Coming up with the name of a company is one of the hardest things a fledgling company will struggle with. We have had many a client over the years come to us not knowing if the name that they have is right, or if we can put on our marketing hats and come up with something from scratch.
Now while there is no steadfast formula that one can go to to come up with the perfect name, there are some tips and tricks, and some solid advice we have garnered to help people not only find a name, but create a name that works as a platform to develop your brand, and that you will love for a lifetime.
First, let’s start by asking some questions, as inspired by my favourite Rudyard Kipliing quote. I suggest writing this list down by hand (I know low tech).
‘I keep six, honest serving men, they taught me all I know, their names are What, Why, When, & How Where Who’.
What does your company do?
Who is your target audience?
Where do you practice business?
If you are starting a business that is exactly the same as someone else (dry cleaner, etc), what makes you a special snowflake?
Who are YOU. What adjectives describe the owner(s)? And if you use ‘Passion’...get out of my classroom.
Second, think about your answers. (Keep your pen out so you can doodle as you think).
After you have your answers, start thinking about what you like, what works for you, what would speak to your clients. It's about finding the sweet spot between attracting your new clients and what reflects your personality. If you have a bunch of ideas write them all down. If you find a general concept like 'tree names' then list the tree names, do a Google search and write down ones that sound good, and ones that sound just okay, they may match with something later on. If you are searching for the all important adjective, the online thesaurus is your best friend. Keep jotting down ideas until a thread starts forming and you find the awesomeness that feels right.
Third, ask your friends...especially those who have experience in marketing or are just plain awesome creatives.
The entire reason this article is being written is a Facebook friend who owns a PR company asked me to look at a bunch of names for her new venture. Don't be afraid to ask for help...the woman I am speaking of, I only know because of a PR forum we are both on. I was very happy to give her honest advice. If you have a network, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, jeesh even MySpace, it doesn't matter...ask them. You will be surprised as to how many people will be willing to help. But remember, your company name should speak to you...so if it doesn't feel right, start over.
Now onto the practical. Below are some of the names we have come up with over the years and how we got them. This is a short list...but it gives you some ideas in practice.
Based in a prestigious city? Use it. (Plus if you’re a service business it’s good for SEO).
For one of our clients, they came to us and were the number 1 supplement supplier on Ebay, but their website, name and brand were weak. Their original name was Health & Vitality. We asked them where their core operations were based and they said that they make all of their supplements in Oxford. Now, because they already have positioning on Ebay, and have a great product line, it’s more about making them look and sound as good as they are (and we have used their supplements, they are amazing). They are based in Oxford, one of the most prestigious cities in the world. When people think of Oxford, they think things like knowledge, expertise, mature, etc. And these were all qualities that would help to take their supplement business to the next level. I said, ‘Call it Oxford Vitality’, and used the above to explain. Now years later they are still number 1 on Ebay but also on Amazon and have cut out the middleman and have a thriving website to sell their products.
Naming can be great for SEO. Don't be ashamed to just call yourself what you do on the tin.
Now, we didn't help Oxford Wheel Repairs name their company, but we are doing their branding, print materials and website. For SEO purposes, their name is great, as they do exactly what it says on the tin. If someone needs a wheel repaired in Oxford, they will probably Google 'Oxford Wheel Repair' or some form that includes those words. The name is SEO gold, and will help to deliver them results faster because of it.
Focus on your target audience, who are they and what do they want?
Just adding the name of a prestigious city to your name of your company won’t work for everyone. We were challenged by Zeon Healthcare to come up with a new website for a brand new line of products that were to be delivered to a specific age group of primarily women, but didn’t want to discount the male buyers. The first thing I said was ‘Do we have to use the name Zeon Healthcare, as I don’t think this is going to work for the market you’re delivering to’. So we went away with our marketing hats on to come up with a new name.
We wanted something natural, yet strong. We started by looking up names of trees, and the one we liked the best (out of a long list) was Hawthrone as it is a tree that is supposed to have medicinal and ‘magical’ properties. I then started looking for a second name as Hawthorne Health felt a bit weak. I found Heath which is a grove of trees, and that paired very well with Hawthorne. We presented ‘Hawthorne & Heath’ with a silhouette of a Hawthorne Tree. The company liked it, but came back with ‘Hunter & Heath’ as they thought Hunter sounded stronger and more acceptable to the male market that we didn’t want to leave out. So Hunter & Heath was born. They still use our logo, but we did not do their current site.
Take a shower or a bath. Get some real alone time with yourself.
For Hijack, a company that I and another Rare Former co-own. The target age is 18-45, avid computer users, tech heads and the like. Where we were located wasn't a factor as it's net based and aimed all over the world. We needed a name that was catchy and with an edge to match what Hijack actually does. What Hijack does is just that, it Hijacks ANY web page that you are on and allows you to doodle on it, write on it, or comment on it, and the people who own the website can do nothing about it. Originally Joss called it ‘Topic’. I never liked that name, and one day I was thinking about it in the shower and the name just came to me. After we released the name, I was talking to some friends in California about it and they said (and I’m not making this up), ‘Water is a natural conductor, I’m not surprised you came up with the name in the shower’. And where I am not sure about the ‘conductive’ part, I personally think the shower is one of the last bastions of solitude, and where you are truly alone. You don’t check your phone, you don’t have your computer by you; you are alone with you and your thoughts. Taking a shower or a bath give you the space to really think. And sometimes, that’s what you need to come up with something amazing.
The bold will thrive...so go hard or go home.
The reason I thought of writing this article is because a Facebook friend of mine who owns a PR company, is branching out and came to me the other day asking about what to call her new personal and business development company. There are a lot of people occupying that space, so she’s entering a field with a lot of competition. She has a partner in the business who is quite ‘safe’ and the first list of names were very common, very safe, and very boring, and me being me, I told her just that. She then came back with a second list which was mostly the same, except one stood out. I immediately said, ‘go with that’. She said her business partner probably wouldn’t go for it as it’s ‘too out there’. But here’s the scratch...if you are too safe in your naming, you will end up sounding like everyone else in your space. If you don’t differentiate yourself you will end up just another business in the herd. You must stand out, especially in a field where you have a lot of competition. It’s hard for a lot of people to do, but I encourage my clients every day to look different, sound different and be yourself. Don’t be afraid...the bold not only survive, they thrive.
What is personal to you? Follow your instincts and forget the haters.
When I came up with the name Rare Form, I was a year out of University. I sat up in bed and told my now ex husband, ‘I want to call it Rare Form’...and he said, ‘no, I don’t like it, sounds stupid' (or something of that nature...it was in the 90’s, forgive my memory). He never wanted me to open Rare Form, he wanted me to work for the man, and that was not who I was or what I wanted for myself. I held onto the name because it has meaning to me, and there is a story behind it. When I was at University, my friends and I would say ‘oh Kelsie’s in Rare Form tonight’ or they would say it about me…’Jean’s in Rare Form’ when we were acting especially fun, or being ridiculously goofy when we were hanging out. And I think about that, and it makes me smile. It works because it’s personal, it oozes our personality, it's worked for us for 20 years, and will continue to do so for the next 20 years and beyond. Follow your instinct, if it feels right to you, then it’s right for your company.
PS. I have been a fan of Emerson's writings since I was in high school in Michigan. I love his work so much, I named my youngest daughter Emerson. We felt Ralph was just mean.