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Naming Your Business – What’s in a Name?

Amie Parnaby
25/05/2022
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Naming your business

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Unlike the Shakespearean rose, your business success will not be as sweet as with any other name. When naming your business, it has to shout a message to your clients and customers. Unlike your new business, that rose has an instantly recognisable appearance, a memorable scent, and a history of bringing joy to its recipients. But that is what you want for your business, isn’t it?

So while “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”, you need to sweeten your business with an inspiring name, logo and brand that will communicate on several different levels

  • What you do
  • Who you are
  • How you do it
  • and why you’re the best option.

It’s a pretty big ask for what might be a short name. But it’s far from impossible, and we’re going to go through the steps of naming your business for the best possible response.

Thet’s get ready for the ride.

What’s in a Name?

Naming a business has a lot of work to do, but so does naming anything else. Parents don’t decide on the spot what their child will be called for the rest of its life. They spend months discussing names that might suit their new baby and will be appropriate through all the stages of their life.

You need to do the same for your business.

Your business name should:

  • Suggest the nature of your business – evening if it’s a strong hint
  • Be memorable
  • Use image evoking language
  • Lend itself to development, growth, and diversification over time 
  • Elicit emotion from people

You want a name that will stick with you and become a recognised brand in your area (region/industry/etc.)

It’s not just a label you can slap on and hope for the best. Naming your business is just as important as naming your baby, and it has more functions to fulfil.

Coming Up With Naming Ideas

You have to start somewhere.

And the best place to start is a brainstorming session, whether alone or with your business partners.

Brainstorming can help you get your brain in the right mindset and think purely about the name. 

It’s not a good time to do it if you have other things on your mind because it will start to wander. 

Start with what your business will do

What does your business do? What do you want it to do in the future? Who are you? What is your story? 

How can you tell someone all of this in 1 to 4 words? It seems daunting, but when you start brainstorming, fixate yourself on your business, how you want to showcase it, how you want people to feel about it, and how you feel about it.

Start writing ideas, words, and imagery. You have complete freedom to doodle to your heart’s content – as long as it’s related to your business. 

It doesn’t matter if they are good ideas, bad ideas, or downright terrible ones. Right now, you’re simply creating a word and image impression of your business.

The trick is to keep writing for a full 15-25 minutes. Set yourself a timer and GO!

Expand your vocabulary

Now you have your big piece of paper filled with words and images; it’s time to find a thesaurus. There are plenty available online, so you don’t have to go out and buy one.

Now, find synonyms for all the words you came up with during your brainstorming session. You might not like any of the synonyms you see, but you might just find the perfect words to describe your business and evoke images and emotions in people while also being memorable and conducive to scaling.

Perfect words!

Naming Your Business – Putting Your Words together

Before you start putting words together, do one thing for me. Please don’t get too attached to any of them. You can guarantee that the one you fall in love with will be the one that’s already taken, trademarked, and all the domain names have owners. 

So how do you create a catchy business name?

A catchy business name usually has at least one of the following characteristics:

  • Looks interesting – This could be in terms of the font and imagery or spelling.
  • Sounds interesting – Using alliteration or rhyming sounds to make the name flow off the tongue. – Although be aware of tongue twisters (red lorry, yellow lorry) it’s not a good idea, but it is memorable.
  • Easy to remember – concise, evocative, but also memorable. 

You don’t get to create a new business name that’s catchy, interesting, evocative, and relevant without breaking a few rules and making a few things up as you go along.

Create mash-ups (portmanteau words for business names)

You Probably already know a lot of mash-up names from things that you use. 

  • Evernote = “forever” + “note
  • Groupon = “Group” + “Coupon
  • Netflix = “Internet” + “Flicks”

You know these, and there are hundreds more. Can you do this with some of your brainstormed words for naming your business? 

Get inspiration from mythology and literature

You don’t need to go over the top with your literary references. Still, if you spot a securely linking thread between some well-known characters or mythological figures, there is no reason you shouldn’t use the connection. 

Aphrodite Beauty – The Goddess of Beauty (lust, passion, pleasure & procreation) + Beauty = It automatically makes people think about beauty of mythical proportions, lends itself to expansion and diversity and evokes images of goddess-like beauty.

The benefit to most mythological and famous literary references is that most of the time, people will already have a firm image in their minds when they think about them. 

Use foreign words

Does your business have a foreign connection? Even a suggestion of a foreign link could make it worth your while to use a foreign word in your industry.

Maison du Vin = Quite clearly a place of French wine. It could be buying, selling, importing, making or tasting, but French wine is definitely involved.

Take a look at a map

As a start-up, it’s a good idea when naming your business to have something that reflects the nature of your business. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t take inspiration from a map.

Amazon is probably the most extensive online marketplace globally, but it’s also named after the longest river. It wasn’t that huge when it started as an online bookseller, but I think Jeff Bazos had grand plans and started with a grand name.

Another one you might be familiar with:

Adobe Systems – Thus named for the Adobe Creek that ran behind John Warnock’s (co-founder) house.

Suffixes

You might not know it, but suffixes play a massive role in naming a business. Take a common word associated with your budding business and try to add one of several suffixes to it. some of the most common suffixes are -ly, -able, -ify, -ize

  • Spot-ify
  • App-ify
  • bit-ly
  • Appoint-ly

Some of these suffixes are even available as domains, making them easy to create as a website.

Use Latin to appeal to a specific clientele

It’s not pompous or elitist to use Latin – even though it might seem that way sometimes. Sometimes it can be the most inclusive language to use when considering how many modern languages stem from Latin roots.

Acer – Originating as Multitech International in 1976, it changed its name to Acer, which is the Latin word for “sharp, acute, able and facile”.

ASICS – This is an acronym for “Anima Sana In Corpore Sano”, which translated from Latin, means “Healthy soul in a healthy body”. The origin of the saying is mens sana in corpore sano, “Healthy mind in a healthy body”, but MSICS isn’t quite so catchy or easy to say.

Make an acrostic

Do you remember making those at school? You would write your name, and for each letter of your name, you would think of a word to describe yourself. With all the words you came up with on your initial brainstorm, you could select some and make a word out of the first letters – it’s even better if you can make a word that relates to your business.

I’ll add a couple more ideas, but don’t rely too heavily on these, because they can become a hindrance if it comes to selling your business or could seem dull or unimaginative.

Acronyms

While some of the biggest brands you know might be acronyms, IBM, PCW, and MGM (okay, maybe that’s a bad call), they have more history and presence than your new business. Also, initials can be tedious and don’t say much about your business.

However, it didn’t seem to hurt Ingvar Kamprad when he came up with IKEA (Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd).

Your Given Name

You know hundreds of companies named after the founders. Why shouldn’t you use your own name? There is nothing wrong with using your given name when naming your business. However, if you are trying to convey as much about your business in a short and catchy title, your name doesn’t mean much to anyone.

This changes somewhat if you are trading on an unusual name, leveraging your personal contacts and associates as valuable connections in the beginning before your business becomes a household name.

Some Examples Of Catchy Business Naming

If you’re still struggling, take a look at some of the names below that NameSnack, the business name generator, came up with. NameSnack is excellent in that it will also check that domain names are available. What’s the point of coming up with a super-amazing name if you can’t have the corresponding web domain?

  • VitaPedic: Children’s health and wellness
  • Appify: App development
  • Verilarm: Security alarms/cameras, background checks, online privacy
  • JaneMed: Medical marijuana
  • WeeklyMarket: Food and grocery delivery

How about a bit of alliteration?

  • LawnLabs: Gardening, landscaping, lawn care
  • MediMaid: In-home elder care and homemaking
  • DogDorm: Pet daycare and boarding

Some company names that tell you exactly what they are:

  • Vinoteq: On-demand wine delivery
  • Cryptobits: Cryptocurrency
  • Biometrie: Biometric security

And The Finalists For the Business Name Award are…

By now, you should have a good few finalists for your business name. It’s time to try them out with business partners, family, friends and acquaintances. However, be aware that your closest friends might not want to brush off any terrible ideas, and vague acquaintances might be tempted to steal your better ideas.

One way to check whether your finalist candidates have the juice to become the next big thing is to check with an independent source. Eat My Words is a website that allows you to test your business name with a “Smile & Scratch” test. It’s a good idea to use the questions on there as a guideline for the people you will ask. While you might think your business name evokes emotion and imagery, it might be a different matter for someone unconnected with your business or industry.

Legal considerations of Naming Your business

You might want to think about a few legal considerations when naming your business.

  • Rights to use your name
  • Offensive language
  • Local Laws about business naming conventions
  • Registering with a local Chamber of Commerce.

While not legally binding, you might also want to check your potential name for unintended puns, multilingual offence (critical in multilingual countries) when one word might sound like another but with a very different meaning, and anything that might cause problems down the line.

A little amusement might not be inappropriate, but it could become dated later on.

Website Domain Names

No one wants the most fantastic name for their business but not be allowed to use it for their domain. While .com and co.uk domains may be running out or the domains already taken, you can think about using a different Top Level Domain (TLD) to ensure you have the right address that your clients will find easily.

Alternatively, some of the different TLDs can fit nicely with your business name. Any business name ending in -ly can always use the corresponding .ly (like bit.ly or Appoint.ly)

If you are going to incorporate your business, you can always head for .inc domains. Say a little more about YOU with a .me domain.

You don’t have to assume that .com is the ultimate in domain naming – that’s just not true anymore.

From my experience, NameCheap is still the best resource for finding available domain names with new TLDs added all the time.

Trademarking

You may not need to trademark your name and logo. However, if you have plans for your business, ensuring you have the rights and ability to trademark both your name and your identifying logo will be necessary. Using the registered trademark symbol (TM) next to your name and logo can also alert others to your claim of ownership, even before you complete the official registration process.

Usually, after five or so years, if someone decides to try using your name, you can ask them to stop via your lawyers. However, you might find it challenging to prove your claim to a name without trademarking it without a significantly established business.

It isn’t particularly expensive, and you get the right for between 5 and 10 years (depending on location and trademark type).

Expansion and Diversification

You might not have any plans for expanding or diversifying your new business when you first start, but it might be something you have floating in the back of your mind, somewhere in your nebulous 10-year plan. Unless you intend to change your business name to accommodate alterations (not a great strategy if you plan to leverage existing business success), having a name that can grow with your business will be vital.

How will you be naming your business?

You want to build a brand that is instantly recognisable, has an excellent reputation and brings joy and satisfaction to its clients. Naming your business is personal and emotional and requires significant consideration when accounting for scalability, trademarking, and future-proofing.

Use the tips and tricks above to give your name that will endure, encourage and attract clients. That’s when the rest of your marketing journey can begin.

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