What's in a Name? Plenty!

What's in a Name? Plenty!

Here's an excerpt from my upcoming book. Preorder a copy now from your favorite online bookseller, send the receipt to Rachel@LibbyGill.com and we'll enter you into a random drawing to win an iPad Mini on publication day, August 6th!

As part of my work, I’ve helped name products, books, service packages and a couple of companies.  Although it’s likely that your company already has a name, that doesn’t mean that you’re through with the naming process.  You may need to name a project, team, corporate initiative, blog, campaign, book, or just about anything else at some point in your career.

Names are important and shouldn’t be taken for granted. Some names not only tell you who the entity is and what they do, but they provide an attitude, a tone, even a specific promise. Though 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 supports your brand.  Check out these suggestions:

  • Say who you are.  When possible, it’s great to encapsulate the value proposition of the enterprise into the name.   We immediately get the gist, if not the entire picture, of Whole Foods or Boston Consulting Group.  Even company names that play with words like Zappos.com (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.
  • 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? (This goes for email addresses, too. My pet peeve is people who have completely incomprehensible email names that you can't remember well enough to search for in your inbox.)
  • 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. I recommend that you buy several variations of your name's URL 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 (clear it with copyright attorney or 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 before it sticks, since it will be unfamiliar 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 stickier Skype.

How did you come up with your company name? Share your naming tips here!