There’s so much riding on a name. It sets the stage for your brand and your customer experience.
Think of great brand names: Apple, Caterpillar, Virgin and Google. These names are memorable, repeatable and evocative. They set the tone for the companies they represent.
But finding these powerful names is hard. Too often companies compromise with acronyms or invented words, because they can’t find anything better. Avoid this trap.
Be an orange tree in a forest
If you needed a new laptop you could get a Lenovo, a Dell, a HP, a Toshiba or an Apple. On name alone, which one do you want to look at first?
Your name is your first opportunity to differentiate your company. Stand out. Be unique. Be an orange tree in an evergreen forest. Let all the other companies blend into the background, and you can be the unique inspiring one.
An early step in the naming process is to collect all the names of direct and indirect competitors. Analyze the list. What trends do you see? Are there common words, naming conventions or expectations? These are the trends you are fighting against.
No made up words
Verizon, Agilent, Cingular, Koodo and Enron are all invented names.
Inventing words can be very attractive during the naming process. It makes trademarking and finding domain names a breeze. Invented words are also baggage free. Names like Apple, Virgin and Caterpillar can be risky, because they already carry meaning. It takes a gutsy executive with a clear vision to commit to these evocative names.
But how memorable is a name like Cingular? The spelling isn’t even phonetically correct. Cingular spent billions of dollars in advertising to seed their name and build it up in the North American lexicon. When a name doesn’t exist, a company has to invest much more on advertising and marketing to achieve name recognition.
On the other hand, Blackberry is a far more memorable and repeatable name. It uses two words we’re very familiar with. And when you look at the device (at least the original ones) they look a lot like a black strawberry with the keys being the seeds.
Own the .com
You may come up with a brilliant name for your company, but then find someone else already registered the .com. Frustrating, frustrating, frustrating. Finding available .com names are exceedingly difficult these days, but it’s essential.
Yahoo recently acquired flicker.com. Prior to acquiring the domain more than 3.6 million people a year were accidentally visiting the site instead of Flickr.com. You can bet Yahoo paid a lot of money to get this domain.
Don’t compromise and choose an alternative domain like .ca, .net or .org. One, this means you will be sharing your name and marketing efforts with someone else who already owns the .com. And two, .com demonstrates credibility and brand strength. Every big, established company has their .com.
Give your brand a head start, and choose a name where you can get the .com.
What’s your take?
What other guides do you have for naming companies? I would like to get your input.