Coming up with a great name for your company can be a challenge. Of course, you can bypass this task by just naming your company after yourself -- but where's the fun in that? A great product can overcome a bad name, but the scary truth is that 77 percent of consumers make purchases on the basis of a brand name, so a great name can make a real difference.
Ross CrowdSpring, one of the world's leading marketplaces for crowdsourced logo designs, web designs, graphic design, product design, and company naming services, knows that pain -- personally. "Naming a new company can be very time consuming and frustrating," Kimbarovsky says. "We spent over 50 hours in 2007 when we came up with 'CrowdSpring.' Some entrepreneurs can easily spend hundreds of hours -- and thousands of dollars -- searching for a perfect name, only to hit a creativity wall." This is why his company added "company naming" as a project category for crowdsourcing. "Today, instead of spending countless hours looking for a name for a new company, people can post a CrowdSpring project and let the community of 200,000-plus creative folks help find them a great name and domain!" he notes. Using the power of many to solve this kind of problem is especially brilliant, because so many various inputs from a wide variety of people are already incorporated.Kimbarovsky, founder of
Whether you manage to find a suitable name on your own or decide to crowdsource great ideas, Kimbarovsky offers some essential tips to keep in mind to select the right name for your new company.
1. Think about what you want the name to convey.
Your company's name is an important aspect of your company's identity. The name will appear on business cards, letterhead, the website, and promotional materials. It must help to identify and distinguish your company and its products or services. "Service-oriented businesses should make sure their name makes it easy for prospective customers to recognize and relate to their offerings, such as Friendly Dog Walkers, Bright Accounting, or Quickly Legal," Kimbarovsky advises.
2. Brainstorm possible names.
"Once you understand what you need your company name to convey, you should set aside brainstorming time," Kimbarovsky recommends. "Get your team in a room and brainstorm using words that describe your industry, your products, or the services you offer. Think about words that describe your competitors and words that describe the difference between your company and your competition. Also, consider words that describe the benefits of using your products or services."
He also suggests dipping into other languages. "While brainstorming, look up Greek and Latin translations of your words -- you might find smart new ideas from that exercise," Kimbarovsky says. "Look at foreign words, too -- Swahili is often a great source!" Most entrepreneurs know the anecdote about the fellas who came up with the name Häagen-Dazs for what became a popular ice cream brand. It was a made-up name, chosen to convey a Scandinavian heritage of rich chocolates and rich cream.
Expect the name-choosing process to take some time. Even if you use a crowdsourcing site, you will need ideas to work with as part of your brand description and vision. This also helps you give feedback as you go along, and eliminates whole classes of ideas that feel wrong to you.
3. Keep the name short, simple, easy to write, and easy to remember.
"The companies you admire typically have names that are short, simple, easy to write, and easy to remember." Kimbarovsky observes. Examples include Apple, Chanel, Virgin, and Southwest. "Obscure business names are often difficult to remember," he says. "This is a real problem, because most small businesses rely, at least at startup, on word-of-mouth advertising. Even well into the life of your company, this is often the most successful form of marketing. If your customers can't remember your name, can't spell it, or can't properly pronounce it for others, it makes it much more difficult for them to help promote your business."
He also encourages companies to consider the acronym of their company name. "You might not use an acronym, but your customers might refer to your business by one," says Kimbarovsky. "A name such as Apple Support Services would result in an unfavorable acronym," he warns. Be sure that your company's acronym is not offensive.
4. Avoid names that are too narrow or too literal.
You need to be concerned with how your business might evolve over time -- and make sure that the company name can evolve with the business. For example, if you named your company iPhone Accessories but later expanded to sell accessories for other products, your original name will become too narrow and restrictive.
"The same advice applies even if your company sells a niche product," Kimbarovsky says. "For example, if you sell antique lamps, you should consider whether in the future you might sell more than lamps. Naming your business Joan's Antique Lamps may be too limiting when you later start selling antique clocks and furniture. Alibaba's Cave might be a better descriptive for a wide range of products."
5. Avoid decisions by committee, but be sure to test your name with others.
It's tempting to involve friends, family, employees, and customers in the search for a name for your company. Sometimes, this works out really well, but there are risks. "People might be upset if you don't pick a name they think is great," Kimbarovsky warns. "You may also find yourself trying to find consensus, which can lead to a very plain-Jane name. Instead of a broad group, pick a small group of people who understand you and your business. Once you've selected a few possible names, you should share them with trusted friends, family members, and customers to get some feedback about the name."
6. Avoid plain words.
"Plain words make it very difficult to differentiate your company from your competitors," Kimbarovsky says. "For example, there were many logo design businesses around the world when we came up with the name CrowdSpring. Many of them had Design or Logo Design in their name. But we knew that we would be expanding to many different industries, and we didn't want to name the business Great Logo Design or Designers-R-Us--it would have been descriptive but not memorable, intriguing, or unique."
Of course, he notes, there are exceptions. "General Electric is one of the most successful companies in the world and its name is composed of two plain words," he says. "But General Electric was also one of the first companies in its product or service category; it was able to use a plain name that continues to be a household word. Since its inception, the company has spent billions of dollars on marketing and advertising." Better safe than sorry here, unless you are sure you will be the next G.E.
7. Be careful with geographic names.
Similarly, Kimbarovsky warns against geographic names. "Some people use their city, state, or region as part of their company name," he says. "If you plan only to work in your city, this might serve you well. But a geographic name could hinder you later on. One great example is Minnesota Manufacturing and Mining. Initially, the name worked because the business was focused narrowly in Minnesota. But once the company grew well beyond its industry and the state of Minnesota, it had find a new name. Hence the internationally recognized name 3M."
8. Avoid obscure words.
"Company names that help tell stories are powerful and memorable (think Google, for example)," Kimbarovsky says. "But obscure words or references might be difficult to spell or pronounce. Be especially sensitive if you're trying to reach a mass audience, such as on the internet. Obscure or invented names can work--Xerox is a great example--but this often requires a huge marketing budget and tremendous effort." Remember to focus on your most important trait, value, or goal when creating your brand. Cruelty Free Cosmetics and ThinkThin Protein Bars are examples of this strategy.
9. Avoid trends.
Remember the year when every company was a normal word spelled strangely? Or when every company name ended with -ly? I do. Trends are fun while they're hot but can quickly feel dated. "You'll want your company's name to evolve as trends evolve, so be careful to identify the trends and actively avoid following them," Kimbarovsky says. "For example, in the late 1990s, it was trendy to use .com after your company name if your company was an internet business. After the internet bubble burst, the .com became synonymous with having no business model -- and those companies who survived quickly dropped .com from their names."
10. Don't forget the domain.
"It's important to make sure that your competitors are not using the same name in your industry," Kimbarovsky warns. "It's not uncommon to find similar, or even identical, names in different industries, but this results in confusion for your customers and vendors." It can also lead to a lawsuit or nasty cease-and-desist letter.
"Look for a company name that is also available for registration as a domain," says Kimbarovsky. "This is not always easy, because .com domains are very popular and you may struggle to find domains that match your company name. This is one reason why every naming project on CrowdSpring is accompanied by a domain name."
He notes that URLs are becoming less important, because most people are searching online and clicking on links rather than copying domains from advertising. Still, you'll want your URL to be short, easy to remember, and easy to spell. "And, whatever you do," Kimbarovsky concludes, "don't make the mistake of operating under one name but having a URL pointing to a completely different name. That can lead to a crisis of confidence among many customers, who worry about web security and avoiding spam."