With 26 letters and 10 digits at our disposal, you’d think that it would be relatively easy to combine them into an original name for a company, product or service.
About 543,000 businesses start each month in the U.S. Nearly 30,000 consumer products are introduced each year. And just think about how many web-based businesses and service businesses are started. All of them need to be called something. It gets more challenging every day.
More than ever, having a recognizable combination of those letters and digits is paramount for building a successful identity.
We’re often asked by clients to develop identities – to give birth to a brand. It’s an energizing and mind-bending exercise that requires research, creativity, inspiration and, on occasion, some single malt scotch to develop names that meet a bunch of criteria:
- Is it ownable and trademarkable? Will it be confused with another entity outside your category? You want a name that is distinctive and recognizable. And you don’t want a name that has existing meaning. The Isis Wallet service recently changed its name to Softcard to avoid any confusion with the Middle Eastern terrorist group. You can use the USPTO website as a starting point; a good IP lawyer can conduct and official trademark search and handle the filing.
- Does it lead easily to a discussion of the brand story or positioning? When your people are asked “Why are you called ____?” the answer should be reflective of who you are and what you stand for. Every time someone speaks or writes the name, it should remind them of what makes you special.
- Is it easy to spell and pronounce? The more time it takes customers to spell and pronounce your name, the less time they have to learn about your products and services. If you confuse them, you increase the likelihood that they will go elsewhere. Keep it simple. Lyft is a great example: it’s “Lift” with a “y” (hinting that the service is novel) which makes it easy to read and communicate. (Here are some that are more challenging.)
- Does it resolve easily in a congruent .com domain? Many will equate your domain name as your company name. It happened with our former name, Spark. Our website was sparkcreatives.com. Many of our clients introduced us as Spark Creatives. (Ugh). With all the domain squatters out there, this is one of the most difficult aspects of finding a name. Of course, you could select one of the thousands of available domain name suffixes, but unless you use .com, .org or .net, expect customers to get it wrong. Dot-com is the default.
- Can you own the corresponding social media properties for your name – especially Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube? See #4 above. You want to have handles and pages that mirror or are as close as possible to the name of your company, product or service.
- Does it lend itself to undesirable abbreviations, alliterations or associations? People will invariably abbreviate or truncate your name. Will the outcome be acceptable? (I don’t think the people who named their bank First Union were thinking of that.) It would also be wise to check out Urban Dictionary to make sure your name doesn’t have a slang reference that you may not even know about.
- Does it work in all countries and cultures where your business operates? This is where you need to balance having something that is distinctive enough to stand out, yet basic enough to translate properly into different languages. It’s not easy; even the big companies and brands slip up on occasion.
Bestowing a name upon a company, product or service is one of the most invigorating and enduring assignments that marketers can undertake. It is a time of excitement, change and opportunity. Done well, it’s also one of the most rewarding responsibilities out there.