Articles about business naming and branding

3 Tips for Business Naming

Like product names, great company names should capture key attributes, roll off the tongue, and trigger terrific stories. Company names are no different, but have some extra lifting to do.

The danger of descriptive names

Besides lacking the storytelling potential of a metaphoric name, overly descriptive or functional business names can be problematic if your company expands beyond its initial offerings.

For instance, think of the difference between the metaphoric name Amazon and a functional or descriptive name like Books-A-Million. Both companies eventually expanded beyond books, but Amazon’s allusive name allowed for a more seamless transition from online bookseller to online marketplace of everything.

Similarly, avoid choosing a name that is tied to a geographical location or named after a founder. As with overly descriptive names, either of these directions could box you in should you relocate or sell your company.

Fingertip media

Names don’t need to be excessively short (a common misperception that can lead to weak monikers), but in today’s world of tweeting and blogging your name should not induce finger fatigue.

For instance, the trimmer versions of these iconic companies—3M (Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing) and Starbucks (Starbucks Coffee, Tea, and Spice Company)—are not only stickier but faster to type. Even a small change can make typing easier—as was the case when Mark Zuckerberg dropped the “the” in front of Facebook.

Domain considerations

Business names, unlike many product names, need a dedicated URL. Unfortunately, despite numerous efforts by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to popularize other extensions, dot coms still rule the roost. This makes it difficult to get an exact match for natural language names as many of are either parked, owned, or too costly to purchase.

A smart workaround of this problem, is to add an extension—a good extension, in fact, can even contribute to better search engine response. But regardless of any bonus, it’s always preferable to add an extension to a great name rather than choose a lesser one for the sake of an exact match URL.

Another thing to avoid when seeking an exact match Unnatural spellings. These create confusions during search and eventually lose their freshness—for every Google, there are thousands of odd spellings that haven’t withstood the test of time. So whenever possible, stick with natural spellings. And always avoid the use of hyphens and special characters.

Finally, don’t forget to check your selected URL and name for availability. You can use a professional screener (recommended) or search yourself — Network Solutions for URLs, and TESS for trademarks. And if you if you discover a URL of interest is registered, but not in use, you can locate the registrant through the official ICANN WHOIS site and try to negotiate a purchase.

If you keep these things in mind when naming your company, you increase the odds of coming up with a stronger, stickier name that stays fresh over time.