8 creative ways to choose the right name for your start-up

May 05

8 creative ways to choose the right name for your start-up

Your company’s brand begins with the name. The name is the simplest and most frequent expression of the brand. So getting it right is essential.

Avoid Eenie Meenie Miney Mo

How it reads, ease of committing it to memory and finding it online are important considerations. Here is a framework for methodically going about finding the right name for your company. A framework gives you a better result and demonstrates to others in the company how the name was derived.

Write a value proposition

Clearly defining your company’s position and message is the first step to arrive at an original name. By defining the precise nature of the business, steers you in the right direction and away from generic names.

Worldwide Global Enterprises Inc may tell people you have an ego problem, but does little to explain what the business offers.

A company name doesn’t always need to express the entire proposition. Brand managers often add a qualifying statement. The industry calls these statements slogans, taglines or straplines.

Overtime a strapline can be changed as the brand changes, or dropped altogether when recognition of the brand values is established.

Play with serendipity

From the value proposition, pluck out key words, phrases, analogies and metaphors. Generate many associated and opposite keywords, by plugging your original set one at a time into websites like OneLook Reverse Dictionary.

What is so valuable about this dictionary, is it returns keywords in a random and unexpected manner. It takes your brand in directions you may not have considered.

As you view lists of keywords, keep a record of words you think work, and group these words by similarity under columns on a spreadsheet. Give the groups name to help make identification easier. You can drive further serendipity by mashing words together to create new ones.

futurebooks company name

Keep it short

The shorter the name, the less chances the name is misspelt during an online key search. Long names are often misspelt on cheques and in contracts, which can cause some frustration for administrators of the company.

Conversely, shorter names are also easier to pronounce and easier on non-English native speakers. Also, long names are unique but harder to commit to memory and often difficult to turn into an elegant logoface.

As a rule of thumb, keep the name to less than three-syllables.

Google it

To help your company to be discovered online, you can take some of these keywords, and test to see if users are searching for them. If you discover search volume is low, you may decide to steer away from using these keywords in the name and copy on the website.

To sample search volumes of keywords, use applications like Google Keyword tool.

Make it unique

It is not easy to register company name that is not already in use, and even harder to find an available domain name.

A popular solution is to slightly modify a common English word, without altering its meaning. Recent examples of entrepreneurs using this technique include Flickr and Orkut. This makes the name unique, so it is easier to discover online and register the domain name.

Some argue that users find these kinds of modified words hard to remember and therefore are likely to misspell them. I disagree. For online businesses, being ranked on page one when a user key searches the business name is paramount. A unique name achieves this because you compete with fewer similar keywords.

In addition, you can create associations with other ‘like’ businesses. It is no coincidence that Spotify, Cloudify, Backify were named using similar suffix. The three companies may be separate, but their association to the consumer is powerful.

Translate in foreign languages

Assuming your company name is an English word, check it has no offensive meanings in common foreign languages like French and Mandarin. If the company plans to target a Europe audience, check German and Spanish too.

It is fairly easy to do this using Google Translate.

In addition, check the word does no slang meanings. You don’t want to use a word which for some reason has a negative connotation in other English-speaking countries.

Urban dictionary is a good place to check the full range of possible English meanings.

AB test before committing

A few entrepreneurs I know not only conducted AB testing on their homepage layouts, but try different names. Interestingly in such experiments, names have proven to influence response rates. A likely explanation is a well conceived name invites curiosity and cognition.

Like looking at a person, we judge the personality of the brand in a few seconds and decide if we want to be friends or not.

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Posted: May 5, 2012

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