The name of a company says a lot about what it is and what it does. And in many cases, brand names are beyond a mere household name– they're a cultural icon.
Google. Apple. Uber. Everyone knows these names.
For your own company, choosing the perfect name can be incredibly challenging. Not only do you need to come up with something catchy, evocative, and brandable, but it also needs to be something that isn't already taken, and that has a URL available.
That's easier said than done. And there are a lot of potential missteps and pitfalls involved in the naming process.
These tips from Entrepreneur can help you avoid the most common company naming mistakes, helping you find something brandable that sticks.
Avoid names that are too narrow or literal.
Think about how your business may evolve over time and make sure that the company name can evolve, too. For example, if you name your company “iPhone Accessories” and later expand to sell accessories for other products, your original name will be too narrow and restrictive.(Apple might also take a dim view of your using its product name in your name.)
The same advice applies even if your company sells a niche product. For example, if you sell antique lamps, consider whether in the future, you might sell more than lamps. Naming your business “Joan’s Antique Lamps” may be too limiting once you later start selling antique clocks and furniture.
Avoid decisions by committee, but “test” your name with others.
It’s tempting to involve friends, family, employees and customers in finding a name for your company. Sometimes, this can work out well. But there are risks.
People might be upset if you don’t pick a name they think is great. You’ll also find that trying to reach consensus can lead to a very plain name. If you must involve other people, pick a small group who understand you and your business (and include a mix of right- and left-brain types so that you can have some variety).
Once you’ve selected a few possible choices, share them with a few trusted friends, family and customers to get feedback about the name.
Avoid plain words.
Plain words make it difficult to differentiate your company from your competitors'.
For example, there were many logo-design businesses worldwide when we came up with “crowdSPRING.” Many had “design” or “logo design” in their names. But we knew that we would be expanding to many different industries (logo, print, graphic, web and ndustrial design, for starters) and we didn’t want to name the business “Great Logo Design” or “ManyDesigners.”
That would have been descriptive, but not memorable and certainly not unique.
There are exceptions. General Electric is made up of two plain names. But it was one of the first companies in its product/service category and so was able to get away with a plain name by spending millions of dollars on marketing and advertising.
Avoid trends.You’ll want your company’s name to evolve as trends evolve, so be careful to identify trends and to avoid following them. For example, in the late 1990s, it was trendy to use “.com” after your company name if your company was an internet business. Then the internet “bubble” burst, and “.com” became synonymous with having no business model at all.
The companies that survived quickly dropped the “.com” from their names.
You can read more about naming you company over at Entrepreneur, including things that you should be doing.