What's in a name? Choosing the right name for your business…
Why is your business’ name important?
Choosing the right name for your business can be a veritable minefield. The name you choose for your business can have a huge effect on the success, or otherwise, of your small business, or indeed, business of any size. An effective name is so important, it can even prove to be your business’ most powerful branding tool.
What should your name say about your business?
Can your business’ name accurately and successfully convey the expertise, value and uniqueness your product or service? And should it?
Think of Nike, one of the best-known companies in the world; named after the Greek Goddess of victory, their name evokes the feeling of power, competitiveness (assuming you know your Classics) – you will win with their product, but despite this effective image of their brand helping you to win, it doesn’t actually tell you what their products are.
Perhaps if their name did convey what they sold, they would’ve pigeon holed themselves too much and not become successful, but who can say.
This is just one of the many minefields you will need to negotiate if you’re going to choose the right name for your business.
What do the experts say?
Some experts believe that the best names should be informative so customers immediately know about your business. Whereas others think the best names are abstract – leaving the companies with a blank sheet on which to paint their image; and also, leaving them without a cumbersome name like Trainer Village, which narrows their appeal if they want to expand to sell smart shoes in the future.
Some experts will even go as far as to say that coined names – coming from made up words – are more memorable, and thus more effective, than names using real words.
In reality, any name can work, as long as it is the right name for your business and is backed by an effective marketing strategy.
Can you get help?
It can be a complicated process, so it is often beneficial to enlist expert help when you start to develop a new name for your business.
Specialised branding and naming firms have elaborate systems for creating new company names and they know how to ensure that your company’s name echoes the personality and values you want your business to reflect. When you enlist one, they can advise you on good and bad choices and help you to come up with something that fits for you and will resonate with your target audience as well.
However, this can be expensive. Sometimes costing as much as £50,000,000; that said, it will generally include other brand identity, marketing, and design work as part of the package.
How do you choose the right name for your business?
If you decide to go it alone, these tips follow similar processes to those used by professionals, and can help you to come to the right name on your own.
• Start by involving all of the key stakeholders and decision makers in your business – whether this is just you in a start-up, or the Executive Board in a business that is re-branding.
• Decide what the business means to you/each stakeholder, and what you want to convey to your customers – in terms of personality, tone of voice, company values and your USP.
• Reinforce the key elements of your business; work you’ve done in finding a niche and developing a mission statement should help with this and enable you to pinpoint the elements you want to emphasise with your name.
• Remember, although you don’t necessarily need to be completely literal in your company’s name, the more it tells your customers about your business, the less explaining you will have to do later on.
Dos and don’ts of choosing the right name for your business
Once you’ve sat down and decided what you want your new name to convey to your customers, it’s time to start picking some options.
Many experts will condemn strings of numbers or letters, they believe people are more naturally attracted to words they can understand and relate to; something meaningful.
That said, however, you can still pick something that could turn out to be too meaningful.
• Your name could be too geographically limiting. For example, you could have a plumbing merchant’s in Burnley. If you call it Burnley Plumbing, then want to expand, people who are looking for a plumbing merchant in areas you serve that are outside of Burnley may immediately assume that you only work in the Burnley area.
• Your name could also be too specific. If you sell laptops and call your business Great Laptops, should you then want to expand to sell desktops, tablets, software and any other computer related equipment, people who find you whilst looking for one of the items from your new lines, may assume you only sell laptops and veer away from using you.
• Avoid too much personalisation. It can be tempting to build your own name into your business name. However, John’s Cars and names of this ilk hardly scream originality. As a result, try to avoid doing this. As with every rule, there are exceptions to this – Cath Kidston being one of them. Sometimes, in some niches, the personal touch can be the thing that helps your business to stand apart from its competitors.
• Don’t be boring and keep it snappy. Ideally, a business name should be easy to roll off the tongue, try to avoid dry, long-winded names.
Try to choose a name that is neither too descriptive nor too broad. Something that appeals not only to you, but the customers you want to attract, too. Names that are comforting or familiar can help customers to respond to your business on an emotional level. Whereas names that are too long, confusing or difficult to pronounce can harm your brand strength.
There is nothing wrong with a good pun but stay away from clichés and things that only you understand. And of course, really poor puns that although funny, are perhaps not the most attractive reason to do business with your company. Such as this barber shop...
At a time when almost every word in the English language is already a website owned by a business, or a squatter, the option of coining a name is becoming ever more popular.
Acura and Compaq were developed by the naming firm, NameLab.
Acura evokes the sense of precision – Acura build cars, and what else would you want from your car than something built with care and precision?
Coined terms, however, aren’t right for every business or situation. New words are complex and may create a perception that your product, service or company is complex as well – which may not be true. In addition, if you’re not employing the help of a professional naming firm, this sort of coining may be a little beyond your capabilities.
Sometimes, an easier solution can be to use new forms or spellings of existing words.
Compaq were originally a laptop company, who wanted to evoke the image of compactness and convenience for their products. Compaq was the result.
You want to stand out
But, you also want to be taken seriously. The following points may seem fairly mundane, but they are important when choosing the right name for your business.
Make sure you:
• Like saying it – you are going to have to say this word (or these words) dozens of times a day and it’s something you will be known by. Enjoy it and don’t make it difficult to say.
• Like hearing it – you aren’t just going to say the word every day, you’re going to hear it every day, possibly for the rest of your working life, make sure that you like how it sounds. And on top of that, make sure it isn’t difficult to pronounce; people saying your name incorrectly day after day will not only annoy you, it will also affect your brand building efforts.
• Like looking at it – the way your company name is written in text, how the logo looks and reads, and every other visual representation of your name needs to be considered. Make sure you like how it looks – and that the logo design ‘feels’ in line with your mission statement – before you commit to it.
Test your business’ name
Remember, when you’re choosing the right name for your business, your company’s name is:
• The first point of contact – it is the very first thing any customer is going to see when beginning an interaction with you. It can be almost as important as your product and level of service. I exaggerate for effect here, but no-one is going to buy a car from a company called Death Trap Motors…
• The initial appeal of your business – you may have the best idea, product and service in the world, but if – citing the exaggerated example above – your customers are going elsewhere because your competition looks more attractive, then you will never make a bean. The key is, no mean feat, making your initial appeal better than that of your competitors with the best name.
• The first point of entry – As your business’ name is the first point of entry to your business, start-up or otherwise, and also, superficially, the only differentiator between your company and your competitors, customers will make instant judgements on who they want to give their money to. Avoid names that put them off your business.
When you’re choosing the right name for your business, research and plan it thoroughly. Get help if you can.
Ensure that before you ‘go live’ with your new company name, you are certain that you’ve struck the right balance and tone with your name. And more importantly, successful companies don’t just have good names, they develop a strong brand identity. And in time, these brands literally sell themselves.