Naming a company often seems like an afterthought in starting a new business. After all, the company’s business plan, product and marketability are the pillars of its success. However, a brand’s name is every bit as important as the product itself. Let’s first take a look of some of the best and worst names in the market today.
First, the winners:
PayPal is an example of a well named business. Not only does the name describe its business succinctly, it also offers a softer, friendlier face for traditionally cold and impersonal payment services.
JiffyLube also works in the same way – it summarizes its business of fast oil changes well – while maintaining a fun, perky image.
Google is also another appropriately named business – it changes the real word – googol (1 followed by 100 zeroes) – and makes it look more aesthetically pleasing by swapping the last two letters, all while summarizing the business’ core strength – a googol search results for each query.
Twitter is a great play on a bird’s tweet, and its simplicity has changed the face of social media and the Internet forever. Just as Google became a verb, “tweet” has become both a verb and a noun. The “tweet” became so popular that it spawned a plethora of clone websites, and Twitter (unsuccessfully) attempted to protect the verb with a copyright.
Now, for the losers:
Dimdim is a prime example of a poor marketing team making a hasty naming decision. The web conferencing company chose the adjective “dim” – meaning dark, dumb or lusterless, doubled it up in a failed attempt to sound “fun and whimsical”. Unfortunately, its name merely conjures unflattering images of a dim person eating dim sum.
BearingPoint, a consulting firm, used an obscure sailing term – meant to refer to the point that a vessel was bearing – to demonstrate just how capsized it was.
Cincinatti-based Fifth Third Bank is possibly the worst named U.S. bank, with a fraction which doesn’t sound correct and simply sounds too awkward to even say. Compare this with simply, cleanly named banks such as Citibank or Bank of America.
Microsoft’s Bing is a poor attempt at copyrighting a verb in the same manner as its arch-rival Google. Unfortunately, “Bing” neither summarizes its search business nor sounds particularly catchy, despite the company’s desperate attempts at product placements in TV shows and movies, in which characters unnaturally “Bing” things on the Internet. Also consider that “binged it” conjures up images of binge drinking and binge eating.
So what’s in a name?
Although naming your company shouldn’t take precedence over your business plan and product, remember that its name will stay with the company forever – just as a baby will be stuck with its name for the rest of his or her life. Proper market research and a capable marketing team should steer you in the right direction.
If all else fails, just trust your gut and remember that simplicity, clarity, personality and relevance are the four pillars of a solid name. Don’t get caught up in tapping Greek mythology or random initials in an effort to sound hip or erudite.