Insider Tips for Naming Your Company

You’ve just decided to start a business. Congratulations! Now, the big question looms: what should you name it?

This is not an easy question. In fact, it’s one that much larger companies can wrestle with for months, if not years. JetBlue famously spent millions of dollars hiring fancy branding agencies to come up a name. The names ranged from “Taxi” to “Egg” to “Imagine Air.” Nothing worked. Finally, they landed on “True Blue,” only to find out that name was already owned by Thrifty Car Rental. And so the naming team was back to Square One. In an off-the-cuff moment as the VP of Marketing was getting ready to head out to dinner with family, she threw out the name “JetBlue.” And at last, the company had a name.

Back on Earth here, most of us don’t have millions of dollars and months of time to spend on naming our company. So I thought I’d share what I’ve learned over my branding years about what you should think about when it comes to naming your company.

First question to consider…

Do you even need to name it?

If you’re a coach or a consultant, you may not need to create a fanciful name like Amazon or Starbucks. The easiest route is to name your company – after yourself! After all, you own your name and you’re the main “bill of fare” that’s for sale. So why not name it after yourself?

You may not be able to get exactly the URL for your name, but you can easily add a couple of initials at the end or an extra word so that your name is the root of the URL.

So when do you need to create a name?

If you’re planning to grow your company, hire employees and offer services that don’t necessarily involve just you, you may want to consider a name. If you start down this path, below are some handy tips.

NAMING CRITERIA

As you start your list of naming “contenders,” use these criteria as a litmus test.

Short and punchy
Brevity is almost always a virtue when it comes to a name. So where you can, think short.

Readable and writable
Guess what? You’re going to be saying and writing your company name a lot. So make sure it translates easily.

Evokes an idea or emotion
Not to beat a dead horse here, but emotion is always the name of the game when it comes to branding, and naming is no exception.

Unique
This one is fairly obvious. If you want to stand out in the marketplace, you need a name that makes you stand out. End of story.

Fun to say
The names that are fun to say get shared with others. So, have fun with your naming and you’ll reap the benefits.

Fits with your business
There should be some kind of connection with your business or at least with the values behind your business.

Protectable
This one is a tough one and lawyers can go on about this forever (which I’m definitely not one). If you want to dot all of your i’s and cross all of your t’s by going down the trademark path, you’ve got to jump through some hoops. I’ll leave this subject to the lawyers.

TYPES OF NAMES

OK, you now know the rules for good naming practices. But what type of name should you create? Below are the main categories of names you’ll encounter in the marketplace. This is by no means exhaustive, but it does give a lay of the land.

Descriptive names (Internet Explorer, Jiffy Lube, E-Trade)
Generally, descriptive names are where people go first. These names say what they do – but they’re pretty unremarkable. If you don’t have a lot of money and a lot of time to brainstorm, this can often be the easiest path to take.

Evocative Names (Apple, Nike, Amazon, Starbucks)
Evocative names can be hard to come up with and can be expensive to market. But once you’ve spent the time and money, you can reap some serious long-term benefits. It’s no surprise that some of the biggest moneymakers out there have evocative names.

Compound Names (MailChimp, FedEx)
Compound names can be handy, especially if you’re really scratching your head trying to come up with something. Compound names are easy to generate in a brainstorming session. So this may be the time to tap your friends and family for a little extra help.

Made-Up Names (Gatorade, Xerox)
Like an evocative name, made-up names can require serious resources up front. The task of building capital around a word that’s never existed before is daunting. Also, there’s a pretty big error of margin. So tread carefully if you head this direction.

Acronym (IBM, ATT)
Not to be harsh here, but this is naming for your grandmother’s company. There’s a reason that companies are moving away from acronyms. In fact there are several reasons: acronyms are hard to explain, they evoke zero emotion, and they get lost in the sea of other acronyms. Basically, acronyms are a big cop-out with zero payout.

Geographical (Arizona Tile)
Another naming system for your grandmother. First, most companies want to have some kind of online presence that expands beyond their geography. Second, you’re building off the brand of the city instead of your own brand. Third, it’s just so expected. So, I’d steer clear of this one.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Like all branding exercises, the most important thing is to have fun. When you’re having fun, your brain is loosened up. And when your brain is loosened up, your creative juices get flowing. And when your creative juices get flowing, the world is yours to conquer!

Do you have a naming story? Great! Feel free to share your naming adventures in the comments below.

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