What’s really in a name? Well, nothing yet. But if your business is a success, it will soon be encapsulated by whatever word or group of words you choose as your representative. So, it’s important that you choose a name that gives you the flexibility to grow, expand, and change over time.

So we’ll start with what NOT to do when naming your business…

Don’t Use Generic, Forgettable Words

It’s too late for this! The era when you could name your company “General Electric” and be successful has ended. Today, using words this generic is a surefire way to be forgotten. You can’t compete with giants like GE (at least not yet), so you need to choose a name that will make you memorable.  

But DON’T Be So Specific That Your Are Inaccessible

On the other end of this spectrum, it’s equally harmful to choose a name that is so specific and niche that people can’t remember it. You need to choose a name that represents your story, embodies your message, and can be universally understood without too much effort. So this should rule out inside jokes, technical jargon, words that are difficult to pronounce, and anything else that makes a name forgettable.

DON’T Use Your Location 

What better way to pigeonhole yourself than to include your geographical location in the name of your business? The goal of pretty much all businesses is to grow, and this can be hard to do if you’ve named your company after your starting location. Of course there are many companies that have been successful this way, but most of them have since had to make shifts to draw the emphasis away from their geographical origins. For example, Kentucky Fried Chicken has been pushing to be, instead, known as KFC. Kentucky is a big part of their identity, but using it as a part of their name created some issues down the road.

DON’T Be Cliche

By now your options for names have already dwindled substantially, and it may be tempting to reach for an obvious cliche because it’s universally understood, memorable, and location-free. WELL DON’T DO IT! There’s nothing much worse than a cliche, because it prevents people from taking you seriously. And isn’t that what we all want? To be taken seriously? So here are some naming devices that our team thinks are cliches…

  • Using the words “premier” or “quality” in front of what you do
  • Using puns 
  • Using ambiguous geographical catch-alls like “international,” “worldwide,” or “universal”
  • Using generic buzz words like “solutions” or “systems” after your name

DON’T Invent Words (usually)

Many companies will come up with a unique name simply by mashing together two industry buzzwords into one, bigger, Franken-word. The standard grab-bag for these spare parts include “Quali(ty),” “Sys(tem),” “Dig(ital),” “Corp(oration),” “Ameri(ca),” “Tech(nology),” and the list goes on. Still, other companies will concoct nonsensical spellings of actual words to beat the search engines. Are there successful companies that have used this method of naming? Sure. But it’s often runs the risk of feeling forced and impersonal.

DON’T Name By Committee 

If you bring a great name to your committee, you’ll likely spend a long time listening to that name be nitpicked until everything that made it special has been removed. Of course it’s good to shop your name around to other business people you trust, but remember that, in the end, the decision is yours. Don’t get bogged down letting your name be nitpicked to death.

Whew! Okay, let’s get into something more constructive and positive: best practices for naming a business.

DO Consider Your Identity & Values 

Your identity as a business is pretty much all you have in the beginning, so it’s important that you play to your strengths. Who are you? Think in the abstract. Come up with something intuitive, simple, and memorable. The more you can tell prospective customers about your identity through your name, the less you’ll have to educate them.

DO Use Real, Concrete Words 

People prefer actual words over words that you’ve fabricated (see “Don’t” #5, above), because they are easy to understand. But it’s better to be suggestive rather than descriptive. Descriptions that are too concrete (or geographical) often run the risk of being generic and limiting. You need to learn what traits your target customers are looking for a in a business like yours, and appeal to those desires.

DO Use The ‘Design Thinking’ Methodology 

Design Thinking is a method of problem solving that has long been a crux in academic thinking. It’s a simple idea, but working through the process slowly and intentionally has proven an extremely useful exercise in fields ranging from business to medicine. It essentially goes like this…

Step 1: Define Your Problem

Step 2: Create A List Of Potential Solutions

Step 3: Refine, Develop & Consolidate Those Ideas  

Step 4: Choose An Option & Make It Happen

DO Ask For Help

If you’re having trouble coming up with a good name, there’s no reason that you shouldn’t ask for help! The name will still be yours, because it will encapsulate YOUR business. Sometimes we’re just in too deep to get a clear image of what we really have to offer. So why not ask a branding agency to help? This naming process is their bread and butter! It might be worth spending some money now to lay the right foundation for your future.

Do Ask For Feedback   

Once you have your name picked out, don’t keep it a secret. Shop it around to people that you trust, and whose opinions you respect to see what kind of reaction it gets. You may receive glowing feedback on your name selection, or it might be universally hated. It’s better that you know! That way you can make the necessary adjustments before you go public!