What's in a name? Maybe a lot if it is what you're going to call your business. From the array of business names I see around me, it seems that many miss the mark. Business naming is an extremely important part of branding.
Remember - branding is a part of marketing and marketing has only one job - to make profits. If your business name doesn't help you be more profitable, then it stinks.
Let me see if I can help...
I have been through the naming process with several companies, and I can tell you that it can be difficult. This is especially so if there's any kind of committee involved. A committee, by the way, is and 2 or more people or yourself if you've got multiple personalities.
You can go out and hire a naming company for a couple of hundred thousand dollars. They will have a team of semantic and language experts scour resources for your new name, make sure it's not trademarked, and that you can get the domain name. Or you can just do it your self.
For small businesses I am particularly fond of business names that describe what the business does in some way. In Massachusetts we have Kelly's Roast Beef, Mike's Roast Beef, and the now defunct Buzzy's Roast beef and Daddy's Roast Beef. Guess what each of these businesses sells. If you wanted a roast beef sandwich would you know where to go?
Tech companies are the worst because they usually wind up with a name that sounds like a disease - Meagatechnoplex, Nanoshperion, Scipilogix. Or they string together a bunch of technical words that are nonsense - Industrial Logistics, Technology Partners, Logic Stream.
Sure there are some technology companies with crazy names that are doing OK. Everybody has a crazy aunt that smoked 3 packs a day and lived to 105. That doesn't mean smoking, or picking a lousy name, are good ideas.
From a branding perspective, here are some things to keep in mind when naming.
- Short, sweet, and memorable. If people can remember your company name they can seek you out. I bet you can remember Daddy's Roast Beef in 20 minutes, but probably not Pleximeditechnoform.
- Yes, you do want to own a domain name that is spelled exactly like your business name. I don't do a Google look-up to find the domain name for Sears, I just type Sears.com. If I get a porno site when I get there I don't go back.
- Think trademark. At least do a search on the USPTO web site to ensure you aren't infringing on someone's rights. You also want to do a search at your state level. Seek the advice of an attorney if you have questions. You may want to think about registering your business name as a trademark - talk to an attorney.
- Your business name should work with your overall brand. If you are an upscale jewelry boutique, picking a name like "Joe's house of Rocks" isn't going to cut it. If you own a diner that specializes in ribs you probably don't want to pick, "Maison Jacques".
- If your name is not descriptive of your business (Boston Car Wash) you are going to have to work to attach the name to what you sell in the minds of consumers.
- Avoid cute for cute sake. Being cute can have it's place, but use it sparingly. Hair salons are notorious for this - the Mane Event, Hair-em, Shear Delight. Pet stores, and kids stores can get away with this sometimes. You don't want your customers to be embarrassed to say your name to their friends.
- Yes you can brand with your name, just be aware that it can make you the center of attention wanted or unwanted. I know of some businesses that are branded under a name that is a pseudonym.
- Easy to pronounce and spell. If you want referrals, you had better make sure your customers can pronounce your name and write it down. In general you want to spell it like it sounds. Growing up I knew a guy whose last name was spelled Desgrossieleirs, which he pronounced (de GROSS ee ere). Of course in non-Anglo french the pronunciation is slightly different. Imagine trying to write down that name for a friend or pronounce it after seeing it in an ad.
- You are naming your business for your customers. Many business owners pick a name that means something personal to them but nothing to their customers (Virleo - because the owners are a Virgo and a Leo). While it's a nice sentiment it has as much power as a made up name.
- A new trend with upscale clubs, restaurants and hotels is to name them after their street address. In Boston we have XV Beacon (at 15 beacon Street), No. 9 Park, 180 and many others. This is OK, but it's getting old. As more businesses in an area do it, the potential for confusion is great.
These are a few of the things to keep in mind when naming your business. Always remember that it's about the customer. Create the correct impression and make it easy for them to find you.
J D Moore - Marketing Comet