Naming your new company

Choosing a name for your business can be stressful. However, it should be a fun and creative process. First impressions count and in the majority of cases your company name will leave a lasting impression. In many instances, people are tempted to choose a name that reflects their personality. Sometimes this is a great way to explore names that are fresh and unique. It is also important for you, the company founder, to like the name. However the name should not clash with the identity or impression that you are trying to make. Therefore it is important to think about your business strategy and your brand identity when you are brainstorming names. Here are a few things to consider when naming your business:

Where to start?

Selecting the right company name can be a daunting task. A great company name (as well as its logo and slogan) conveys the entire brand to its consumers. For this reason it is easiest to reverse engineer your company name by first identifying your brand’s identity and values. Once these core values, culture, and target audience are clear in your mind it will be much easier to locate the perfect name.

There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to choosing a company name and this will differ depending on your brand. For example, a trendy B2C media company could benefit from a unique spelling of a common word (see Flickr, Tumblr, Imgur, etc.) whilst a B2B professional services firm may risk giving off a slightly unprofessional image with this approach and instead favour the use of acronyms or even Latin (see PwC, KPMG, etc.). The below presentation highlights the five main types of company names.

Eponymous Names

Linking your own name or that of a historical figure to your business is an extremely common tactic. This instantly connects the business with the personal profile of its founder which comes with its own risks and rewards.

There is no better way to take complete charge of your business’s reputation than putting your name above the door. This is especially true in an industry in which you work with business clients as it demonstrates a commitment and transparency to your work.

Eponymous company names are regularly seen in the legal and financial sector due to their professional flavour. On the other side of the coin it is also appropriate to use your own name in a family business. Bakers and Butchers often use their family names to evoke a local feel which is attractive to consumers.

In a more creative vein many companies opt to name their company after a historical or mythological figure. As these characters already occupy a place in the public psyche it is easy to convey the core values of the company through said character.

Nonetheless, linking your name to the company can be limiting and prevent your brand from standing out amongst the crowd. It is also an unfortunate reality that certain names will have negative associations that have nothing to do with yourself.

Using your name directly is also risky as negative press about you will directly impact the business and vice versa. As your business grows your name is in the hands of your employees which only increases the risk of damage.

Descriptive Names

This ‘does what it says on the tin’ approach is the most straightforward method, informing the consumer about your brand clearly and immediately. Whilst perhaps lacking in creativity, descriptive company name can be extremely effective for new enterprises.

Stating the business activity in the company name has the advantage of informing consumers exactly what you can offer. It is easy to assume that Pizza Hut is a pizza restaurant or that TripAdvisor is a travel platform for example. This is a particularly effective tactic for new businesses with low brand recognition.

The issue with being purely descriptive with a company name is that it is often wordy. Additionally, the use of common industry terms makes it difficult to protect legally or secure a domain name. Whilst descriptive names benefit from clarity they suffer in that they’re usually easy to forget. For example a name such as Custom Software Solutions, whilst clear in its meaning, can easily be lost in the mix with other companies of a similar name such as Cheap Software Solutions, Software Planning Solutions, etc..

This has a knock-on effect for people trying to find your company online. Use of common industry terms, makes it less likely that you will appear on page 1 of a Google search.

Associative Names

Using a word associated with the industry your business operates within as a company name can supply your brand with a solid foundation to build upon. Associative names is that it conveys the ideology of your company through the emotions related to an existing word.

This is effectively illustrated by Red Bull, whose name associates its energy drinks with the energy and power associated with bulls, and Nike, who associate the goddess of victory with their own products.

The downside to associative names is that whilst you might convey the appropriate image to consumers, these names don’t often inform the consumer what your company actually does or sells. This can be a problem for companies with low brand recognition.

Suggestive Names

Rather than directly stating what your company does or abstractly associating it with other things, an effective middle ground can be found by using or modifying words which hint at what your business provides.

This is often achieved by compounding two existing words to form one suggestive brand name, for example YouTube which allows you to broadcast your content online or Pinterest which allows you to create an online pin-board of your interests.

Another method is to alter the spelling of existing words to create a unique word close enough to the original. A prime example of this is the alteration of the word ‘clean’ to Kleenex, a brand of facial tissues.

Done correctly, a suggestive name should clearly suggest the service or product provided by a company whilst also allowing it to stand out from the crowd of descriptive names.

Acronymic Names

Reducing your descriptive company name to an acronym is a simple way of creating a sleek, professional company name.

A descriptively-named company with a growing brand recognition may find they no longer need to use their long-form name. This was demonstrated by International Business Machines who now go by the more memorable IBM.

Alternatively, changes in the market could facilitate the move. KFC, who shortened their name to appear healthier, or HSBC who shortened their name to appeal to a more global market are examples of this.

Whilst not overly creative, acronyms are often used by professional services networks such as KPMG and PwC as they sound professional and reputable.