How to Choose a Name for Your Business
I often get asked, “Pat, how important is it on what I name my company?” Or even, “How do I go about naming my business?” Here’s what you need to know, just as important it is on what you name your kid one day, or maybe you already have, it’s just as important on what you name your company because that’s how people will see that company or the name for the rest of its life or career.
How many kids did you have in school who hated their names? They don’t like their names, or they were called by middle names. I had a sergeant in the Army. His last name was Hooker, Sergeant Hooker. He couldn’t stand it, but it was his last name. Same exact thing goes with naming a business. A lot of parents like to name their kids after the Bible – John, Luke, Mark, Matthew, Peter. But you don’t hear Judas. No one’s going to name their kid Judas. First thing you do, go and search Judas. “Oh my gosh, this is Judas? That’s your name?” Or Adolf. You don’t hear Adolf. Same goes with naming your company.
8 different examples on how to choose a name for your business:
1. Choose two words that make up your company’s name. Valuetainment. It brings value combined with entertainment. Or Volkswagen. In German, I think it means average folks’ wagon, car. In 1934, the history of it is, Hitler wanted a car for two adults and three kids. That’s the Volkswagen, and he called it a car for masses. That’s how that whole thing got started. You can go read about it online.
2. Choose words that have no meaning. Twitter. You got Yahoo. You got Google. There’s not a meaning to it, but it’s catchy. People like it. Twitter worked. Yahoo worked. Google worked. There was a formula for Yahoo and Google, two Os, that worked. We were used to it.
3. Go based on the meaning in a different language. Verizon. We all know Verizon. Verizon came up with veritas, which in Latin means the truth, combined with horizon. The truth horizon becomes Verizon. It worked for them.
4. Crowd source it. You would say, let me ask my followers to see what they think about this name. Let me ask my family. Let me ask everybody on Facebook, “What do you think about this name?” The trouble with that though and I’ve seen this happen so many times, people will say, “I don’t like this name. I don’t like this and I don’t like this and I don’t like this and I like this name.” Then if you go with one, you already have an audience that don’t like any of the names you went with, so it could backfire on you as well.
5. Use your own name. Charles Schwab, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Hilton, Sheraton, Hyatt, your name. However, you must be aware about what name you go with at what time. Ray Kroc in the movie Founder said something very interesting. They asked him “Why do you like the name McDonald’s so much?” He said, “It’s all-American. It’s welcoming. It’s warm.” He says, “Would you ever go to a restaurant called Kroc’s? No, but you would go to McDonald’s?” It worked. Look how self-aware he was to know that his name wouldn’t have worked, so his ego didn’t get in the way and said, “I want my name to be it.” He used McDonald’s.
6. Use an acronym. NBA, NBC, TLC, IBM. Acronyms works. A lot of people do it with three letters or four.
7. Make it explanatory. LEGO was founded in Denmark. LEGO has a meaning. LEGO has a meaning of leg godt, which means “play well” in Danish. Or in Latin, it means “play together.” There was a meaning of why they call it LEGO. You like the name. I like the name. I love LEGO. Still today I make LEGOs with my kids. It makes you feel a certain [inaudible 00:03:19] when you go with a name like that. I love the name LEGO and what it means to us as people using it.
8. Do research before launching your company name. This is an interesting story. Some of you read the book Girl Boss, written by Sophia Amoruso, I believe. Prior to her writing that book that blew up and did very well, she started a clothing line, a vintage clothing line called Nasty Gal. What she didn’t do before she started the company is, she didn’t research if anybody else owned that domain. So when she said, “I’m announcing my company name’s gonna be Nasty Gal,” everybody went to the website Nasty Gal. Ended up being a porn site, so it kind of backfired on her. You have to do research a little bit before naming your company. She ended up buying the domain, I think for $8,000, so do research before you name any company.
Things to avoid when choosing your company name:
1. Be sensitive when choosing a company name. Sensitivity has to do with timing. Washington Redskins may have worked 60 years ago. It’s not gonna work today. A company, I think based out of Michigan, who sells coffee, when you think about Coffee Bean, that works. These guys who thought it named their company, Beaners. Do not name your company Beaners, okay? That’s 72-something stores. So many people complained about it, they ended up changing their company name from Beaners to Big Speed because it’s a sensitivity fact. They didn’t even think about the fact that’s offensive, but their audience did.
2. Think legal. Talk to your attorney. “What do you think about this name? Is there anything like this out there? What do I have to look for?” When we started Valuetainment, we knew there was a valuetainment.com out of Germany, and we found that it had nothing to do with us here in the U.S, so we started Valuetainment.
3. Making it too long. Sometimes too long of a name makes too long of an email, makes too long of a website, makes too many opportunities for me to misspell when I’m typing the domain. There’s just way too many opportunities there to screw it up.
Think about all those things there before you’re picking a name for your company and who knows, you may just have the next multi-million dollar household brand or company name that people around the world not only recognize but also love.