Naming Your Business

Your name is your identity and the same goes for your business. Choosing the right one can be difficult but it could be more important than you imagine.

What’s in a name? It might be more important than you think. For example, think about what kind of career Marion Morrison might have had if he hadn’t changed his name to John Wayne? Whether it comes to Hollywood Stars or corporations, a name can make the world of difference, so how do you get it right? Here are a few tips.


  1. Make it memorable

If you’ve ever watched the film The Founder – about the origins of McDonald’s – there’s a scene in which Michael Keaton’s character – Ray Kroc – is being quizzed by the brothers about why he had set his sights on their little company. They had shown him how it works, after all – he could have just taken the business model and started something else.

Kroc’s answer was simple – it’s all in the name. He could take the process they used, even mimic the recipes, but he couldn’t get their solid, reliable, trustworthy sounding name – something about it just resonates and it’s no small part of why McDonald’s has become the most successful fast food chain in the world. Exactly why it works, we can’t say for sure, but it does. It represents the sweet spot of company names – something which is not only memorably but instantly conveys what the business is all about.  


  1. Make it web friendly

It’s very difficult to avoid the web these days. Its influence has become so dominant, that it is changing the way businesses name themselves. Many will even go so far as to name their business with a specific view to appearing high up on the Google search result.

However, even though this approach can be very effective, you still want something which resonates and sounds memorable. Getting listed on search engines is only half the battle – you’ll need to convert visitors once they arrive and a business name which sounds too generic or plain might not be the best way to do that.

What’s more not all of your business will take place on Google. Focusing entirely on search results might make it sounds silly in another context.  


  1. Beware initials

Yes some of the world’s best businesses are comprised of initials – think IBM, BMW or KPMG – but these tend to be exceptions which prove the rule. In many cases businesses which have come to be known by their initials have earned that status by assuming an integral part of their lives – such as Kentucky Fried Chicken becoming KFC.

For anyone coming fresh to your business, throwing out a few initials will leave them scratching their heads. Unless they know what they mean, you may as well be picking out three letters completely at random. Instead, if you do find yourself being referred to by your initials this is likely to come some way down the line and will be a recognition that you have successfully forged a niche for yourself in that sector.


  1. Brainstorm

Harness the wisdom of crowds by brainstorming ideas. This need not be too much of a formal process. You could simply stay late after work, order in pizza and throw open some ideas. Chances are the vast majority of ideas people come up with will be pretty poor – some may even be laughable – but somewhere between that fourth slice of pizza and second can of beer, someone might just hit on something golden. There’s nothing to lose and you never know until you try your luck.


  1. Test your name

Avoid making decisions by committee. The more people you engage in the decision making process the more likely you are to confuse matters. Everyone will have their own perspective, which runs the risk of having several different names each of which have their own supporters. At the same time, though, it pays to run the name by other people. Friends and family can be a good option. If you have a collection of candidate names try running them past them. They can serve in the role of your customers – giving you a good idea of what will work in the wider market.


  1. Give it meaning

There have been plenty of names which sound like mumbo jumbo or have little connection to the actual product they produce. Often the people who come up with those names think they are doing ‘a Google’ – in other words, coming up with something which sounds meaningless but will one day become iconic. Today, for example, the word Google has become so common that it has become a verb. However, this is the exception which proves the rule – for the most part, you want a name which conveys a meaning about what you do as a company. That way, if someone is using your name for the first time, they will at least have some idea of what it is you do and what they should expect.


  1. Don’t limit your business

While it is true that you want a name with meaning you should beware of choosing a name which could one day be limiting for your business. For example, what if Jeff Bezos had decided to call his online book selling website ‘Books Online’ rather than Amazon. Yes, it would have described exactly what they did in their first few years, but as they grew it would have become limiting.

There’s only so long you can stick with the name Books Online as you start to expand into CDs, DVDs, kitchenware, furniture and just about anything else. Amazon might not be connected directly to books, but it is simple and conjures images of something exotic. When combined with Amazon Books, it gives people all the information while still leaving plenty of scope for growth.

These are just a few tips. In reality there is no hard and fast rule about what makes a good name. There are plenty of examples of highly successful brand names which have broken just about every rule in this blog. The key is that when you know its right, it will be right. These tips can’t show you the path, but they can point you in the right direction.

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