A rose by any other name…
Whoa, hold on a minute!
We’re not talking posies here – we’re talking real business, in the cut-throat, fast-paced digital age. So, forget everything you’ve heard about your company name not being important.
When Juliet made this statement, indeed, she wasn’t concerned about how marketable a rose was.
Looking back, no company has ever existed without a name. If you’re to start one today or any time in the future, then it’s only natural that you’ll have to name it. The same goes to those in the marketing, advertising, or public relations sector – you’ve probably been asked to help pick a name for a product, business, or campaign.
So, What’s in a Name?
Many people, including excellent investors and founders, will be quick to argue how the name you choose for your company doesn’t matter. But how true is this statement?
Ultimately, regardless of how creative your company name is – your company will die if the quality of your products or services doesn’t match up your customers’ expectations. The same can be said about marketing and all that.
Still, your company name is worth one’s weight in gold. It might not ensure your success. But it does have a profound impact that could either make or break your company. It’s like a boat’s rudder — it’s what steers your company in the right direction.
People may not be aware of the impact a name has on them. They may not be aware that it evokes emotions. Remember, it’s not just about the name – but all the things associated with it.
A name is how you think of your business. If you think you’re expensive, friendly, and trustworthy, that’s the expectations your name will set in the people that interact with it. It leaves an impression whenever someone mentions or interacts with it—whether positive or negative.
A Wrong Company Name Will Tear You Down
The easiest way to set your company for failure is to choose the wrong name. It might not sink your company, but it can sure make things a lot harder for you.
People hardly acknowledge the impact a name has on their products, positioning, and messaging. But it does matter. Under the surface, it’s what steers your company’s messages, products, and positioning.
The Importance of Choosing the Right Company Name
The process of naming a company takes a lot of patience and focus. You have to evaluate your business from all possible angles and choose a name that best describes everything it’s involved with.
So why is it important that you do this right?
The First Thing that Comes to Mind
Your Company name is the first thing people hear whenever someone talks about your company. At best, it conveys relevance and maturity. And at worst, it conveys confusion, lack of vision, inattentiveness to details, and so on. Before you even finish pitching, people will be making all manner of judgement about your company – a distraction to the most important part of the message you intend to pass across.
Good for Discoverability
When people search for your company, whether on Google, social media, app store, and all the other places, you want to make it easy for them to find it. You want to choose a name that’s both easy to spell and pronounce. Also, if you choose a name that’s too similar to another brand’s or something that people already know, chances are your prospects will have a hard time finding you.
You’re not just choosing a name, but a conduit for emotional connection. Your company name is more like your business logo. While a good name will evoke passion, a bad one will elicit indifference and distaste. The right name will also give you a competitive advantage, with all the other factors held constant.
Represents Your Company
The name you settle for will represent your company. You want to make sure that it lives up to the image that you badly want to protect.
How to Get Your Company Name Right
What makes a company name great or bad?
One thing about a good company name is that you’re not going to forget about it anytime soon. You want to choose a name that can easily stick at the front of your customers’ mind.
Easy to Spell
Should it mean that your customers have to search your company, they should be able to spell out the name properly, without making any references.
Avoid using descriptive words like MySpace, DailyBooth, or HipChat
Must be friendly, like SurveyMonkey, Google, PayPal
Be a Little Controversial
The name you choose might rub a certain section of the population wrong, and there’s nothing wrong with it. Examples include words like Banana Republic, Virgin, or Monster.
Make It Personal
Your company should have a personality – represented by the name you choose. Some of the best-named companies we’ve interacted with have more than one personality, each of which reflects a particular aspect or uniqueness of its owners.
Reflect Your Personality
A great company name should reflect your personality as the business owner. It should raise a smile, and instantly suggest that you’re an approachable business owner.
The world of business is no longer what it used to be. Customers and clients are now turning to the internet for the things they need. Digital marketing is a huge opportunity. It also impacts every aspect of your business, its name included.
One of the secrets to choosing the most appropriate or fitting name for your company is doing some due diligence and laying the groundwork. Before you proceed with the naming process, be sure to follow the steps highlighted below:
Set a Goal with Deadline
Your goal should be to find a name that’s both solid and presentable. You want a name that perfectly represents your brand and everything you stand for. Even more important is to have a deadline for doing this. Reason being, you do not want the process to drag for far too long. Give yourself a week or two to organise your effort and come up with a suitable name for your company.
Create a Google Spreadsheet
A Google spreadsheet is meant to help you organise your thoughts and keep track of every single one of the ideas you come up with, in a single place. You can also bring your whole team together to collaborate on the task at hand without overlapping their efforts and contributions.
Organise Brainstorming Sessions
Don’t just choose a name for the sake of it. Everyone has to feel like that’s the best name for the company. So be prepared to organise numerous brainstorming sessions. Remember: you’re not just limited to brainstorming with people within your organisations. You’re also allowed to invite people from outside to bring in their fresh perspective. It’s recommended that you limit the number of participants for each brainstorming session to 8 to keep everything from spinning out of control.
Research Companies with Great Names
Look around for inspiration or companies that will help you and other co-founders understand what a great name feels and sounds like. Use these names to draw some insights into some of the tricks people use to come up with creative names for their business. Go through AngelList, Start-up Genome, and any local co-working space and compile a list of the names you like.
At this time, you’re free to bring your team together and spitball on the ideas you have.
The Basics of Naming a Company
Before you name a business, you have to first look into your company’s vision. Here are a few things to define or the questions to answer:
- What are your long-term business aspirations?
- What’s your brand personality?
- What are your primary and ultimate goals for the business?
- What values and meanings do you wish to communicate?
- What problem will you be solving?
- What are the primary and ultimate goals of your customers?
- How do you want your business to be perceived? What image do you wish to convey?
- Why are you even in this line of business in the first place?
- What brand values do you wish to convey?
- What types of customers or clients are you targeting and what exactly are they interested in?
Make a Long List of Related Words and Phrases
This list of words is to help you get started and come up with some ideas. So, it’s important that you do not skip this process.
The list of words to come up with, include but are not limited to:
- What type of products or services is your business involved with?
(for instance, if you’re setting up an accounting firm, then your line of service might include taxes, company registration, incorporation, bookkeeping, and so on)
- What material are your products made from
(e.g. a watchmaker = silver, gold, batteries, cogs, etc.)
- What problem will your business be solving?
(e.g. as a marketer = not enough income, not enough customers, poor branding, etc.)
- How do you plan to solve these problems?
(e.g. builder = save money through up-cycles, build secure house, etc).
- How do your products or services make your customers feel?
(e.g. doctor = confident, safe, hopeful, well)
How to Come Up With a Company Name: Where to Find Ideas
At this point, you want to come up with possible names for your company. Don’t forget that you’ll still have time to audit everything. And until you get to that point, there’s nothing like a stupid name.
You’re not looking for faults, but just sourcing for some suggestions. If you’re consulting anyone, be sure to remind them that you’re only taking in suggestions, not criticism. They should reserve that until sometime later.
You want to leave the room open for more and better suggestions, instead of allowing criticism to shut down creativity.
Where to Draw Inspiration
Without the right tools, drawing inspiration can be a bigger challenge than you’ve ever imagined. Thankfully, you have an endless list of tools that you could use to find inspiration.
Business Name Generator allows you to play around with different word combinations until you come up with a fitting company name. You can combine up to three different words and move them around until you come up with something more fitting.
The Core ToolKit
The core toolkit consists of a series of online tools that you can use to find some ideas on a fitting company name. It includes, but not limited to the following list of tools:
Dictionary: For a general meaning of words or related words.
Thesaurus: for synonyms. It’s an absolute goldmine.
Foreign languages: Look out for foreign words that relate to your line of business.
Google Search: Scour the internet for related topics, articles, and everything in between.
Other Places to Look for Ideas
- Movies and TV shows
Avoid Narrow Thinking
It’s okay to have some naming ideas before you start your business. However, this inspirational research should not be interfered with brainstorming. You’re simply listing up all the names that could possibly work. What you’re trying to avoid is being carried out by your early idea and not being fully committed to exploring other name options.
You’re also not filtering anything out yet, no matter how bad or ugly a particular name may sound.
The Name Doesn’t Have to Appeal to You, but to Your Target Market
You’re not looking for a name that sounds nice to you personally, but one that has a better chance of resonating with your target market and evoking the best feeling.
That demands that you answer the following list of questions:
- What do your customers or clients love?
- Where do these customers hang out the most, whether offline or offline?
- How can you describe their day-to-day feelings?
- What are their biggest fears and desires?
- What language or words do they predominantly communicate with?
Don’t Forget Images
Try to visualise your company name and draw an image of it. What emotions does it trigger?
Images are recommended because they stimulate out-of-the-box thinking. So, in your search, you also want to use Google’s image search, Pinterest, and other searchable libraries for images, the likes of Flickr, Pixabay, Unsplash, and so on.
Remember to also search for images that paint a clear picture of how you expect your customers to feel or the functional aspect of your products and services.
Don’t limit the suggestions coming in, to your in-house team alone. Feel free to invite anyone you think might have a suggestion. Involve a wide variety of people (your mum, friends, acquaintances, and random people you can talk to). Let them know that you’re in the process of naming your company and that their contribution is welcomed.
Have Fun While at It
The whole company naming process should be fun. You want to avoid left-brain discussions because they’ll limit your thinking and leave you with dry ideas. A fun approach would be to try playing word Association games. If someone suggests a name or phrase, take it a step further by being adventurous about it. Try a Pictionary version of the word or try playing around with something unrelated but fun. Anything that sets your creativity in motion is enough to set you on the right track.
Consider Foreign Languages
This idea has been embraced so many times, and it’s fascinating to see that it has worked for so many companies. Some foreign languages just sound better compared to their English counterpart. A perfect example of this is Uber, which is German for “above” with an inference to absolute or total.
How to Conduct Company Name Research
Naming a company is a creative process. It’s not something you jump into. You have to give your brain a frame of reference, starting with some ideas on what kind of names perform best.
In other words, you need to do some thorough research, and here are a few pointers on how to go about it:
Starting by doing a simple Google search on the “hottest start-ups” or “best-performing companies in Singapore.” Your ideas are not limited to these two options. You can play around with different keywords to be provided with more company names to sift through and seek inspiration.
Take your research a notch higher to find out how the various brand names are performing, both locally and on a global front. Try running your big list of company names and find out if they’re trending up or down. If a name has been trending up for the last, say, five years then that might give you a hint on the kind of names to focus on.
This might not sound like the most informative option, but checking out the fortune 500 lists of companies can be a great way to find out what are the best performing company names within your locality. These are companies that have experienced success, and it’s only natural that they chose the best company names for their business.
For some unknown reasons, some of the most creative company names are listed on ProductHunt. Moreover, they’re always listing new start-ups, and to our experience, these have the most creative names you’ll ever come across. Even better, names are listed alongside their taglines. This can give you a sense of how they came about the name.
TrendHunder has got so little to do with company names and everything to do with what’s trending. It’s a great platform to visit if you want to find out more about where the world is headed. They have thousands of lists that you can dig through and even narrow down to relatable topics for some fresh ideas.
Will your start-up need to be funded at some point? Well, AngelList is the platform you visit to find out about what kind of companies get funded. Essentially, it’s designed to offer you a glimpse of what’s happening in the world of start-ups. You’ll get to see what’s new in the start-up landscape, and get a sense of what type of start-ups are being funded.
How to Brainstorm Your Name Ideas
This is where the culling begins. It’s where your list gets narrowed down until you come up with an actual name.
However, before you can go ahead and break down the list, you have to make sure everything is organised in a central location.
After you’ve compiled your ideas in a central place, the next thing you want to do is sleep on it. Give yourself time for everything to sink in. What you’re doing is giving your brain time to process everything so you can speed up the brainstorming process when it begins.
Brainstorming is not about finding the actual name, but improving on the ideas you already have and coming up with even more ideas. There are simple ground rules for this.
Ground Rules for Brainstorming
100 Plus Names
This rule demands that you come up with at least 100 names for your company. You have to exhaust all possibilities, find out if there’s room for doing better on every new name you come up with. As you research your company name, you’ll come across so many name ideas. The point is never to stop there but to keep digging for more.
Not More Than Five Syllables
Your company name shouldn’t be more than five syllables. Of course, there are a few exceptions to these rules, but it’s true – none of the top 100 company brands has more than five syllables. The reason being, long company names are hard to both recall and memorise.
Switch up Your Environment
Don’t limit your brainstorming sessions to only one location. Try to switch it up a few times. A new place will invigorate your mind and get your creative juice to flow.
Since you’ll be running more than one brainstorming session, you must assign a different location for each.
Here are a few things to observe regarding this:
- Choose both familiar and unfamiliar environment settings
- The sessions should happen both indoor and outdoor if the weather permits
- Organise for both day-time and night-time brainstorming sessions
- Incorporate both busy and quiet locations
- Run some of the sessions with music and some without
- Now play around with different types of music (classical, pop music, and so on)
Remind all the participants that there’s nothing like a bad idea. They can suggest just about anything. Another approach would be to make a competition out of the whole process. Make sure everyone has a blank paper or pads to scribble their ideas.
Encourage participants to take breaks in between just in case their minds fail to process anything useful. They shouldn’t be under any pressure.
Make your Goals Clear
You can start by reminding your visitors that you’re just brainstorming and not choosing a name exactly. Otherwise, some of the participants may start to direct their conversion in the wrong direction.
How Company Names are Created
Ever wondered how some of the big brands you know came up with their name? Well, we’ll be providing some general examples, together with some highlights on how they came up with their names.
- Nike: the name of the winged goddess of victory.
- CocaCola: CocaCola was named after two of its main ingredients — Coca leaves and Cola berries.
- Pepsi: Pepsi was named after the digestive enzyme, pepsin.
- Google: The name Google was derived from the name “googol,” which means 1 times 10 raised to power 100.
- Adidas: Adidas was named after its owner, Adolf Dassler. It was named after its nickname, Adi.
- Intel: Intel is a shortened version of integrated electronics.
- Canon: Canon comes from the Japanese name Kwanon, the name to Buddhist Bodhisattva of Mercy.
- Nintendo: Nintendo is also derived from a Japanese word, Nintendou. Nin means entrusted in Japanese, while Ten-dou means heaven.
- Lego: Derived from a Danish “Lego Godt,” which means “to play well.”
- Amazon: Amazon’s CEO has said that he wanted the company name to start with the letter A. He settled on Amazon because it was the world’s largest river, a vision he had for his company.
- Skype: Skype has changed its name a few times. Initially, this telecommunication platform was given the name “Sky Peer to Peer.” They would eventually change their name to Skyper before finally settling for Skype.
- Adobe: Adobe was named after one of the co-founders, John Warnock. It was named after the creek that ran behind his house, Adobe Creek.
- Nokia: The name Nokia is derived from a city in Finland. It’s here that the Nokia brand first sprung into being.
- Sony: The name Sony is derived from a Latin word, Sonus, which means sound. It was also a common slang word in the US, which meant a bright youngster (only that it was spelt as Sonny and not Sony).
- Vodafone: Vodafone’s name is derived from three words, Voice, Data, and Telefone.
- Volkswagen: Volkswagen is a German word that means “People’s Car.”
- eBay: eBay settled on the name Echo Bay. But after searching for echobay.com domain name and finding that it was already taken, they had to shorten it to eBay.
- Starbucks: Starbuck is a well-known character in the Moby Dick mini-series and novel.
Conducting a Competitor Research
The main reason you should research your competitors is to avoid choosing something too similar to their company names. You don’t want to confuse your prospects or customers or be accused of identity theft.
Remember: you should be working on building your own brand instead of riding on someone else’s brand.
You can start by making an extensive list of who your competitors are. You have an endless list of online business directories to dig through. So, we expect this to be fairly easy and quick for you.
Here are some of the places to find their backstories.
- Company history pages
- Branding and naming case studies
- Company annual reports
Narrowing Down Your Focus
Narrow down your ideas and lay a loose criterion for naming your company. Chances are you’re targeting a specific market. So, you want to make sure you have some guidelines in place for what sort of name you’d like to focus on.
For example, if you’re venturing into the retail shoe business, you have to understand that your market is an ultra-conservative one. So, expect a super-cute name such as “Bubble De Boo Shoes” not to strike a chord with this type of audience. The name could work for kids’ shoes, but for this type of audience, you want to go with a more reserved name such as Newton Shoes.
While it’s okay to have a few preconceived ideas, you do not want to go with them without brainstorming everything. Fixed ideas produce limited results, and you certainly do not want to be a victim of that.
You also have to remember that you cannot foresee what lies ahead. Five years in and your business model might take an unexpected turn or shift. A narrow focus may limit your chances of making a successful pivot.
You can take a cue from Steve Job, who named his company Apple because he thought the name was “fun, spirited, and not intimating,” his words.
Apple has got nothing to do with computers. Nothing about the name made any logical sense. Goes on to confirm that branding is emotional, intangible, and visceral, not linear, literal, or logical.
When compared to its closest rival at the time, IBM – International Business Machines; it’s easy to tell that they had corporate thinking at the time of creating their company, and which has proven to be limiting and not the best option for creating a mass-market appeal.
Customers aren’t goaded by what makes logical sense. They’re emotional and want to intuitively believe, even when nothing about your brand name makes any logical sense.
Audit the Names
Before you reject any name, you must review all the criteria. Don’t forget the fact that you’ll be creating a brand. This brand will sum up all the perceptions and not just a few areas that you want to focus on.
Organise the Names into groups
Organising the names into groups will make your work easier when narrowing down your list. All you have to do is pick the best name in each group, and you’ll be operating with only a few selections.
For example, if you have 100 names and you decide to organise them into ten groups, at the end of the day, you’ll have narrowed down your list to only ten company names.
Explore Language Connotations
Before you shortlist any name, you have to run it into a language translator and make sure there isn’t a negative language connotation attached to it. You can even enlist the services of multi-lingual consultants to help you out with this. Make sure the name leaves no room for misinterpretation.
Consider Cultural Connotations
A classic example of what we’re trying to imply here is Slack. It’s a popular cloud-based collaboration platform in the US, but in Antipodean countries such as Australia, the term Slack means lazy. That could be one of the reasons the tool isn’t quite popular in those countries even when it’s pretty obvious they have millions of potential prospects there.
So, don’t just settle for the primary definition of your name. Be sure to look up for the alternate definitions of the word, and make sure it won’t be attracting any negative interpretation.
Read the Name Louder
Ask the people you’re brainstorming with to read the name louder and see if it has a ring to it. A name may look good on paper, but fail to sound that great when pronounced.
Never Ignore Trademark Conflicts
After shortlisting the names, you can now zero in to the serious stuff. At this point, we’re assuming that you have at least ten names that settled for.
You have to run a company check for the name you wish to use and make sure it’s free of trademark conflicts.
Use this link to check the name and find out if it’s still available for registration. After confirming that it’s free, you can go ahead and reserve it as you work on registering your company or business.
Next, go to whois.com and find out if the domain name is still available. For a local TLD, you can look for domain availability on sites such as exabytes. If the domain name is still available, it’s advisable to secure it immediately to avoid losing it to someone else.
Social Media Availability
Use sites such as KnowEm or NameChk to find out if you can still own the domain name on the various social media platforms. While this is important in a way, there’s no harm in adding some extra words in the name in case it turns out someone else is already using them.
For instance, if your company name is Blue cheese. In case you find out that facebook.com/bluecheese is already taken, then there’s no harm in adding “Singapore: of “Official” to the name, so it reads, facebook.com/blueCheeseSingapore or blueCheeseOfficial.