What is in a name? Everything and nothing. A business name is in one sense meaningless. People do business with all sorts of companies. A good company name is part of your branding--it might help get attention or leave prospects with a warm and comfy feeling. Bad names can let your business down.
This would seem like a terrible name. "Oh, I have a death wish. Maybe I'll go hire that company." But, for the right business, it also has a sense of reckless abandon and daring that can attract customers.
For example, Death Wish Coffee has the tag line, "Wake up with the world's strongest coffee." The company even has a money-back guarantee that if it's not the strongest you've ever had, it will refund your money.
I also remember, from my time living around Boston, Death Wish Piano Movers. They move other large things as well, so the name can be limiting, but anyone who has thought about moving a piano must have respect for those who do. And when your business name can stick in someone's head for decades, it's doing its job.
Swimming with the fishes
The word death also pops up in a drink: Liquid Death Mountain Water. The company responsible wants consumers to "murder" their thirst. Get it? It's nothing more than water--supposedly from the Austrian Alps but with an ecological concern, because nothing says sustainable quite so much as shipping massive amounts of water from one continent to another--in an aluminum can. As the founder told Business Intelligence, he wants to appeal to "punks" and not "Whole Foods yoga moms." I can't help but hope that he fails. To come up with something different, with a real positioning advantage and benefit to customers, is one thing. Pure empty branding? Nothing to get excited about.
Some business names are puns so bad as to demand respect. There are at least two fish and chips restaurants--one in Phoenix and the other in North Charleston, South Carolina-- that serve fish and chips and call themselves the Codfather. There's also a fishing charter operating out of Freeport, New York, that uses the same name. Maybe customers make them offers they can't refuse.
But a restaurant doesn't have to serve fish and chips to indulge in some punning. Arizona and Texas have Chinese food establishments called Wok This Way. Someone let Steven Tyler and Joe Perry from Aerosmith know.
A bad name with big brands
Yet again with food, but this one is no small corporation. Bimbo Bakeries USA has product brands that you are bound to know: Thomas, Sara Lee, Arnold, Entenmann's, Boboli, Ball Park, and more.
A good thing, because the name of the holding company is terrible, at least in English. But this is part of Mexico-based Grupo Bimbo, the world's largest banking company. Bimbo is apparently pronounced beembo. There are a few theories as to how the name came about. (A hat tip to Chloie Parsons of C2C Designs for having explored the question.)
It goes to show that a name working in one language may not translate into a different one.
There are a couple of auto repair places in the country (in Urbana, Ohio, and Woodstock, Georgia) called Wreck-A-Mended. What is particularly clever here is the multiple-layer pun, with recommended and wreck amended.
Sometimes companies decide to tempt fate, or at least good taste, for risqué business names. One that may have happened through a pure heart and accident of location is in northern Illinois where a butcher shop in the town of Beecher chose to call itself Beecher Meats. Makes you wonder how long it took for the owners to realize the problem.
There are also some independent children's clothing consignment stores that settled on the same name: Kids Exchange. One apparently ran the letters together with insufficient space between the two words and using all capital letters. Figuring out the result is left as an exercise for the reader.
A more bilingual problem is something that website building company Wix experienced. Wix has an office in Germany, and its name in German is a colloquial reference to masturbation. The company tried to make use of that this year, although it's hard to know whether it succeeded.
Sometimes odd names can work because the humor or wit captures people. They may also contain the essence of what a business does. Just remember that when you come up with your next name, run it by some of your more dissolute friends. If there's an unfortunate connotation to be found, you want to hear it before you spend money on signage.