Choosing a name for your business


What's in a name? Shakespeare said, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." This is not the case when it comes to naming a business.

Coming up with the right name is the most important branding decision a business has to make. It must embody your brand values, convey your distinguishing characteristics and support your brand positioning.

It’s essential to take time and follow a solid process to ensure that you do your competitor analysis, choose your name and test it before you launch into the market. Otherwise you run the risk of deterring customers and possibly spending hours of time and thousands of dollars marketing your business, only to have to change your name due to legal issues.

Types of Names

There are many different types of names. They are often classified into six categories:

  1. Geographic names (Virgin Australia), speak to the geographic areas serviced, or leverage the prestige of a location.
  2. Descriptive names (Budget Rent a Car), describe the function and purpose of the business. This category also includes acronyms and people’s names.
  3. Fabricated names (Pinterest), create a new idea out of words or word parts we’re already familiar with.
  4. Invented names (Google) stake out new territory that can be imbued with meaning over time.
  5. Experiential names (ThinkPad) map the name to the experience of using a product or service, or to what a business does.
  6. Evocative names (Yahoo!) taps into myths, emotions and associations that consumers have.

 Functional Criteria

So, you have had a brainstorming session (or three) and you have a shortlist of names. How do you decide which name to choose?

Having gone through this process many times with numerous start-ups, here is a checklist of functional criteria I recommend you use to help you name your business:

  1. Differentiated - It is essential that you analyse the competitive namespace. Your name should stand out from competitors’ names. Your name should also have “speech-stream visibility”. This means does it stand out from other words in a sentence? Does it let the eye or the ear pick out the name as a proper word instead of a common word?
  2. Too cool for school - Does the name use jargon or trending words? Names that were once hip and cool can make a company look and feel dated a couple of years later.
  3. Short - Your name should be four syllables or less. More than four, and people may abbreviate the name in ways that could be detrimental to your brand.
  4. Searchable - “Searchability” in this digital age is a key consideration when choosing a name. The rise of online searching has made it extremely difficult to build a brand around a descriptive name. If your name is too generic nobody will be able to find you amongst all the other search results.
  5. Looks good - Names appear in logos, in ads and on websites. Make sure you mock up the name and see how it looks big and small. Also make sure that your name can’t be misconstrued when visualised in a domain name. A perfect example of this is
  6. Easy to spell - If your name is difficult to spell it will confuse your customers, and make your name difficult to access in databases that require correct spelling.
  7. Easy to say - Consumers find it hard to emotionally engage with a name that they stumble over when spoken, or sounds weird when heard. A good name has “mouthfeel” - if people like the way it sounds they will be more willing to say it!
  8. Reflects brand personality - It is important to understand your brand attributes, tone and personality before deciding on a name. Your name must reflect the personality of your business and brand.
  9. Legally defensible - Make sure your name is available. Search for business names on the Australian Securities and Investment Commission website. Do a trademark search at IP Australia to make sure you can trademark your name.
  10. Domain name availability - One of the biggest constraints in choosing a business name today is whether or not the domain name is available. As a result, invented names are becoming increasing popular. Check domain name availability through a domain name registration service such as CrazyDomains.

Finally, once you have chosen your name make sure you take it for a test run with your colleagues, family, friends and potential customers. Get honest feedback before you start designing your logo.

If you would like assistance with naming your business or developing your brand contact me or book a Brand and Naming Workshop.