What’s In A Name?

One of the services that VerbFactory provides is naming companies, products and services. It seems like a fairly straightforward process…until you actually start trying to come up with the perfect label that you’ll have to live with (for better or worse) for many years. And while there is no perfect “just add water” way to instantly come up with the right name, here are a few things to consider before you commit:

1 – Start by coming up with a massive list of potential names – hundreds if you need to.

You will discard the obviously bad ones pretty quickly, but it’s much more efficient to cull a long list than constantly look for new ideas. We recommend building your list by choosing 10-20 words that are meaningful to you, as well as some prefixes and suffixes, and then coming up with various permutations. The number of truly awful names will astound you, but there will also be some pretty good ones buried in the pile.

2 – Don’t fall in love with one name.

Finding your dream name doesn’t mean that the process is over. In fact, there is an overwhelming chance that you won’t be able to use your first choice, so it’s important to thin your list down to 15-25 that you can live with. Styx, one of the most successful rock bands of all time, selected its name because (according to their founding guitarist) it was the only one that none of the members hated. It may not sound ideal, but the dirty secret is that most names are chosen because their stakeholders can live with it – even if it wasn’t their top choice. And if you haven’t listened to Styx in a while, check this out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CDM6v1XhWEg&ob=av2e

3 – Make sure that you can get your product or company name as a .com URL.

This is often overlooked until it’s too late! .biz and .net domains have almost no value because most web visitors are conditioned to go to type “.com” when they want to visit a site. In many cases you will have to buy a domain name from a “squatter,” which can cost as little as a few hundred dollars (and as much as a million…)

4 – Avoid names that people will screw up.

The longer the name, the more likely it is that the URL will be mistyped, and double consonants, hyphens and “cute” spellings always seem to trip folks up. It is also often worth buying additional URLs with common misspellings so that surfers who mess up your name will be redirected to the right place.

5 – Get the legal rights to your name before you start using it.

Most paralegals can do a search quickly, and it will be the best $300 you ever spent. I know of a travel agency that was in litigation for years because a more established competitor thought that the names were too similar. It’s not worth the risk or aggravation. And once you have a clear shot at your name, be sure to file all of the right paperwork so that your claim is protected.

6 – Confirm that your new name does not have odd meanings in other languages.

Chevy’s Nova flopped in Latin America because “no va” means “it doesn’t go” in Spanish, and “Coca-Cola” translates to “bite the wax tadpole” in Chinese. And Douglas Adams fans will no doubt remember “go stick your head in a pig.”

7 – Test your name before you commit.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to send the name to a few friends and get their opinions. It is rare for people to swoon over a new name (Ad Age routinely blasts new identities and names, but six months later everyone is used to them), but your friends will be the only ones to tell you if there are real problems.


Tell us about your experiences in naming something

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