How to Name a Business – Brand & Purpose

How to Name a Business - Brand & Purpose

The other day I received an email from a loyal reader, Mike, asking me how I decide on naming a particular business.

Naming a business is usually one of the first steps in developing your business plan, and it is crucial that you give this step proper time and thought.

The name is essentially the first thing people hear or see when they first come into contact with your business. It is very important the name be 1) memorable (brandable), and/or 2) clearly communicate your company’s purpose.

Let’s first take a look at a few examples of business names which have become both very memorable and/or effective at communicating company’s purpose:

Google: If no one knew that Google was the biggest search company in the world, no one would have a clue what the company does. Google’s advatanges lies in that it is such as memorable name, so much so that people have started using it as a verb. How many other companies can you think of that even ryhme with Google? I can’t think of one.

Microsoft: Unlike Google, if no one knew who Microsoft was, they would probably have a very good idea of what they do – they create software. While it may be easy to argue that Microsoft is a brandable name, this is because it has been widely known name for the past 15-20 years.

McDonald’s: McDonald’s is a great example of a corporation that is so brandable, that people have developed nicknames for it like “Mickey D’s.” Accordingly, many of the food items have been branded in a way that also includes the company name, “Big Mac,” “McNuggets,” etc. It is interesting that although the name McDonald’s isn’t necessarily so memorable, it is the image they have attacted to it that is.

Choosing a Good Name

Communicating Purpose: You can be traditional and develop a company name that clearly communicates your company’s purpose. For example, my local business journal is called “The Scottsdale Review.” Anyone who came into contact with the name would have a very clear idea what our business does – it provides, business, shopping, and local nightlife reviews.

Creating Brand: You can also try to be unique in your company’s name and create a memorable brand. However, you must realize there is a high-risk, high-reward factor in developing an out of the ordinary name. If you create a business name that is too obscure, people may not remember it. On the other hand, if it is easy enough to pronounce and say, it can be extremely effective.

If you choose to go the route of creating a unique name, something that has worked for many businesses is combining two words together. For example, for my web development business, infinFX, we combined the words infinite and FX (effects). While it may not be the easiest to say, it is easy to visually remember.

The Dot Com: The Web 2.0 age has given birth to many unique company names. Flikr, MySpace, YouTube, all of these are unique names that have become easy to remember and in some way communicate the company’s purpose. Not only are all these company’s similar in that they possess unique names, they also own their dot com address.

Conclusion

With the Web being such a powerful marketing force, I will only choose a name if I can secure its dot com address. Every business I have, I own the dot com address to it. That is the reason that branding has become so important for all of these Web 2.0 startups – not only must they posses their dot com address, but they also much have a unique enough name that their dot com address is still available.

9 thoughts on “How to Name a Business – Brand & Purpose”

  1. Very useful post. I’d suggest adding something about checking names for conflicts, recognizing that legally a lot of people can be named John Smith and there can be an Acme Corporation in each state; what isn’t legal is trading on somebody else’s name.

    Also, I see people fixating too much on the domain name, forgetting that it’s the whole business of doing business, branding, that makes a domain name memorable. Google meant nothing before Google, Amazon wasn’t related to books, and Yahoo! was a cheer or an annoying person before it became Yahoo!. Get something short and hard to mispell and then build the brand with marketing.

    — Tim

    1. I always thought it was kind of ironic that the Amazon rainforests are being slashed and burned at break-neck speed.

      And that paper comes from trees. 🙂

  2. Gotta have the dot com. Absolutely.

    I like the whole process of branding. Like you said Nate, it’s critical to nail this down at the beginning.

    Your name sets the mood or tone of what the company is all about. When people first hear it or see it, they’re going to have a reaction to it even if they know nothing about what you do.

    You can build subpar names into great brands with enough cash. And knowing that, choosing a great name saves you a lot of cash.

  3. besides the 2 factors stated, i think another factor is to ensure your company name can be pronounced easily and has to be short … amazon, bestbuy, ibm, dell, honda and boeing all has the characteristic of simple yet easily pronounced name …

    compare that with not so famous kentucky fried chicken … ever wonder why starbucks is more popular than the coffee bean?

    once you got the name, the next is always marketing and a good business model (yeah, i know everyone knows this) …

  4. I would like to brand my own name, however, my concern is that as you involve other partners in your business, they would not be willing to give up their name recognition for yours. Considering this, are you better to fulfill your dream of personal branding or create another brand name that would be all inclusive?

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