How to create the perfect name for your business
What does your name say about your business?
The Carpenter Bee absorbs the honey of the Dahlia. The scientific name is Xylocopa Appendiculata Circumvolans. Not exactly one that sticks in your head is it.
So, you’re starting your own business and need a name, or want to rename the one you’ve got – how do you come up with something that really gels?
Think of the most memorable business names you know; Amazon, Apple, White Stuff… These catchy names didn’t happen by chance; they didn’t just appear in the founder’s head fully formed. To create a name that’s so memorable it sticks takes hours of painful contemplation, cogitation and discussion … or does it?
Ask most businesses and they’ll tell you of the journey they went through to come up with a name – it’s not a quick and dirty process and there is no tried and tested method, it’s very much a creative process. But you must put in the work at the beginning stage of your business because, not only does it have to reflect your business in such a way as to stick in the mind of your clients, but it is a name you have to live with for the foreseeable future. It is also key to differentiating you from your competitors. Customers associate a business name with the value it provides them. It is so important in fact, that businesses have failed because of an ill-conceived name, so it’s essential to get it right in the early stages.
So how did the big guns do it?
Amazon, the biggest name in online retail, was originally going to be called “Cadabra,” as in “abracadabra,” but was considered too obscure. The word “Amazon,” came about because Jeff Bezos wanted to make a link between the earth’s largest river and the world’s largest bookstore. Then there’s Apple, named after one of Steve Jobs’ fruitarian diets. He chose the name because it sounded “fun, spirited and not intimidating.”
People have many different reasons for their business names; White Stuff, the clothing business was the result of two friends and their love for skiing. Citrus Web, a website development business, wanted to add a new zing and zest to websites. And Rather Inventive, a website development company, wanted the name to denote the creative side of technical website development.
My own business name – Keskidee – was born of a conversation with some friends who suggested I dig into my background for some specific connection or memory. I came up with the name Keskidee because of its close personal links with my early childhood in Trinidad. My father was a keen sailor and owned a series of dinghies and small sailboats, many of which were called Keskidee after the Great Kiskadee flycatcher bird, found in South America and some parts of the Caribbean. It’s a striking colourful bird which really stands out – just how I wanted my marketing agency to be.
So, given the thought processes that went into these business names, how are you going to come up with your own? Before you panic and start working your way through the dictionary, consider these pointers:
- Brain dump words that relate to your business – anything you can think of, get them down, without judging them – you can curate them later
- Don’t be too complicated – big words don’t impress people, memorable words do.
- Don’t even think about copying your competitors, unless you want a lawsuit on your hands.
- Choose a name that’s too vague and people forget it almost immediately, too meaningful or specific and it limits the scope of your business.
- Avoid using your name – come on, you can be more creative than that.
- Choose a name that’s scalable. You don’t want to tie yourself into one specific line of business but allow yourself to flex if necessary.
- Don’t choose a name just because it’s available as a domain
- A note about acronyms – there are plenty of businesses with abbreviated names; IBM, H&M, CBS, B&Q, KFC … An acronym could work but personally, I feel this is an easy way out. It’s too cold and corporate and just doesn’t reflect the personality of your business.
Perhaps you’ve found the perfect name, and then you realise that hundreds of other businesses have the same name or variations of it. That’s not necessarily a deal-breaker but this won’t help when it comes to getting a unique website domain. And legally, your name cannot be the same as another registered company’s name. If your name is too similar to another name or trademark you may have to change it, by which time you’ll have spent good money on marketing..
If you’re flustering and wondering if you’ll ever come up with the perfect name, think yourself lucky. One of my customers is currently trying to find a name for a new business she’s setting up with a friend. Two people of different backgrounds and with different, if complementary, skillsets involved does not make for easy name creating. Whenever one of them comes up with a suggestion it doesn’t work for the other. It’s a challenge, that’s for sure.
Perhaps you’ve already considered the above pointers, you’ve tried mixing up your names, tried making puns out of it, considered words that say something about the purpose of your business but none of it really works. What should you do?
Give it time. If you’ve considered the pointers above then you’ve done the leg work, it’s now time to pass on the duty to your subconscious. Give your brain the task of coming up with a suitable name and it will quietly mull in the background while you get on with other things. They say that the best ideas come when you’re least expecting them, like in the shower. Suddenly – Eureka moment! Your brain will spring the perfect name on you.
Finding a name is an important part of creating a new business or reviving an existing one, it needs to reflect your business perfectly, be memorable, and be a name you can be proud of. So, give it the proper thought it deserves – then hand over to your subconscious. Your perfect name is out there somewhere, and your mind will pluck it out of the air when you’re least expecting it.
Once you have a name for your business you need to create your brand. Periodically, you may need to refresh the brand so it better reflects what the business is about, but there is a difference between changing a brand and refreshing it as our blog explains.