A great business name is sticky and flexible. Whether you hear it in a crowded room or say it yourself, it resonates and remains. So what are the naming strategies behind some of the greatest companies of all time? Apple was able to make people believe that the high-tech world of personal computing was friendly and inviting by choosing a common, every day name. Samsonite created an image of strength and durability that only Samson himself could uphold. BlackBerry used our sense of touch by associating the phone and its small keyboard buttons to the drupelets that form the blackberry fruit.
There are a variety of different strategies that entrepreneurs use to create a memorable and unique name for a new business. Some strategies are more successful than others, yet they all seem to co-exist, making it important to review each type to get a feel for what is available. The dynamics behind choosing a business name are easy, but the final selection is one of the most important decisions you will make as a business owner. Your company name is the doorway to your product or service. It must be nothing short of spectacular.
With that goal in mind, here are the top 5 most common business name types, with a few pros and cons of each. If you are in the process of considering a name for your new business or thinking of renaming your current business, you can refer to this as a guide to help you navigate the world of exceptional, extraordinary and mind-blowing business names.
No. 1: The Real Word Business Name
We all recognize certain names in the English language because they have become household names. They refer to products or services we use everyday. Quaker, Shell and Twitter are familiar to us because they are real words, yet they have been given arbitrary meanings on account of being associated with very successful businesses. Sometimes new companies looking to capitalize on the familiarity of a word will choose to use a name that already exists as part of a new business name. These names are best described as Real Word business names.
Amazon, Yelp and Adobe are more examples of highly successful businesses that began by employing simple, recognizable names that grew into multi-million dollar companies. In fact, most people today would probably tell you that “Amazon” is an online retailer before telling you that it is a female warrior or river. On the downside, real words are next to impossible to obtain the.com URL for and notoriously difficult to protect. Real word business names, while easy and convenient, are not necessarily recommended solutions, despite the powerful potential for recognition.
No. 2: The Descriptive Business Name
There is no doubt that when consumers hear the name “Super Cuts” they envision that there is some cutting going on, and more than likely, it’s super. A Descriptive business name is one that essentially describes a product or service by identifying some ingredient, quality or characteristic of that product. While naming strategies that employ descriptors are easy to understand and informative, they are hardly unique, and far too common. At best, descriptive names are boring, lack appeal and in most cases, are not worthy of trademark protection.
Yet, there are a few benefits to using a descriptive name to identify your business. For one, there is no ambiguity in “All Bran Cereal.” And from a marketing perspective, sometimes it’s not so bad to be direct. At their worst, descriptive names can cause consumers to associate the business with a lack of creativity and innovation. And unless you have an unusually large budget and the ability to quickly rise above the competition, a descriptive name is a tough bet.
No. 3: The Compound Word Business Name
Here is where it starts to get interesting. Many businesses have been very successful employing a combination of two common (or uncommon) words to make one new name and concept. Compound Word business names tend to be interesting and unique, particularly if new meanings can be created through the combination of words that are not typically used together.
Compound word business names are generally easy for consumers to remember because of their uniqueness and memorability – think SalesForce and FireFox. In some respects, the right combination can also incite strong curiosity, which is always a good thing for business. With compound business names, the possibilities are endless as there is virtually no end to the number of winning combinations that can be created. It is tough to find any drawback to using a really good compound word for a business name, but if there is one, its length.
Compound words have the tendency to carry more characters than other styles of business names. It may be tough, but resist using any compound name that exceeds ten characters. Keep it short and sweet and you can’t lose.
No. 4: The Associated Word Business Name
Sometimes, business names resonate because they blend two or more words together, making it fun to think of two unrelated objects as one. “NetScape” is basically a blend of “net” and the word “landscape,” which denotes an Internet landscape, making for a perfect business name for an Internet web browser. Associated Word business names include all kinds of unique names that are simply blends of other words, words with prefixes or suffixes affixed, even misspellings of other common words.
Associated words can be highly successful business names. Cisco (from San Francisco), Wikipedia (from encyclopedia) and Google (from “googol”) certainly did not have difficulty gaining credibility. These business names have strong underlying meanings and provide a much better back-story than other types of names. Associated words make great business names and can be quite successful if chosen carefully. However, getting it “right” can be tricky, and it’s easy to sound contrived or unnatural if you are not careful.
No. 5: The Brandable or Generic Business Name
When it comes to trademarking and ease of use, nothing comes close to the Brandable or Generic Business name. Brandable names are among the easiest business names to protect and one of the simplest and most effective ways to ensure uniqueness for the product or service you are offering. The biggest advantage to choosing a brandable name lies in its brandability. As consumers use and enjoy your product, your name develops a definition that describes what your company offers.
Startups and even established businesses forever look for ways to build brand awareness. The right brandable name will successfully launch any branding campaign. Consumers recall your business name and along with it, your product. For every company, across all industries, this is a huge advantage, as it prevents external “noise” created by the associations people make with Descriptive and Associated style names. It’s surprising how many people have a negative opinion of a particular business name simply because it evokes negative feelings that stemmed from a past circumstance. A unique or “nonsense” name prevents this and gives your company an edge over the descriptive competition.
Your business has a lot to gain, or lose, in your choice of name. Your business name is the gateway to your products and services and by default, your livelihood. When you are unsure where to begin, review these strategies and make an informed decision on a name that will resonate with your customers and excite curiosity. After all, you only have one business name, get it right and get peace of mind that comes from knowing you have made the right choice in a high performing, exceptional name that consumers will continually be drawn to.