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The 6 “DON’TS” of Startup Naming

Samuel Thimothy - Aug 27, 2018 9:00:00 AM

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Coming up with the right name for your business can be one of the most difficult challenges you face in the early stages of your startup. Of course, naming your business is nothing compared to all the planning that you need to do, especially when it comes to budgeting. Your startup name is a big deal because it’s the first thing that people will remember about you.

Your brand name is just like your logo. It’s your unique identity that sets you apart from all the other brands out there. When people look at some brand’s logo, they instantly think about everything that brand represents. The logo paints a picture in their minds of all the brand values and messages that the company behind it communicates.

It’s absolutely the same with your business name. It’s what will help you brand your business and create an emotional connection with your customers. A strong and memorable brand name evokes passion and helps you make an impact on people.

All this is definitely easier said than done, especially when you’re struggling with a creative block. There are some general rules that you should follow to avoid some naming pitfalls that way too many startup owners fall into.

Here are the most crucial “don’ts” that will help you come up with a killer startup name.

1. Don’t Use a Long Name

LongNameforBusiness

Think about some of the most successful brands out there, such as Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Starbucks. What do they all have in common? Short names. Short names are incredibly easy to remember and use. That is not the case for longer names.

If you come up with a startup name that is too long, not only will people have trouble remembering it, but they will also struggle when typing it into search engines or email copies. 

So, keep the name short and sweet. More often than not, less is more and it can have a much bigger impact. The best advice you can get for coming up with a memorable brand name is to keep it at two syllables, just like the popular brands we talked about. That way, your name will immediately stick with people.

However, there’s a trick you can use if you’re dead set on a particularly long name: make an acronym out of it. Of course, with so many acronyms out there, this can be a bit tricky, but you can try and make it work. Just think of HBO, HP, KFC, and BMW.

2. Don’t Pick a Name That Is Difficult to Pronounce or Spell

A name that rarely anyone can pronounce, or spell correctly doesn’t really work in your favor, does it? You'd create a lot of confusion and your brand would be difficult to find online

When you’re thinking of a name just say it out loud. Is it easy to pronounce? Do you think that people will be able to instantly spell it right, even if they’ve never seen it in writing? If the answer is yes, then you’re on the right track.

If you come up with an abstract name, you can do a little test to see how easy or difficult people would find it. Say the word to a dozen people and ask them to spell it. Then show the written version of the word to another dozen people and ask them to pronounce it If most of them get it right, then you’re good to go.

3. Don't Rule Out Wordplay

WordplayBusinessName

Playing with words can help you come up with a fun and clever name that showcases your brand’s unique personality. Playing a morphology game can spark your creativity and open the doors to many ingenious ideas that you can use. It’s exactly what can help you think of a unique and catchy name that puts the competition to shame. 

Think of Reddit, a deliberately misspelled combination of “read” and “it”. Or Pinterest, a blend of “pin” and “interest”. Morphology is an infinite playground for fun and quirky business names. Even more so because there are tons of foreign words you can use.

However, you need to be careful not to lose your vision and focus in the process. Apart from being instantly recognizable, you brand should clearly reflect your company’s goals and values.

Some great pun business name examples are:

  • Hairanoia (barber shop)
  • The Codfather (fish & chips restaurant)
  • Surelock Homes (locksmith)
  • Lord of the Fries (French fries eatery)
  • Lawn and Order (lawn & garden care)
  • Florist Gump (flower shop)

All are very catchy and quirky, and they all perfectly describe their line of work.

If you go for wordplay, play by the rules. Don’t come up with a tongue twister, especially if you decide to use foreign words. Use something that rolls off the tongue and that instantly lures people in when they hear it.

4. Don’t Choose a Name That Gives the Wrong First Impression

Many people lose their vision when trying to find a catchy and unique name for their startup. They try to be witty, but they lose their focus and end up picking a name that gives the wrong first impression.

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, almost named the world’s biggest retailer “Cadabra,” short for “abracadabra.” Luckily, one of his lawyers misheard it as “cadaver” and stopped Bezos from making a decision we would all have certainly regretted.

Make sure your startup name isn’t confusing or inappropriate. If planning on targeting international markets in the future, make sure that your name is not offensive when translated to those market’s languages. Make sure your name has no kind of negative connotation. For instance, “gift” means “poison” in German, so it would not be a smart choice if you focus only on the German market.

5. Don’t Pick a Name That Could Limit You as Your Business Grows

LimitingBusinessName

You shouldn’t choose a name that is too narrow and limits your potential future options. Hopefully, your startup will grow consistently. As you grow, you may introduce many changes down the road. This is why you should come up with a name that you won’t need to change later.

One such example is Boston Market, a chain of American fast-casual restaurants. They started by selling only chicken and named their business Boston Chicken. In 1995, they decided to expand their services, which is why they rebranded into Boston Market.

If you start with one type of product or service but there’s even a slight possibility that you’ll expand your offer somewhere down the line, don’t use a name that limits your business prospects. Also, unless you plan on targeting only one particular location, without ever expanding to other areas, don’t put a location in your business name.

6. Don’t Infringe Upon Someone’s Trademark

This one’s pretty obvious. It’s a huge no-no to use someone else’s brand name because you would be facing a lawsuit as soon as you open your business. It’s as simple as that.

Don’t think that you’re in the clear if you choose a name that’s suspiciously similar to another brand’s name. That’s also a lawsuit waiting to happen. The company may first ask you to change your name before suing you, but that’s if you’re very, very lucky.

Double-check if a particular name you thought of is available. Then make sure you do a bit of research to ensure that there is no potential overlap with any other brand’s name. 

Avoiding these common mistakes when naming your startup will definitely help you create a unique and memorable brand. Think of a name that evokes emotions, sparks passion, and compels people to find out everything about you. Create an emotional connection and make them fall in love with your brand. Remember, a bland and uncreative brand name is one of the reasons why startups fail.

Get your creative juices flowing, but don’t beat yourself up if your muse is asleep at the moment. Surf the web for inspiration and take your time. Don’t make a hasty decision that you’ll regret later and make sure you don’t lose your vision.

Follow these guidelines and you’ll come up with a cool brand name that people will absolutely fall in love with.

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