Biz Features

Choosing a Company Name

by . May 7th, 2014

In my last article, I wrote about company name origins and trivia about them. In this article I’m going to teach you some tips and tricks to naming your own company without spending thousands of dollars for a naming firm or hours flipping the pages of a dictionary.

Not too long ago, a few friends and I were playing with the idea of a flirting a bit into fantasy, sort of like the Maid Cafes in Japan, Medieval Times at California, or Jekyll and Hyde at New York. We came up with the name Stardust to boost up the feeling of whimsical wonder and awe but soon dropped it after I found out it was also the name of a strip joint quite close by. The idea never pushed through.

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In naming companies, there are hundreds of rules you could follow. In fact, the first draft of this article was a wordy walkthrough of what to do and not. And as deliciously detailed as that would have been, it would have also been boring. As such, I’ve decided to shorten it and focus more on the why’s than the what’s.

Tips

Obviously, the name of your business is important. Customers will refer to it before the logo, and it will be posted in all of your materials. The name could end up as your greatest branding tool, and if your company does well, it could end up as a household name.

Thus, if you think about what your company does and how it carries on, this could be the basis of its name. Part of why Apple is called Apple is because the word denotes fun and spiritedness. Twitter means a series of short chirps, relating to the short messages people send.

And just as it is part of the business, it has to have the customer in mind. It has to be concise, memorable, positive, and attractive, written or spoken. This will not only make it easier for the customer, but it will also make you seem friendly and approachable. It also helps in choosing a domain for your website. Imagine asking customers to type zweialamqwo.com.

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A good idea is to try and keep it unique. It would be difficult for you if your company’s name sounded similar to that of another’s, especially if that other company is more well-known and in the same field. However as unique as it is, make sure it still reflects the business’ identity.

Choosing a name that limits expansion may hurt your business as well. San Jose Carpets won’t be so relevant if the company moves away from San Jose or expanded beyond carpets. Using your name may also be harmful as every scandal from every employee will not only be tied to the company, but to you as well. But the opposite is also true: if the company stands firm and personal, customers know who stands behind it.

Trends, fads, and puns may get you a good kick in the short term, but they swiftly run dry and old. You want a name that reels people in and not one that tires them out. Remember that a company name will probably be stuck with you for quite some time.

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Types

Now that we’ve got basic notes down, let’s check the five different types of company names. Most people would classify names as long and short, trendy or stale, etc. However these categories are based on how distinctive the name is. You’ve got generic, descriptive, suggestive, arbitrary, and fanciful. More descriptive does not necessarily mean better, as you will note each category has pros and cons.

When restocking on groceries, have you ever seen that box that just says “Milk,” or the carton that just says “Eggs?” That’s generic. It’s not a brand and is impossible to protect. These names are good however when your company is too small to advertise, or when chasing an entire market segment.

Descriptive is when you’re actually describing the product or service frankly. Rapid Manufacturing and General Clothing are examples of this. Although trademark lawyers advise against these names due to the lack of protection, people still choose this due to some benefits including swift positioning and a claim to a descriptive phrase if the company works.

When the identity of the company is implied through metaphors rather than described, the company name is suggestive. Car City doesn’t directly describe its identity, but the word “city” implies a large number of cars. Although harder to create and market, these names have a definitely bigger chance in protection from competition.

Sometimes a company name seems generic but has nothing to do with the business field at all. They still do in a sense suggest certain things such as how Apple implies fun. These arbitrary names can be quite difficult to market as they would need stronger story-telling to connect the dots between them and the companies they represent.

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The last is fanciful. Like Häagen-Dazs, these names do not comprise of real words. They could be portmanteaus, half-translations of foreign words, or words that do not exist in any dictionary. Although they are the easiest to protect, they do come with a lot of problems. If the new word doesn’t roll off the tongue, it can easily be forgotten. Companies that have similar names to bigger businesses may have a hard time stepping out of the latter’s shadow.

And that’s about it. Hopefully through the tips and types of company names, you could formulate one yourself or with a small focus group without throwing out big cash or scrounging through your dictionary.

credits: wikipedia; nancy friedman; huffington post; inc;
photo credits: booleansplit via photopin cc; urbanwoodswalker via photopin cc; mononukleoza via photopin cc; crystal_cakes via photopin cc; jimntonik via photopin cc; pagedooley via photopin cc;

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

I do grown-up things to pay for my childish whimsy and rule the universe one step at a time while at it. Join me for the most fantastical, out-of-this-world adventure your trudgy 24/7 startup will never have.

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