What's in a name?

What’s in a name? Well, sometimes a lot. For instance, would Barry Alan Pinkus’s songs have made women swoon in the 70s if he hadn’t changed his name to Barry Manilow? And one wonders whether John Wayne could have ever gained the reputation he did with his birth name: Marion Morrison.

Choosing the right name for your business, just as those stars did for theirs, is an important exercise that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

If you can’t spend tens of thousands of dollars to hire a branding agency – and if you’re a small business, you probably can’t – Susan Ward at About.com  suggests you assemble a group of family, friends and colleagues to help you brainstorm a few possibilities. You can start with these questions and considerations:

1. Is the name memorable but easy to spell? You’ll want customers to be able to find you in the phone book or on Google. Says Ward: “choosing a business name such as ‘Crychalwellyn’ is a bad idea. Unique is good but difficult spellings are not.”

2. Does it call up an image in your head? “Generally, we are hard-wired to ‘see’ images when we read or hear language and incorporating a visual element into your business name can be a powerful aid.” Think of how suggestive ‘Twitter’ is of what the service provides.

3. Does it have a positive connotation? NameLab’s Ira Bachrach says even if a name is made up, like ‘Acura,’ it should bring to mind a positive image: “Although it has no dictionary definition, [Acura] actually suggests precision engineering [because the word segment ‘acu’] means ‘precise’ in many languages.”

4. Does it include information about what your business does? If the name you choose doesn’t automatically suggest what the business does – say, like the name ‘Bakeria’ might – it’s a good idea to incorporate a descriptor in the name like, for instance, ‘Smith’s Landscaping.’ Even Apple, which is now a globally recognized brand name, was until recently ‘Apple Computer.’

5. Is it short? Partly an extension of #1, you want your name to be memorable. Practically speaking, you also want it to be able to fit on a business card, on a sign, in an ad and – if it’s still available – as a URL.

[caption id="attachment_2195" align="aligncenter" width="449" caption="Whale meat kabobs? Think carefully about how your business name might be interpreted"]Whale meat kabobs? Think carefully about how your business name might be interpreted[/caption]

Keep in mind, however, that as with all focus group/decision by committee type situations, the final decision ought to rest with you. You’ll need to be able to live with your enterprise’s new name. Make sure it’s something you’re proud of.

By Adam

July 22, 2010