What’s in a Name?

Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet?

Well maybe, but you’d have a lot more difficult a time convincing people to sniff the flower if it was called a ‘Fart’ or a ‘Sewage Sweater’.

Business names are important, very very important.

Give the Name Meaning
A great name should represent what you do, who you are and be concise yet unique enough to copyright. Here are some great examples off the top of my head:

  • Under Armor
  • Spanx
  • Dyesigns by Pam
  • Smokey Bones
  • Rave Cinemas
  • Famous Dave’s BBQ
  • Rite Aid
  • FedEx
  • Fashion Bug
  • Pizza Hut

Now, you might be asking what about completely made up names like Kinkos, Starbucks or McDonalds? Names that don’t say anything about what the company is? Well, yes you CAN use a non-related name – however be aware that it will put you at a short-term disadvantage when trying to spread the word about who and what you are.  If you’re willing to pay that price and push through the initial difficulty then go for it.

Using your name in the business name.
This is especially a popular move for law offices and accountant services. I don’t entirely understand it, but if that’s your cup of tea go for it. Again I’d like to point out that it’s not the most remarkable name and won’t help much if you want to use your business name as a marketing tool. Please consider carefully if you’re naming a business with your name for a marketing reason or for an ego-stroke.

Combination words.
One of my favorite naming schemes has to be when a single word can convey multiple relevant messages. Consider Dyesigns, for instance. It conveys both that she creates dyed products and they are all unique original designs.

Careful not to hedge yourself in or to be too vague.
Calling yourself Bedding International certainly tells people what they can find at your store, but if you start also selling couches and end-tables you’re going to have to change your name.  Imagine if “Bed Bath & Beyond” had first been called “Bed & Bath.”  How embarrassing! But you could risk being too vague, such as “Eagle Instrument Services” – I mean, what instruments? What services? Are they repaired by eagles? Is eagle a brand of instrument? What are we saying here? (Again here, yes you can be vague or nonsensical but be prepared to slog through an extra effort of branding without your name to supercharge your message.)

Short and to the point.

Don’t make your name too long, or if you do, make a friendly acronym. My mother’s company “Environmental Compliance Source” is often called “ECS” just as “Federal Express” was shortened to “FedEx” on most of their logos and tag lines. Keep in mind you’re going to be saying “Hi, I’m with (Insert your company name here)” a lot. Make sure it can roll off the tongue, not cause a verbal stumble.

SO! How do you come up with your company’s name?

Brainstorm. Write twenty ideas, even stupid ideas, every day for a week. Have everyone else you’re working with do the same. Don’t be afraid to use a thesaurus. Don’t compare notes until the end of the week. Get together and pick your top ten favorites, then brainstorm together. Maybe a name will leap out at you immediately, maybe you’ll have to go back to the drawing board – but know you’re going in the right direction.

Consider bringing in uninvolved help – friends or family who don’t have involvement in the company. Explain what you’re hoping to convey in a name and see what they come up with. Write down all their ideas, even if you don’t like them because they make have the seed of something great.

The idea is essentially to think, think, think. Names are the basis on which everything else – from websites to emails to marketing – will be done. Next to the product or service itself, the name is the most vital part of its success. It can be an amazing booster to your marketing and brand recognition or it could cripple it. Don’t just jump in on the first mediocre name you come up with. Take the time to get this right.

[Image courtesy of Byte Dust]

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