You have a great idea for a new business, you have a plan for how you’ll go about it, you may even have funding, customers and a web site design… Now you’re only stuck on one thing – choosing a name!We’ve spoken to entrepreneurs, marketers, strategists, branding experts and design gurus to get some structure on how to go about picking a name that will last, that you’ll still love in 10 years time and that will come to hold value in the mind of your customers.
1. How Do I Start?
Initially, begin by brainstorming a list of keywords that relate to your product/service, company or blog. Then hit the reference materials, look at dictionaries, thesaurus and online for more options around your chosen theme. Try to think of all different types of names, compound words like “Facebook”, blend together words like “RedStorm”, add affixes “coComment”, make up words like “Squidoo” or even phrases such as “StumbleUpon” or “GoToMeeting”Once you’ve got a healthy list, start cutting it all back. Begin by asking yourself:
2. Does It Mean Something?
Names can be classified on a continuum based on how they communicate to consumers. There’s a spectrum from descriptive names which speak directly to a product benefit or attribute, “Organic Supermarket” to empty vessel names, where it doesn’t mean anything about the product “RedHat Linux”.Descriptive names, such as “Murphy’s Ice Cream”, immediately convey information about what you do. They are simple, intuitive and help consumers easily identify the mission of your business.The downside? They can sound generic and boring, and the accompanying domain name is usually taken. They are also limiting in a fast-moving industry like technology, where what you do now might not be what you’ll be doing in a few years. Don’t forget, a name can be a prison… it can restrict what you offer and to whom you offer it as you move through the phases of development.
3. Or Does It Mean Nothing?
Empty Vessel Names can be completely made-up words (Kodak or Squidoo), words in another language “Hulu” which roughly translates both to “holder of precious things” and “interactive recording” in Mandarin), or those whose meaning is so obscure that people interpret it as an invented word “Google” (sparked from “googol,” the name for the number consisting of a one followed by a hundred zeros).Empty vessel names can be fun to say, can separate you from the crowd, and can be subtler than descriptive ones.But you may need to put in more money to get the word out initially. And a word to the wise: Check to see if the word means something in another language — you don’t want unintended meanings to make a mockery of your carefully crafted name.If neither descriptive nor empty vessel names appeal, try a suggestive name, which lies somewhere in between. Names like Apple which indirectly alludes to the simplistic and perfectionist values for which the brand would like to be known.
4. Will It Work Online?
Nothing kills a name faster than finding out someone else already has it, a competitor or even an totally unrelated business — and in the online hunt for domain names, it sometimes seems like every possible option is taken.More and more, search engine issues and domain availability are affecting the style of names businesses can launch with. Some people consciously try to create names with unique keywords so theirs will be the only result in targeted Google searches. Although it can be dangerous to go down this road as keyword incorporation can be viewed as spam by search engines.
5. Is It Sticky?
Amidst all the search engine and domain name drama, consider that names are memorable when they sound good. Names like “Bebo” and “Yahoo” are great sounding memorable names.You can also use poetic devices to ensure the names stick. Names based on rhymes (TopShop, HotSpot), repetition (Bebo,LaLa), and alliteration (FireFox,BlackBerry) tend to be memorable.For the advanced namers out there, try what’s called the “Part of Speech Test.” Look at whether potential names can be used in multiple parts of speech. These are stronger because people will use them in speech more often. LinkedIn, for instance, can be used as a noun “We connected on LinkedIn”, as an adjective “Did you look at her LinkedIn profile?”, and as a verb “I am going to LinkIn with him”. When a name passes the Part of Speech test, it becomes pervasive.
6. Is It Simple?
Any name should be easy to pronounce, easy to understand, easy to spell when you hear it, and easy to know the pronunciation when you see it written down. However, you can mitigate confusion by also holding domain names with likely misspellings and redirecting users to your correct site. Remember, although almost all single word domain names are gone, try to keep your name short as it has to appear in email addresses and on business cards as a www.Punctuation is trickier. Although adding hyphens to domain names or underscores to Twitter handles may allow you to get the name you wanted, people are likely to accidentally leave them out, especially when typing on mobile devices. You’re better off avoiding punctuation if you can.
7. Forget the Rules
If a name is really meaningful to you, it might work even if it doesn’t quite meet all the other criteria. So don’t be intimidated by the rules — just grab your thesaurus and get going. Check with friends, ask them to describe what type of business the name suggests, can they spell it? Pronounce it? And can they remember it a week later?