of abbreviations and acronyms unless they make up a name.
- Search for companies or products with similar names. You want to avoid customer confusion and disputes from other companies.
- Avoid naming after yourself. While this might make you feel proud, the name won’t stand out unless you have an unusual name. It also limits possibilities should you later share, expand or sell the business.
- Reflect whether it’s suitable to have what the product/service is in the name. This has advantages when it comes to Internet searches.
- Check the name isn’t legally reserved such as trademarks, registered businesses and domain names.
- Imagine how the name will work with a logo. Shorter, simpler names tend to work better.
- Test how the name works with other related names. For example, if it’s a product, test how it works with the business name pre-pended . How does it fit with your other product names? How will it work with future product or service names?
- Consider names starting with A or B. Your name will eventually get listed in places and many lists are alphabetical. A or B gets you near the top of the list.
- Involve only a few people. People love being part of naming something. The more people you involve the more competitive it will get and can take a very long time. It seems to be the case that the more people you involve, the sillier the resultant name.
- Check the meaning of the name across languages and cultures.
- Ensure it’s easy to pronounce and consequently spell. Avoid the situation where it needs to be spelled out every time the name is mentioned.
- Don’t include any words that might limit future growth. For example, putting a geographic location in a name limits future uses of the name in areas outside that location. Use more generic terms in preference to specialised terms.
Have you ever experienced a naming faux pas? Comment below…