What Goes Into a Company Name?

Founder Profile

Few things are as important – or as frustrating – as choosing a name for a new company or product. As Ian Hunter once sang, “all the good ones are taken,” and although he was opining about another subject entirely, it can often seem that there are no decent names left. While it’s true that many great ones aren’t available anymore, the reality is that there are plenty of awesome names out there for the taking. All it takes is a little bit of creativity and discipline to find the perfect moniker. Here are four key things to consider.

1 – Never fall in love with one name. That’s because there may be legal issues with using it or the domain name is taken, but there can also be other problems. We recommend having a list of names that you like (or at least don’t hate) so that you won’t be crushed when your top choice doesn’t work out. A lot of times people get attached to their working name, so using “Newco” can help stave off this common situation.

2 – Make sure that your name “works” in the real world. Using a variation of a common word can be effective, but remember than every time you say the name of your company you are going to have to say, “I work at Funntrp – that’s ‘fun trip’ with two N’s and no I.” Trust me, it gets old quickly. Also be sure that your name doesn’t have negative connotations in other languages (the “Chevy Nova” story is completely apocryphal, but it’s still kind of awesome to think about GM screwing up be selling a car in Latin America with a name that means “no go.”)

3 – Unless you are running a very deep B2B play that has no aspirations of building a public brand don’t use .tv or other extensions. No one is going to remember that you are a .biz or a .net because most people are conditioned to type in .com. Vator.tv is an exception to this rule because they make the .tv a core part of their name and their brand, but in general we recommend against going in that direction.

4 – Most new branding tests very badly but improves over time, which is why you shouldn’t crowdsource your name or give in to initial negative feedback. Gap famously pulled its new logo after less than a week because a bunch of designers blasted it in the Web – this was a terrible decision because people would have gotten used to the new one very quickly. Chances are that folks who hate your new name will have it rolling off their tongue with no problems in a few days. Trust yourself.

VerbFactory is an Oakland-based marketing company that primarily works with technology and Internet companies.

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