Tips for Naming Your New Business


Choosing a new trademark can be like choosing your new baby's name: everyone has an opinion, and there’s no single right choice. In this article, we depart from our usual focus on legal issues, and discuss some of the things that you might bear in mind from a marketing perspective when choosing your name. There will be great names that don't tick all of the boxes outlined below, but we think they’re useful to bear in mind.

1. The name should have ‘likeability’

You need people in your target market to respond positively to your name, so it needs to be appealing.

2. The name should be suggestive of purpose

It’s not enough for your name to be likeable: it needs to suggest something about you or what you offer. This doesn't necessarily mean that you should describe your product or service: your name might suggest something about your brand's personality or values that you want to communicate to your audience. The word ‘Google’ was chosen because it was representative of a large number, which suggested the size of the database of pages indexed by the search engine (a googol is equivalent to 10 to the power of 100). The word ‘Twitter’ refers to the short chirrups of small birds, which are suggestive of the ‘tweets’ broadcast by the users of the servers.

3. The name should be ‘inherently’ distinctive

The main function of your name is to distinguish your offering from your competitors. 

For this reason, if you offer financial advice, avoid names like ‘Australian Finance Brokers’ and ‘National Financial Advisors’, or acronyms such as ‘AFB’ or ‘NFA’. By choosing the predictable and the generic, you’ll be lining yourself up with dozens of your competitors where you’ll be fighting an uphill battle to prove that you’re different. In contrast, distinctive names can more easily gain that precious mind share that’s so crucial to business success.

There's another bonus as well: as detailed in an earlier article, distinctive names are easier to register as trademarks.

4. The name should be original

Choosing a name that's not original creates both problems from both a legal and marketing point of view.

If a competitor has acquired legal rights in the same or a similar name then you may end up with a cease and desist letter, and a choice between changing your name or fighting a legal battle. If your competitor hasn't acquired legal rights in the name, then you're spending valuable time and money promoting yourself and some of your target market is likely to find your competitor in that way.

For this reason, we recommend that you conduct appropriate trademark searches, and also search the market place for similar names before settling on a new name.

5. The name should be memorable

So you've managed to grab a split second of someone's attention, will they be able to remember your name after they've moved onto their next task? Again, distinctive names - particularly names that surprise or provoke thought - are invariably more memorable than generic or descriptive names.

6. The name should be flexible

Being focused is often a virtue, but business is also unpredictable.

Although it isn't fatal, names that are rooted to a specific location might prove difficult if your business expands geographically. Names that are focused on a specific narrow category may prove limiting if you need to pivot, expand your offering or subtly change your focus. If you do need to do any of these things, then it will be ideal if the name is flexible enough to accommodate your change in strategy.

7. The corresponding domain name and social media handles should be available

LinkedIn was launched in 2003, Facebook in 2004 and Twitter in 2006. It almost goes without saying that it's ideal if you can secure the usernames and handles that match your chosen name without too much in the way of distinguishing material like ‘AU’ or ‘Melbourne’ etc, or hyphens and underscores.

8. The name should be easy to spell and pronounce

Your name will often be spoken, and so people need to be able to say it. If someone hears the name over the phone, will they be able to type it into a search engine to find you?

Misspellings can be useful if you want to secure media handles, but they usually won't help you to avoid problems with registered trademarks that are spelt in the correct way. 

9. The name should avoid negative connotations

There are many famous examples of names which unintentionally raise negative connotations. Often this occurs, when names are used in different languages, but here's an example which caught our eye on a trip to London in 2010:


Having said this, we certainly found the name memorable!

10. The name should be brief

Brief names are generally easier to remember, they're easier to type and spell.