What’s in a Name? Everything

Naming your business: it’s the first step in positioning yourself, or your product, in your customers’ minds. No one takes the responsibility of naming their business lightly, but there are still some considerations that often go ignored that could cost you brand recognition and even brand equity down the line.

IBM, HP, AT&T, GE – all behemoths in their respective industries. The names are powerful and easily identifiable, even as a simple set of letters. Before they were Fortune 500 companies, however, they paid their dues as International Business Machine, Hewlett-Packard, and so on. Unfortunately, there are still no shortcuts in branding – especially in today’s crowded marketplace.

IBM and HP served their time as International Business Machines and Hewlett-Packard long before they became known by their acronyms.


No longer as easy as ABC.
There was a time when dubbing your business something as simple as ABC Plumbing was a tricky way to get listed first within the phonebook. Unfortunately, people don’t reach for phonebooks anymore. They go to Google (over 90% of all consumers research online before making a purchase), and Google’s algorithm doesn’t settle for alphabetical order. You are more likely to earn a top search engine ranking with unique, proprietary terms that capture your brand essence and stand out from the online clutter.

A case of mistaken identity.
Sure, you are proud of the name your family gave you. You want it represented in your business title. But do you know how many organizations share that same set of initials? You may end up accidentally associated with some unwanted company. Two- and three-letter acronyms are a dime a dozen, especially in this era of txt msg shorthand and online acronyms. Some of those acronyms may also be NSFW – which is the mindshare you may have to compete with, depending on the Internet savvy of your customers. Just type that acronym into Google and see how much competition there is, and therefore, how much potential for confusion.

 Cost of creating awareness.
You want your name to have contextual meaning and positive connotations. Convenience. Power. Elegance. Value. What is it you have to offer? When you forego descriptive forms of words for abstract terms or initials, it can take a lifetime of constant reinforcement or intensive advertising efforts to bring your meaning home. Do you have the budget of an ING to introduce Americans to your brand through a clever campaign? Do you have the history of a major fast food chain to make the transition from Kentucky Fried Chicken to KFC? Opt for the more immediate payoff when naming your business, and don’t assume your customers will simply “get it.”

FDR and JFK were Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy long before they became known by their monograms. It was only after they had won office – essentially, become #1 in their industry – that the media and the public began using their informal nicknames. That’s a major reason a leader like General Electric can be GE, but Two Men & a Truck (a business born in the 1980s) has to rely on something simpler, more solution-oriented. Will they be TM&T 20 years down the road? Time will tell…

If you’re looking for inspiration for naming your company, be sure to identify your brand values first. Then you can begin building a list of possibilities by playing with simple twists on dynamic verbs such as today’s tech startups, performing word association exercises and of course, consulting old reliable: a thesaurus.

Your business’s name should be easy to remember. It should be something as uniquely identifiable and as uniquely yours as your logo, tagline, URL and even phone number. And the ultimate test – if you remove any other brand elements, will your clients (or potential clients) still know what you stand for?


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