A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, so Shakespeare tells us, but would it sell? Choosing a name for your new business, product or service can be a nerve-wracking experience, but once you finally settle on the perfect choice, do you know how to make sure that it is truly yours? Here are six essential steps to ensure that the names you use in your business are distinctive, memorable and really belong to you.
You want a name that will stand out in a crowded marketplace, so avoid generic, descriptive terms that similar businesses will also want to use. A descriptive name will vanish into the general marketing noise and you will have to work much harder to be found by search engines or distinguish yourself in the awareness of your ideal clients.
This is the most common mistake that I see being made, particularly by start-ups, and it is a fine line to walk. You want your clients to recognise what it is that you are selling, but you don’t want a name that is the same as all of your competitor’s keywords.
Be clever and creative – without being confusing
Whatever name you choose needs to be consistent with your overall brand, so it is important to consider your target audience, your values and vision for your business, and whether the name is congruent with your image as a whole.
Keep the purpose of the name in mind. Who does it need to attract, and what do you need it to do for you? If you are choosing a random word, or one that you have made up, try to make sure it doesn’t have an undesirable meaning in another language.
Ask yourself whether the name fits with all the other names you are using to market your services. Will it look out of place amongst the others? There needs to be a balance between innovation and consistency.
Dare to be different – and entertaining
The best names used in and for businesses are those that are surprising and new, that are not found in any dictionary because you made them up yourself, or that take a common word out of context. However, inventing a new name is easier said than done, as anyone knows who has trawled through the gibberish produced by a random name generator.
It can be very effective if you can anchor your made up name with a story behind it that really makes it memorable. There are plenty of examples of this out there – here are a few stories behind some well-known brand names to inspire you.
- The made up word “Lego” is derived from the Danish “leg godt” which translates as “play well”.
- The computer brand ASUS was invented by trimming the name of Pegasus, the winged horse from Greek mythology.
- Adobe was named after the creek that runs near the home of its founder.
- Ingvar Kamprad combined his initials with the initials of Elmtaryd Agunnaryd, the town where he spent his childhood, to create the name IKEA.
- Mercedes began as the name of one of the founder’s daughters, who was in turn named after a Spanish title of the Virgin Mary (María de las Mercedes, or “Mary of Mercies”).
- You won’t find Reebok in the dictionary, but you will find rhebok, a type of antelope found in Africa.
Be forward thinking
You may wish to register your name as a trade mark if your offering is successful. The names that are easiest to trade mark are those that are fanciful or used out of context, like the examples above.
Even if trade marks aren’t currently on your horizon, think about whether you can get the domain name. Some domain name search tools, such as http://www.bustaname.com/ and https://leandomainsearch.com/ can also help by suggesting potential combinations of words that you might not otherwise consider. There are also business name generators which use artificial intelligence to come up with unusual suggestions. Carefree Counsel was actually the result of playing with a business name generator and combining two completely different suggestions that both called to me, and I couldn’t be happier with how perfect – and perfectly trade-mark-able it is. Here are links to some name generators that I have played with and enjoyed:
Take some time to think about how the name will be used. Is it easy to say? You don’t want a tongue twister that you can’t say quickly in a Facebook Live! Is it easy to spell? Is there potential for misunderstanding, and if so, would that be embarrassing or could it be turned to your advantage? How long do you intend using the name for? If your offering is a massive success, will you still be proud of the name and ready to shout it everywhere in 5 or 10 years time? Most importantly, does this name allow your business to grow?
Once you have a shortlist of potential names, start researching their availability. This goes beyond whether you can register them as a domain name or business name. Use the search engines and go outside your own industry to investigate how the names you like are being used in the marketplace. Don’t just look for exact matches – think about phonetic similarities and fuzzy matches – whether there is any potential for your clients to be confused, or for anyone else using a similar name to feel that you are trying to trade on their reputation or pass yourself off as them. Put yourself in their shoes – if your positions were reversed, would the similarities worry you? How prepared would you be to defend your right to the name if they complained? If you foresee a potential problem, it might be better to choose another name than risk a future battle.
Look through the trademark databases for Australia:(https://search.ipaustralia.gov.au/trademarks/search/quick)
Trawl through the social media platforms, both those where you plan to actively market and others where your competitors may be marketing. Is the name being used already (possibly as a hashtag) and how will this affect your business?
It is much more common than you might think for names to be challenged, and this can be very expensive – think of all the places you will be using the name, and what you will be investing in developing and promoting it – then imagine being told that someone else has ownership of your name and you need to not only stop using it but to remove every instance of it from the internet. How painful would that be?
At last you have chosen a name that you love, and you are sure that it is exclusively yours. Now, think about creating an IP strategy to protect your asset into the future.
This may include registering it as a trade mark in the countries where you trade or learning what records you need to keep in case you have to defend its use as an unregistered trade mark.
It also includes ongoing vigilance. The searches that you did to determine its availability should be repeated at regular intervals, so that if someone else pops up who has not done their homework, and thinks they have the right to start using the name you chose so carefully, you know about it quickly and can take action before they become so invested in the name that they want to fight you for it.
How I can help
If you are a start-up, you may think you can’t afford to waste time or money in thoughtfully inventing the next name you use in your business, or in thoroughly investigating its availability, but I can promise that while I have never met anyone who regretted making this effort, I have met quite a few who desperately wish they had!
If the thought of doing all of this on your own is overwhelming, book in for my Due Diligence Consultation and let me support you in researching the perfect name.