Naming Your Venture… Building a Brand That Matters
Developing a name for a new venture is one of the hardest things any entrepreneur can face. Ultimately, finding the perfect name requires a balance between creativity, utility, and design to create value
So, as you start developing a list of potential names for your venture, here are some things to keep in mind:
- YOUR NAME “COULD” BE REPRESENTATIVE OF YOUR IDEA: It goes without saying, but if it’s possible to build a name that connects to the product or service you will deliver, you’ll have an advantage. This is especially the case if you have a product or service that creates a new market, or differs greatly from offerings in an established market. Critically, you have to remember that potential customers don’t know about your brand before it’s released… and usually won’t recognize it until after they’ve heard it a minimum of three times. The alternative is making up a word that can be used as your brand name. A Babson start-up did just this, making up the name “Finroo” to be the brand behind a website that lets artists submit their designs for use on limited edition clothing products. Finroo as a word means nothing about clothing, but it is a brand that is both unique and appealing given the nature of the business. Ultimately, you’ll have to decide what is best for you and your venture, 1) creating the perfect name that describes your product and is more recognizable to potential customers, or 2) creating your own perfect name that can BECOME the word synonymous with your product for potential customers. Either way, you’ll have to market your product to build the brand, but in the latter case, you’ll likely have to spend more to get the same result.
- YOUR NAME SHOULD BE EXCITING TO YOUR POTENTIAL CUSTOMERS: Depending on who your customers will be, your name will need to be catered to their expectations. Google is a great name for a search engine, but would be a terrible name for a professional services company trying to sell consulting to enterprise clients. In general, the best way to gauge interest is through a focus group or survey. Come up with your 10-15 best options, then let others vote on which they like best to represent your product / service. It’s important to describe your product to these voters, and you should make every effort to use potential buyers as the group who votes. The more votes – the more interest.
- THINK GRAPHICALLY: In a visual world of print and electronic marketing efforts, you’ll need a logo that sticks out – and the logo should stick like glue to the name you pick. As you develop names, though it isn’t necessarily required to do so, you should also be thinking about what the logo might look like. For many companies, the name is a big part of the logo, but for many more, especially in consumer product markets, the logo doesn’t have to include the name (and in many cases, shouldn’t). The best logos are instantly recognizable – and in many cases, are simple and direct. Think about Nike’s Swoosh, the apple on the cover of a Mac laptop, or the McDonald’s Golden Arches. In all of these cases, the name isn’t included… but in each case, the logo is tied to the name. As such, you should consider “Logo-ability” when considering names.
- SHORT IS SWEET: Winning names come in all shapes and sizes, but a good rule of thumb is to look for a name that has 2-3 syllables, MAX! Amazon (3), Nike (2), Apple (2), eBay (2), youTUBE (2), FaceBook (2), L.L. Bean (3), are all good examples . Though the idea that less syllables is more for a name is solid, don’t get hung up on trying to come up with a one-syllable masterpiece – these are few and very far between. Ford, of Ford Motor Company is a clear winner in this group, but is hard to duplicate. Further, selecting a name that is easily shrunk down to size for marketing purposes (ie – Chevrolet to Chevy, Federal Express to FedEX, etc.) may forceyou to market two names – the complete name which more aptly describes your product / service, and the summary brand. Finally, acronyms like UPS (United Parcel Service) may seem like a good idea, but for startups are difficult to project into a customer base – that is unless you find a neat way to build an acronym that makes another (DESCRIPTIVE) name for your company. But, if this is the case, then why bother with the bigger name, when the smaller will do just as well.
- IT’S NOT A SPELLING BEE: This one is easy. If you have trouble spelling it, don’t use it.
- YOUR NAME MUST BE UNIQUE: Having the perfect name only works if that name isn’t already in use or registered – but you don’t have to pay a major law firm to do the initial search for you. A good place to start is the United States Patent and Trademark office (USPTO.gov). Do a basic trademark search using their online system. Then, after you’ve reviewed registered trademarks (and assuming there isn’t an existing mark), the next place you should look is a simple web search with your name and the type of business you intent to pursue. For example, one Babson startup selected the name “Pingora Pack Company” as the perfect name for a company building backpacks for hiking. Though the name was ideal for the market, sounded cool, and was free of registered trademarks on the USPTO site, the name had been used in commerce by another manufacturer of backpacks. Ultimately, they couldn’t use that name because the other company had common law trademark rights to it. A simple search for “Pingora Backpack” was all it took to recognize this overlap.
- YOUR NAME SHOULD BE AVAILABLE ONLINE: In this world, the power of the Internet as a marketing and sales tool for developing your business is limitless. For that reason, most consumers now EXPECT you to have a presence online. Often times, even if they don’t know your website address, they’ll use your company name to find it. As such, you’ll need to secure a domain for your website that is as close to your company name as possible. Go to any website that can register domains (ie – GoDaddy.com), and see if a domain is available for your name. If it’s not, don’t get discouraged. Try alternate spellings, dashes, or the addition of other words to your name to make it unique online.
- TEST AND EXCEL: Once you’ve selected the PERFECT name, test it. Talk to as many people as you can, and ask what the name means to them. Then show them / tell them about your product or service. Does the name fit? If the answer is no, or if their idea of the name is something TOTALLY off-base, you may want to re-evaluate. HOWEVER, if you get a positive result, you know you’ve found a flag worth flying above your new company.
Overall, I hope this helps you define and develop your entity’s name… and helps you create a brand worth being proud of.
Please add your own comments, stories, or other branding considerations not covered in this article in the comments section.