Makes sense. Your company, the one with the big-time plans, needs a big-time name. And a big-time consultant to pick it? Maybe.
Hiring a professional could mean rewriting your budget. Prices vary hugely. For $150,000 to $1 million Lippincott & Margulies, who brought you Primerica and Allegis, will create your corporate identity, logo and all. Delano, Goldman & Young will name a small start-up for $30,000 to $50,000 (more complex jobs cost $20,000 to $30,000 more). And Siegel & Gale, name makers of USX and Armtek, have concocted small-business names for as little as $7,500.
Still high? Salinon Corp., in Dallas, sells a $99 name-creating computer program. And, for the real do-it-yourselfer, the company offers a free booklet of naming tips.
Not surprising, most naming consultants advise against self-naming. (Delano, Goldman & Young's Frank Delano claims christening your own company is like "trying to do brain surgery on yourself.") But if you still insist on self-service surgery, these thoughts from the consultants might help:
Before you start:
Define your goals. It's hard to pick a good name without having a clear idea of your company's aims. Consultants typically ask top management what image a new name should project. Focus on long-term plans, so you won't pick a name you'll outgrow.
If it ain't broke . . . Once you know what your dream name would say about your business, ask yourself if the old name -- which already has recognition value -- is close enough. Start-ups obviously don't have this option, but Clive Chajet, chairman of Lippincott & Margulies, says he advises half the established companies who come to him not to switch.
When you're choosing a name:
Avoid alphabet soup. IBM gets away with an anonymous-sounding batch of initials, but if you're not as well known as Big Blue, you'd be better off with something more expressive.
Use a real word -- or don't. Here the experts disagree. Some, like S. B. Master of Wordmark, in San Francisco, dismiss made-up names as "computer-generated gibberish." Others argue that a name without meaning gives a company freedom to diversify -- and freedom from worry about trademark infringement.
Keep it short and easy to say. Delano says 9 or 10 letters is around the longest he'll advise. He often recommends family names, if they're not difficult to say or spell.
Think visually. Develop a name that works well in a logo.
Cater to your audience. Who are your customers? Names attractive to Wall Street investors probably won't stand out in the Yellow Pages. Try your name out on as many outsiders as possible.
How does it sound? That, according to Delano, was the trouble with the ill-fated Allegis. Its critics were right, he says, "it sounded like a disease."
Don't get sued. Do a legal search to see if names you like are available. A nationwide search can cost $600 per name; single-state searches cost less.
Once you've chosen a name:
Register it. Pronto.
Man the phones. Although employees and customers can become accustomed to names, they often feel uncomfortable with changes. "A new name does attract attention," Russ Anspach, principal of Anspach Grossman Portugal, says tactfully. Or as Clive Chajet more bluntly puts it: "Every time a company changes its name is an occasion for derision."