Make a Name for Yourself

February 20th, 2017 by

Your company’s name is the focal point of your brand. It is the entryway to all that your company is and hopes to be.

Think about the associations you have when you hear a company’s name. Take, for example, Apple, or Ben & Jerry’s, or Clinique. Each brings associations to mind, and each of those associations is cumulative. Each time you interact with a company, its products, or any of its marketing materials, you’re hanging another association onto its name.

You’re building brand.  

This means that choosing the right name for your company — either from the get-go or as part of a rebranding process — isn’t something to take lightly. You’re making a long-term, valuable investment. So while your cousin Phyllis may suggest a good name or two, you should take more than her opinion of names into consideration.

Nothing against, Phyllis, of course.

So how does one go about choosing an appropriate, engaging, rewarding company name? At Double Six Design, naming begins as an extensive creative process. Then, when we have our best contenders queued up, we run all those prospects past a handful of evaluative factors.

Complexity

The expression is ‘short and sweet’ for a reason. There can only be one IBM and only one Eggo — and both names are beautifully simple to remember and spell. If you opt for a longer name, such as Mercedes-Benz or The Royal Horticultural Society of East Hampstead Heath, then you’re more likely to run into issues of complexity.

Complex isn’t ideal for a few reasons.

  • Longer names take longer to type, write, and say.
  • Longer names mean longer URLs, bigger wordmarks, and all kinds of other space-stretching issues.
  • People are more likely to misspell or misremember complex names.

Pronunciation

Is the name you’re assessing easy to pronounce? What if you consider regional accents or foreign ones?

Having a name that’s frequently mispronounced doesn’t need to be a deal-breaker (think of Nike or Porsche). In this age of online engagement, however, mispronunciation can lead to misspelling and misspelling can lead to websites that aren’t yours. That equals frustrated or lost customers. That frustration — like it or not — becomes part of your brand.

Mouthfeel

Some words are fun to say. Others aren’t. We call how comfortable a word is to pronounce its ‘mouthfeel’.

When choosing a name, think about how often your key audiences will be saying the name out loud and in what contexts. Having your CEO get tongue-tied trying to pronounce her company’s name is bad form. On the flip side, you can take a name with a deliberately provocative mouthfeel (such as Fuddruckers) and turn that into a brand element that works for you.

Own-ability

If you want your company to grow beyond your neighborhood, you’ll need to consider whether the name is ownable in the legal sense. We’re talking about establishing a trademark — something that’s increasingly difficult to to do.

As the world gets smaller, more brands compete more widely with each other for the same turf.

To run your own quick ownability test, type your prospective name into a search engine and see what comes up. If there are established companies using that name already, you can anticipate legal challenges and web search conflicts. Both mean trouble, so proceed with your eyes open.

At Double Six Design, we also always search the United States Patent and Trademark Office database for a non-definitive look at what’s trademarked in America. We then run domain name searches to discover which URLs based on each name are available.

Just because something isn’t trademarked doesn’t mean you can buy {that.name.com} for $12 a year. Domain squatters may try to charge you a small fortune to relinquish the internet real estate you need.

Regardless of your plans for growth and which tests you’ve run, you don’t want to be surprised to find you’re competing for possession of a name after you’ve announced. We recommend conferring with an attorney before you flip the switch.

Meaning

It’s more or less guaranteed; as soon as you broadcast your new name, someone will ask, “why did you choose that?”

The story behind your name is something that you can leverage for branding, marketing, and more. It’s also something that you can leave mysterious and still do fine.

Look around you and think about the company names behind the first few products you see. How many of those names do you associate with a story? Take Virgin America, for example. That name goes all the way back to when owner Richard Branson had his first record shop in London — Virgin Records and Tapes. His shop was so named because he and his partners were all new in business.

Which goes to show just how far a good story can take you; in Richard Branson’s case, all the way to the moon. Not bad for a guy who started out selling cassettes!

 

When the Double Six Design team undertakes a naming challenge, we start by brainstorming lists of names. Then we rank our best ideas against the above factors, plus a few others. Sometimes a name will score highly in all categories but one. Other times, a name will do poorly in many but work supremely well in the rest. Because of this, we recommend ranking the factors you’re considering in order of priority before you begin your naming process.

We also recommend that you let cousin Phyllis’ opinion be just one of many you consider.