Choosing the right name for your business or new product or service is incredibly important. According to a recent survey on brand awareness, 53 percent of consumers reported that the popularity of a brand name definitely affects their decisions when making purchases. A great name can make you more money, while a bad one can actually decrease the value of your company.
According to Alexandra Watkins, chief innovation officer of San Francisco-based naming firm Eat My Words and author of the book Hello My Name Is Awesome: How to Create Brand Names That Stick, there are seven deadly sins to avoid when selecting a name for your business or a new product or service.
Says Watkins, "When you're starting out with a blank slate, don't curse your name with any disadvantages. Every time you have to help people spell, pronounce, and understand your name, you are essentially apologizing for it, which devalues your brand."
And no one can afford a brand that actually loses value instead of creating it.
Here are Alexandra's seven deadly sins, which go by the acronym SCRATCH.
This includes names that are not spelled the way they sound, intentionally misspelled, and the overly cute use of numbers. Some examples include: Svbtle (publishing network), Twyxt (couples app), and Houzz (interior design).
While it may be tempting, it's a sin to use a name that is a close copy of a competitor. Not only do you risk confusing your customers, but you may very well find yourself in court facing a lawsuit for copyright infringement. For example, the brand names Chatter, Jabber, and Yammer were all seemingly "inspired" by the online success of Twitter.
Restrictive names are ones that lock in your business or limit its growth. For example, 99c Only Stores now sell items that cost more than 99 cents, some 24-Hour Fitness locations aren't open 24 hours, and Diapers.com sells much more than diapers.
While what constitutes annoying can vary from person to person, some names just bother and even frustrate potential customers. This includes clunky coined names (like networking organization Femfessionals), intentionally mysterious names (what products do you think Vungle, Magoosh, and Kiip make?), and names made out of combinations of initials (labeling system-maker NACKit!, named after the initials of the company founders).
Being boring is never a good strategy for getting your company or its products or services noticed. A good way to be boring is to use unimaginative, descriptive names--ones that say exactly what your company or product is. Examples include Cloud Now (cloud services), DocuSign (electronic signatures), and Enfagrow (toddler formula).
6. Curse of knowledge
It can be tempting to use a name that makes perfect sense to you and your fellow company founders or colleagues, but that leaves potential customers in the dark. This includes alphanumeric names (M202--an iPod docking station), foreign names that don't mean what you think they do, and names that just don't make sense to most consumers (Eukanuba pet food, Mzinga social software, SPQR restaurant).
7. Hard to pronounce
Think twice before you use names that are all capital letters (THX audio company or TCHO gourmet chocolate), that can have more than one pronunciation (food company Alter Eco), or that are the backward spelling of another name (Xobni--"inbox" spelled backward, or Serena Williams's clothing line Aneres).