What's in a Name?


What could be more fun than naming a new company? Almost anything? While it’s true that the idea of naming a new product or a startup company sounds like the ultimate creative assignment, it can also be very stressful. There are so many ways you can go with it … starting with the wrong way.


Case in point, you could name your company the same way I named my cat. The night of the adoption, we asked our waitress at dinner for her opinion. She was up for the task and asked every one of her customers for suggestions, and later returned with a napkin full of names. That random exercise proved successful. But don’t try it at home. Or at the office.

Naming competitions and games might work for your pet goldfish, but your company is hopefully going to be around a lot longer. Your company’s name needs to be authentic, a true reflection of your brand. It will impact all future marketing, and in ways you may not think about until you realize you missed the mark. And possibly your trademark.

As a general rule of thumb, your company name should not:

  1. Offend people
  2. Confuse people
  3. Contain too many characters
  4. Limit you geographically
  5. Be too trendy
  6. Blatantly copy another company name
  7. Use peculiar spelling
  8. Add superfluous prefixes or suffixes
  9. Contain overused “buzz” words
  10. And, obviously, be trademarked to someone else

It doesn’t take long for the name game to turn into a brain drain. You start to question every single syllable. What if no one can pronounce my name or understand what it means? What if someone else already has the name? How can I keep the URL short and sweet? Why is every possible domain already taken?

Don’t Give Up. Don’t Settle. Keep Plugging Away ...

The biggest mistake you can make at this point is to give up, thinking you are wasting precious time and energy on the naming process. You know that you need the right name to have a strong brand identity, but the process has worn you down. It might be time to get help.

There are companies you can hire that specialize in naming. Big brands spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a naming strategy. Pete’s Pet Sitting in Piedmont doesn’t have that kind of budget or need. Everyone in Piedmont knows Pete and his pets and his cute logo. He is well branded for his local audience. He has a strong word-of-mouth business, too, and all of his flyers and business cards have a distinctly “down-home” comfortable feeling. Nothing too fancy for Pete’s. He is the brand. He got it so right, maybe by accident, but it works. What works for you?

Your company name should:

  1. Be the right length: Research says 5 to 10 characters
  2. Work well in an email subject line
  3. Fit nicely in a tweet
  4. Be easy to recognize
  5. Connect with your audience
  6. Truly represent your company

Your company name should be a true reflection of who you are, but not be so personal that no one else “gets it.” It should not be so clever that no one gets it either. It should speak to your audience, not just your best friends and co-workers. Get their opinions. Take surveys. Conduct focus groups. Do your research. Google similar businesses. Check out your competition. Do a domain name search. Yet, at the end of the day, rely on your own intuition and judgment.

You can create a new version of a word by adding an “ly” or an “ity” to your name, but only if it makes sense and is easy to read and understand. You can come up with a completely new word. But don’t just do it for the sake of being clever. Do it because it is part of an overall strategy. The word, the overall look and the logo should tie together to create one cohesive first impression. That all said, leave some room for creativity and gut instincts. It has to feel right to you.

We struggled for weeks to come up with the name “Ananta.” We arrived at the word because it means “infinite” in Sanskrit and we were marketing wellness in the early days. We connected the word “ananta” to the word “creative” because our business was founded by the creative team: a photographer, a copywriter and graphic designers. Yet we knew that the word had to stand on its own.

People will comment that they love our logo and our look. The word “ananta” opens up a discussion about our core values and mission. Think about your brand a few years down the road as well as a few hours from now during a new business presentation. Imagine yourself in front of a room making your pitch. Now visualize your company’s name on a sign outside your door or on your building. Picture the name on an app, in a web address, on a flyer, on a business card. How does it feel to you?

Still not sure what to name your company?  We are happy to sweat it out with you.

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