What should I call my business?
Naming a business can be like naming a child – you have so much invested in this little bundle of potential, it’s hard to distil it all down to a few words.
New business owners often put too much pressure on themselves to come up with “the perfect name”.
Focus instead on choosing something simple and logical. Your business name should:
- Make sense: Your name should provide a clue to the business. If you clean things, include a word that suggests this – at least until you have brand recognition. Even the ultra-creative Steve Jobs went with Apple Computers before rebranding in 2007 to just Apple.
- Be easy to find: Don’t hobble your word of mouth with stunt spelling. Misspelt names can seem quirky, or play on a pun, but they frustrate those trying to find you online who may have heard your name but be unaware of any unusual spellings.
- Short and sweet: Drop unnecessary words, such as ‘the’, ‘an’ and ‘of’ to keep your name short and sharp. Studies show brevity increases memorability.
- Be evocative or tell a story: A name linked to a story can help your brand stay in people’s minds.
- Be memorable: Make a shortlist, then spend time mulling them over. A name that sticks in your mind is likely to stick with your customers too.
- Suit your long-term goals: If you plan to make your business national or international, or branch out into different fields, ensure your name will not constrain you.
For example, avoid geographical references, such as “West” if you hope to be seen as a national brand.
Lastly, don’t fall in love with a name until you have checked it is available through ASIC’s business name registry search.
And try not to sweat it too much – at the end of the day the success of your business will be down to more than just its name.
10 business names that hit the mark
- Google: Named for the vast amount of information (a googol is 1.0x10100) the search engine hoped to collate. Google has achieved the ultimate brand recognition of crossing over from proper noun to verb.
- eBay: Originally called, very logically, AuctionWeb, the site’s owners decided not to swim against the tide when media began mistakenly referring to it by the parent company’s name: eBay.
- Virgin: The name encapsulates the spirit of the company — brash and new. Its portability (Virgin Records, Virgin Trains, Virgin Australia) builds the brand.
- Nike: Raiding Greek mythology for a name can be okay, but Nike – named for the Goddess of Victory – did it early and made it stick.
- 3M: Founded in 1902, the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company showed abbreviations work. The innovative name matches a product range that includes Post-it notes.
- Amazon: Initially called Cadabra (as in Abracadabra) in 1994, the name was changed a few months later after being misheard as cadaver. Amazon was a better fit because it represented an exotic place and was the longest river in the world. Its owner wanted to create the most exotic and largest bookstore on the planet.
- Caterpillar: The company manufactured farm machinery that operated on tracks rather than wheels, which someone observed moved like a “caterpillar”. The name links to a story, which helps embed it to memory.
- Skype: The prototype was Sky-Peer-to-Peer, which became Skyper, then finally Skype.
- Twitter: Founders wanted the name to relate a sense of “urgency”. They toyed with Twitch and Jitter, but decided they had unwanted drug overtones.
- Upworthy: A website for viral media with a progressive social and political bent, it conveys the idea of uploading worthy content. In a lesson on getting your ducks in a row, founders had to bin 10,000 “Upriser” T-shirts printed before they realised that domain name was taken and switched to Upworthy.