How to Name a Business

Naming a business can be as hard as naming a baby. Well, maybe not AS hard. But it’s still pretty damn hard.

I’ve been reading Seth Godin’s Small is the New Big and came across his collection of riffs on business naming. Fortunately, he blogged about these as well, from as far back as 2003. (Hey, did he just grab blog posts to make his book??)

Here’s what Godin recommends:

  1. A name that is too descriptive could be too limiting. The less it has to do with your industry, the better. International Postal Consultants is too limiting. Starbucks, Nike, & Apple are good.
  2. Use real English words. Axelon & Altus are bad. Jet Blue, Ambient & Amazon are good.
  3. Make sure it’s easy to spell and pronounce. Prius is a bad name because it can be tricky for some people to spell and pronounce.
  4. Don’t obsess over getting a short name just so you can have a short domain name.
  5. Add a descriptive tagline. Like “Lemonpie, the easy way to learn scuba”.
  6. A name should be unique enough to appear in a web search without a lot of competitors and flexible enough to gain a secondary meaning if you wish to expand your brand.
  7. If you’re creating a whole new product or service, give it a whole new name, not an incremental one. Sneakers is better than athletic shoe.
  8. If you have lots of products and services, come up with a clear naming hierarchy, so customers can understand your offerings. Honda, Honda Civic, and Honda Accord are good. Apple, Apple iPod, and Apple Powerbook are bad, because the “i” prefix isn’t consistent or defensible.
  9. Names with generic words like Central, Land, or World are meaningless. They add no value and are difficult to defend.

Godin’s blog posts:

Author: Mike Lee

An idealistic realist, humanistic technologist & constant student.