Branding in Action: 10 Tips for Naming a Company

Naming your company may sound like the easiest part of starting a business, but it’s a crucial piece of the equation that’s actually quite challenging. Your name is often the first impression people receive of your brand, and it instantly conveys a message about your industry, services, and values. It’s important to be creative, but it’s easy to go off the deep end and choose a name that’s meaningless. How can you make the name gives people the right brand message and identity?

It’s key to put immense amount of thought into what your name communicates about you. Here are 10 key questions to ask yourself when it comes to how to name a company. These are also things to consider when naming marketing campaigns.

1. Will it scale with your business?

Think big—your company may not always be a quirky start-up with five employees. Will the name still work for your brand if you grow to become a business of 50, 100, or even 500 employees? A cute name with a pun in it might not be appropriate if you may have a corporate business in the future.

2. Is it timely or trendy?

You may be tempted to capitalize on a trendy word or phrase, but will it still sound appealing in five or 10 years? Make sure you choose a timeless name that won’t make your brand look dated down the road.

3. Is it legal?

Most importantly, can you even actually name your business the perfect name you dreamed up? Before you get your heart set on the name that perfectly captures your brand, do your research online and through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to make sure the name isn’t already trademarked. Additionally, don’t put “Inc.” at the end of the name unless your company is actually incorporated.

4. Is it too generic?

You can use a name like “Texas Human Capital,” and people will know what you do and where you operate, but will it actually interest or excite potential customers? A name that’s too broad and generic can make your brand appear dull.

5. Is it too obscure?

On the other hand, a name that has no meaning and is obscure can be confusing to potential customers. Creativity is a good thing, and a sense of intrigue and curiosity can be beneficial. Many successful brands invented words for their names. But will customer interest be piqued in a positive way, or will they just be annoyed that they can’t decipher anything about your business by the name?

6. Is it pronounceable?

Aim for a name that people will be able to pronounce without mistakes. You don’t want your potential customers to be confused about how to say your name, which may give off unfavorable view of your brand. You also risk mispronunciation in mentions on TV and radio.  These brands are success stories, but made risky decisions by choosing hard-to-pronounce names.

7.  Are you restricting yourself?

If you want to put a geographic area in your company name, pause and think about your business goals. Do you plan to stay in your city, state, or region? If there is any possibility you will want to expand, don’t limit yourself by having a geographical element in the name.

8.  Does it reflect your customers?

Hopefully you’ve already done your buyer persona research. Your customer base can be the key to marketing success, so make sure your business name appropriately reflects who your customers will be. Are you targeting sophisticated urban women in their 50s, or middle-class men in their teens and 20s? Consider age, gender, income, jobs, location, and pain points to make sure the name will appeal to the right people.

9.  Will people get it?

If you can’t afford to fund an official focus group, unofficially ask everyone you encounter what they think of the top names you’ve come up with. What do they think it means? What feelings does it give them? What do they think you do based on the name? Candid feedback from a range of people is invaluable.

10. Will it work everywhere?

Maybe the name looks really cool on paper, but it sounds weird when said out loud. Or maybe there’s no available domain name for it. Make sure the name works on paper, in email signatures, in logos, in marketing materials on the phone in telephone calls, on the building sign, and so on. And make sure there’s an available domain name for it before you settle on the name. Think about how it will translate into every part of your brand and fit into your day-to-day operations.

When in doubt, a marketing agency like esd & associates can help you develop a name for your company or campaign that conveys the right messages about your brand.

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Written by Erik Simpson

A 25-year veteran of the marketing industry and founding partner of esd, Erik Simpson is responsible for directing Account Services and Creative execution. Under his leadership the agency has won more than 100+ communication and digital industry awards, while still retaining its founding 3 regional clients and enjoying average client retention of more than 9 years. Read more.

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