Naming a business

Greg Harrington writes, “I’ve been thinking quite a bit about a topic lately—how to best name a business—and in looking for some ideas, I’ve reviewed several of your books, but don’t find anything in the way of a thorough treatment of this topic.”

Here’s what I think:
First, the main point: a brand name is a peg that people use to hang all the attributes of your business. The LESS it has to do with your category, the better.

If you call yourself International Postal Consultants, there’s a lot less room to hang other attributes. Some names I like? Starbucks. Nike. Apple.

Second, please pick a real english word, or a string of them. Axelon and Altus are bad. Jet Blue, Ambient and Amazon are good.

Third, be sure it’s easy to spell AND pronounce. Prius is a bad name. I can’t tell anyone to buy a Prius because I’m embarrassed I’ll say it wrong.

Fourth, don’t obsess about getting a short web name. If you want to name your venture capital firm Nickel (a great name, imho) then you could have and that would be fine. The only way this turns into a problem is if the current owner of the URL is a competitor (which won’t happen if you pick a non-obvious name, as I write in #1 above).

If you follow these pieces of advice, you’ll discover that there are literally millions of names available to you (lemonpie, for example, is perfect for a scuba tour company. So are orangepie, melonpie and kiwipie). You will have far fewer trademark hassles. You will have no trouble coming up with a cool name that means nothing and makes it easy for you to hang a good brand upon. And you’ll have fun.

BUT, don’t forget to come up with a great tagline. “lemonpie, the easy way to learn scuba,” for example.

PS a couple more tricks:
1. Use a stock photo CD and find cool pictures that match your name BEFORE you pick the name. If you can find a bunch of $30 images that work with a name, grab the pictures, then the name.
2. Don’t listen to anyone else. All your friends will hate it. GOOD. They would have hated Starbucks too (you want to name your store after something from Moby Dick!??) If your friends like it, run.