The name of your business can make or break it. It is like the foundation on which the entire structure stands. Get it right, and your brand can endure for generations, or crash like a pack of cards when you get it wrong. A business name should present your ideas in a way that everyone will understand.
Choosing a name for your business is important - imagine how hard it would be if we did not have them. Navigating the world would be impossible without names, and it would be difficult for customers to make the best choices without them. You do not need a complex name, but you don’t want one that sinks into the background.
Once you have chosen a name and filed the legal paperwork, it becomes almost impossible to change. Choosing the right name from the onset is cost-effective and easier than trying to change it later. Forbes Agency Council members have pointed at common mistakes people make while choosing business names.
1. Stringing adjectives together to form a name
Young entrepreneurs fall into the habit of colliding adjectives and nouns to form a new word for their business. The rationale is twisted and mostly done to reflect the feel of their product in the name. Comfy Spa becomes the name for an intended 24-hours spa. There is nothing wrong with both words but blending them together looks forced - and would sound that way. Truncations like Tron, Splenda, Ameri does not work too for the same reason. Check many of the top brands, their names sound natural.
2. Attaching less attention to names
Company name should not come as an afterthought. Naming is more complex than many people imagine, and carving out a creative name is the first step on a path with legal and linguistic hurdles lying in wait. Starting the naming process during the development phase helps you to scale the hurdles quickly. A full trademark can take from twelve to eighteen months in the United States - and this varies from one country to another.
Checking with the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) is the best way to avoid a legal battle when naming your business. Timing is crucial when naming a company or a product. If you get your timing wrong, the only solution would be to call in professionals who would help you get the name you love - for keeps.
3. Choosing names that are difficult to say and spell
Names that are difficult to say are quickly forgotten. When starting a business, make sure that it is easy to spell, hear or say. Creative State’s Brent Lollis says that sticking to this simple formula can help you come up with a perfect name for your business. Some consonants are easily mistaken for the other - and you should avoid words where this happens.
4. Business names that suggest you are limited to a particular location
It is common to find businesses that have cities or regions included in their names. It may boost your search rating - which can be very useful for young business, but will work against you in the long run. Phil Davis, a business naming and branding consulting company founder, recalled how a client who hails from St. Petersburg wanted to name his business, “St. Pete Plumbing.” Shoppers on Yellow Page quickly assumed his service is localized to St. Petersburg. Service based businesses are at a greater risk of being misunderstood if the name of the city surfaces in their brand name.
5. Picking a name that goes obsolete
As much as possible, avoid bringing the secret ingredient of your product into your name. RadioShack, for example, began to struggle for relevance the moment smartphones and mp3 players took over the market. Also, you may face trademark issues with the USPTO if you put service descriptions into your company name. USPTO provides greater protection for trademarks that are non-descriptive but distinctive. “Bed & Breakfast Registry” and “Apple Pie” are few of the names that have been denied trademark registrations for being “merely descriptive.”
6. The name is too long
Take a look at successful brands. They usually have one-word name - or two at most. Apple, Best Buy, Amazon are some of the notable brands to think about in this regard. The longer the name, the less likely it will stick in the memory - especially when there are alternatives. If you must have a long name, don’t forget to keep a shorter version of it to put out there. PricewaterhouseCoopers, for example, keeps its long name but also uses PwC.
7. Get the client involved
Your business name should reflect the benefits your customers will receive. Entrepreneurs often fall into the trap of picking names that reflect their interest, or what they plan to do. Stephanie Ward, a business coach, is of the opinion that your business name should give your clients a glimpse of what to expect. For example, “Client Connector” is a better name than “Bridge Works” for a business that serves as a link between customers and their ideal clients.
8. Involving everyone in the naming process
A democratic system of operation is favored because it allows everyone to get involved. Bringing this approach to the naming process of a company can have dire consequences. The first is that the process takes longer, and you will end up with a consensus decision - which may not be the best. A better approach is to involve only key decision makers and those who have a vested interest in the company.
9. Using words that are too plain
Words that are too plain quickly sink into the background. You may get away with this if you are the first in the category, but the moment competition sets in you need some form of differentiation. Plain words are often guilty of being too descriptive, and therefore not memorable. The boom in media makes it paramount to carve out a unique place in your niche - and a well-conceived name does the trick.
10. Being too zealous when coming up with company names
In a bid to get a company name with a matching domain name, some companies resort to misspelled names or names that get awkwardly constructed. Phil Davis described these names as sounding like prescription drugs. When you have a name that replaces “K” with “Q” or “P” with “F,” finding you on the Internet becomes very hard for your customers - and potential customers.
Names coined out of the blue like Xerox lack semantic or intrinsic meaning. Such brands will rely solely on advertising to convey their meaning which makes them expensive in the long run. Many of the companies that took this path were the first in their category. A large number of them including Verizon spent a lot of money to rebrand.
11. Sticking with a wrong name
A good number of business owners know they have chosen the wrong name, but instead of changing it they hope it resolves itself. Minnesota Manufacturing and Mining grew beyond their state, and in a bid to keep pace with their development, it became necessary to rebrand to 3M - the same fate met Kentucky Fried Chicken, which has metamorphosed to KFC.
Starting a new business brings euphoria with it. Curtail it and think through some of the issues raised. Put on your thinking cap, unlock your creativity and you should come up with a name that propels your company to its goal.
Do you own a business? Which of these mistakes have you made? What’s most critical in a business name? Tell us in the comments below and do not forget to share this article with your friends to see what they have to say.