How to Name Your Company by Blending Art and Science

Every business struggles with naming their company and for good reason.

For most of you, it’s a process that’s unfamiliar, necessitating skills that are at times one off, with not a lot of clear guidelines for finding your way home!

It’s always a mixture creativity, some geeky analytics and branding and positioning your business to stand out.

Be Memorable When and Where You Can 

Are  Google, Yahoo or Apple memorable? Depends on your assessments of these established brands. Apple is a generic term that Apple Corporation rebranded (the Beatles had a similar take) as its very own.

To some, the more outlandish the naming the better: see: Uber, Grub, Pando, Yahoo, Google, Medium (kinda boring) or ReCode. But, remember some of these nonsensical names eventually morphed into iconic brand names over time, driven by aggressive advertising.

Or, because of their technology (Google, Apple, SalesForce, Intel, Microsoft, Facebook) and prominence overshadowed all in the marketplace. Was the name part of the marketing mix? Yes, but there is much more to the marketing strategy than just a name.

Great Names Convey Your Story Succinctly & Memorably

In some cases a great name conveys what you do, providing others with a good sense of your market focus, products and/or services.

Vox Media is descriptive, Harvard Business Review is iconic, blending the University’s cachet with specific terms speak to you immediately, Bloomberg News at least describes the biz in basic terms, Huffington Post, well, must have resonated with the founder.

But, as above, Yahoo, Google, Uber, AppSumo, BuzzFeed don’t have any tangible inherent built in naming convention that mean anything to a casual visitor.  Au contraire “lets stand out” was the name of the game. No pun intended.

Common Sense Marketing: Your Name has to Pass the Smartphone Test 

Can the name be easily pronounced quickly and effortlessly? If your start-up team can’t pronounce this easily and  stakeholders, friends, investors, BOD members, significant others stumble pronouncing this, then start over with a fresh slate.

It may sound crude to you, but it’s not, pronunciation is a baseline metric that has much more impact that offsets all of the sex and sizzle your marketer thinks is important. Repetition is never a good thing and that “stammer” on the call: “your with Autodesk……??” says a lot: “your in the office supply business…??”

Shorter is Always Better Unquestionably

Shorter is better, and two syllables if possible; but not always, if a longer name describes your business, then you may want to go with the latter.

It’s the eternal deal with the devil. Longer may be more descriptive. But, your going to pay for the elongated name across lots of business cycles and marketing materials.


Think About Horizontal Social Reach for the Name

Your domain and social media accounts are integral to your overall strategy and they add complexity to the process.

Name Chk (unfortunately not a great name) is the only tool to use for checking multiple social accounts. Giving you quick review of about 100 top tier social platforms. If 50% of your social accounts aren’t available that are identical to the name, then start over.

Hyphens, weird spelling (see: smartphone test), embedding numbers, symbols, whatever in the name are show stoppers. Typing a number or a hyphen on a phone: it’s a miserable experience.

A word about domains and social accounts: when/if your researching the name it’s available, grab it immediately. Don’t wait. They have a way of disappearing in a matter of minutes in some cases. If worried about others hijacking your brand then register other secondary TLDs and even for key international markets.

GoDaddy is now the only game in town and recommended: their User Interface is “God Awful”  busy, but they now have good tech support and robust services. Tell the CFO to settle down: register the domain 3-5 years out and make sure the email address and account are mapped to the CEO or owner, not a member of the staff.

Would You Like Sushi with Your Software? Name Globally

We live in a global instant reach world and as you work through iterations of names don’t be American-centric.

Ackuna’s cloud (free) tool will give you some pretty startling “translations” for names in English with the associated meanings in some cases.

Names are not always what they seem and culture and language trump everything.

Outsourcing Costs and Process What to Expect

Naming your company is a core branding exercise and you do at times get what you pay for, if you are outsourcing part of the process.

Costs using a naming agency: $500. to $75K and BTW many use these tools: Latin terms, “Websters” dictionary with synonyms and antonyms in multiple languages and one of my favorite tools: Thinkmap Visual Thesaurus.

You can spend anywhere from a few dollars on Fiverr to paying a formal naming agency (no I won’t link to them: fraught with peril) something in the six figure realm.

A good agency should go through 20-50 iterations (this maps to cost too) and a 2-3 step refinement process getting to 2-3 “finalists.”

Taglines are a natural extension of this process and should be kept in mind or included with your brand naming. But, taglines, mission statements and annual marketing plans are getting somewhat outdated, replaced by hashtags, 90 day marketing plans and Tweets on rinse and repeat.


Don’t Brandjack Your Competitors: Take the High Road

Take the high road and come up with an original name. “Brand borrowing” is never a good thing and will come back to haunt you later.

Show stopper: you’ll waste valuable time, market resources and end up paying legal fees.

Be Aware of Secondary Product or Service Branding Issues

Should you think about your product or service naming conventions as you map out a name brand? Yes, if you have the time and resources.

But, like all marketing activities, there is an innate cost and time investment to bolt on product or service naming. And, if the name branding  for your company is high quality, your product naming will be much easier once the name is selected.

Great Names Need to be Augmented with Tactical Marketing

Naming is just the prerequisite first step to any branding campaign and don’t use all your marketing resources on the name thinking it will stand on it’s own.

That is almost never the case.

Great company names need to be buttressed with savvy outbound marketing activities.







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