Jun 7, 2016

How to Name a Company

Choosing a name for your company is one of the most difficult parts of the branding process. It’s like naming your child. You’re defining your company from this day forward.

The naming process can be arduous, but it’s worth the effort. When you get it right, a brilliant name will set the tone for your business and brand.

To name a company I work from three core principles:

1. Focus on the Brand, Not the Product

There is a tendency in brand naming to focus on the product. For example:

  • VistaPrint
  • Shredded Wheat
  • UPS, United Parcel Service
  • British Airlines

The names are functional, but bland. They’re just another business offering comparable services to the competition.

A great company name, on the other hand, focuses on the brand and the relationship it will form with customers:

  • How do you want to be known?
  • How do you want the brand to be positioned in the marketplace?
  • How do you want customers to feel about your company?

Before you start the naming process define what the brand means. Build a brand strategy. What you’re looking for in a company name is something that defines both the brand and the customer experience.

2. Simple to Say, Easy to Remember

Great brand names are easy to say and easy to remember. This is actually born out of the structure of the name.

Ideally, you are looking for a company name with two syllables:

  • Apple
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • DropBox
  • Kodak

What makes these syllables even more effective is they each have a hard consonant. The pulse or rhythmic quality of these syllables makes them satisfying to say, which makes them even more memorable.

3. Forget About the Domain

In the mid-2000s finding a .com domain name was a key criteria for selecting a brand name. Not anymore. Good luck finding a .com that hasn’t already been registered.

This is actually liberating. Instead of focusing on domain names focus on great names for your company. Look for a name that makes your brand pop, and then work on the domain name strategy.

For the domain name strategy you have 2 primary options:

  1. Buy It: In many circumstances you can purchase domains that have already been registered. It’s like buying a house. You’re buying it from the owner versus the builder. That’s what I did with Sticky Branding. I purchased StickyBranding.com and StickyBrands.com from two different people. There are vibrant marketplaces like GoDaddy Auctions and Sedo where you can buy domains.
  2. Add a Category: You can find available domain names by adding a descriptor to your brand name. For example, Buffer launched with the domain, bufferapp.com. Eventually the company acquired buffer.com, but for the first few years they operated with app in their domain name. You can add your product or industry category to your URL as a workaround if the domain name is already taken.

No Compromises

Time is the biggest obstacle to selecting a brilliant company name.

Many companies aren’t willing to put in the time or resources necessary to choose a name that will empower the brand. This is a mistake. If you’re going to build a Sticky Brand, do it right.

This is your company name. It’s going to stick around for a long, long time. Choose a brand name that you’re proud of and that makes your company stand out.

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