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Home » Branding, Marketing

The Number One Question To Ask When Naming A New Business

After nearly twenty years of corporate branding experience, the same question still arises when naming a new business – “What is the most important factor when deciding on the best company name?”

Some naming experts would argue it’s the length of the name, or the ease of pronunciation or the uniqueness. Others would say domain name availability or trademark clearance. I’ve come to the conclusion that the best answer to that question is yet another question.

Does your proposed business name create a “Huh?” Or a “What!”

A “Huh?” indicates a roadblock. It says, “I don’t understand and neither do I want to.” If you were at a trade show, your potential customer would most likely start backing away, as you launch into a detailed explanation of the exact spelling of your company’s name and its original meaning in Swahili. These are not creative names, they are confusing ones.

The biggest offenders are unpronounceable acronym names such as the financial services company TIAA-CREF. These corporate names are often a result of mergers and acquisitions that made sense at the time, but now provide little meaning. Other top “Huh?” contenders are company/product names with alphanumeric designations. I regularly get emails from a web content management firm offering a software product called Ektron Version 7.5. From all accounts it looks like a good product but who can remember the name? More importantly, who would want to?

A “What!” name on the other hand provides a big greenlight. It arouses curiosity and invites more questions. We recently named an investment banking firm Four Bridges. The name just begs further explanation, which the owners now gladly provide – they connect people and capital. They also have four major partners in a city (Chattanooga, TN) with four major bridges. So the name segues easily into a broader story about the company and its mission.

That’s how a good company name works.

So as not to appear self-congratulatory, there are a number of great “What!” brand names that I can only wish I had created. One of my favorites is FireFly, a “Mobile Phone for Mobile Kids.” Another great company name is Spoon Me, a frozen yogurt maker coined by my good friends at Eat My Words.

So take a moment to ask yourself this simple question, “Does your company or product name produce a ‘Huh?’ or a ‘What!’?” Don’t just ask yourself, ask a few trusted friends and colleagues. Watch their body language and facial expressions. Do they light up with interest or furrow their brow in dismay? Your potential clients can’t remember what they can’t recall. So give them exactly what works – a creative, compelling brand name that has them asking “Say What!” 

Phillip Davis

Meet the Author Phillip Davis

Phillip Davis has written 65 Articles on Small Business Delivered.

Phillip Davis is a twenty year marketing veteran, having run a full service advertising agency in the Tampa Bay, Florida area for nearly 17 years, before opening his full time naming firm. In the past five years, Phil has personally named over 150 regional, national and international companies

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