Best Practices in HR
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Libby Gill
  August 6, 2019

Choose a Name That Backs Your Brand

Love this “Flowered by Howard” sign I spotted in a neighbor’s front yard. The name says it all!

As part of my work, I’ve helped name products, book titles, service packages and a couple of companies.  Although it’s likely that your business or the company you work for already has a name, that doesn’t mean that you’re through with the naming process.  You may be charged with naming a project, team, corporate initiative, blog, campaign, community activity, book, TED talk or just about anything else at some point in your career.  Names can be critically important and shouldn’t be taken for granted. Some names not only tell you who the company is and what they do, but they also provide an attitude, a tone, even a specific promise.

Although there are few hard and fast rules for naming – and often you don’t know if you’ve got a great name until it’s stood the test of time – there are some things you can do to increase your odds of landing on a name that backs up your brand.  Check out these suggestions:

  • Say who you are.  When possible, it’s a great idea to encapsulate the value proposition of the enterprise into the name.   We immediately get the gist, if not the whole picture, of Whole Foods or Boston Consulting Group.  Even company names that play with words like Zappos (a pun on the Spanish word zapatos for shoes) or Italiatour, can say a lot about their business with just their names.
  • Combine clarity and cleverness.  Although I almost always advocate for being clear over being clever, you don’t want your name to be dull or boring.  Conveying a sense of energy, enthusiasm, and personality can lay the groundwork for telling your clients how to feel about you, like Krispy Kreme or CharityBuzz. When you make your name aspirational in a way that connects with people’s emotions like Operation Smile or Save the Children, it can make a huge difference in building followership.
  • Make it sticky.  Think about how memorable your name is.  Can people recall it a day or two after you’ve told them what it is?  Can they spell it?  Does it make sense when spoken and written?  How about when you add a dotcom or other web extension after it?  Once you’ve done some brainstorming, think back to your list of proposed names – including the good, the bad and the ugly – and see how you feel about them.  You may be surprised to see what names have stuck with you or sparked additional usable ideas.
  • Short is sweet.  When it comes to naming, size matters and short is better.  Short names are generally easier to remember than long ones and often look better on websites and printed materials.  Be sure to check BetterWhoIs.com or other domain buying websites to find out if the URL of your name is available. I recommend that you buy several variations of it, including misspellings, so you can redirect users to your site if online searchers get the name wrong.
  • Create a word.  Eventually, you’ll be creating a whole brand language so why not start with your name?   The advantages of creating a name from scratch are that it can be easier to acquire a URL and trademark (you’ll need to clear it with copyright attorney or through USPTO.gov), since it’s unlikely a made-up word will already be in use.  The disadvantage is that it may require some ongoing explanation and awareness-building before it sticks, since it may be unfamiliar or obscure to potential users. Some well-known businesses like Google, Verizon and Skype created unique names by combining words in unusual ways.  Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin joked that their online search engine could search for a googol of information, or the equivalent of the number 1 followed by 100 zeros.  Verizon was a combination of the word veritas, Latin for truth, and horizon.   And Skype was originally dubbed Sky-Peer-to-Peer and eventually shortened to the relatively sticky Skype. Enjoy your name game!

Learn more about naming, positioning and branding in Capture the Mindshare and the Market Share Will Follow!