Naming a Business

The Naming Process

Next will be the critical step of choosing a business name. The significance of this decision cannot be underestimated.

Among the best remembered names are double entendres (phrases with double meanings) which are often whimsical. One meaning is pertinent to your industry or company, and the other meaning is often silly or otherwise memorable.

It is also favorable if your name makes use of alliteration like “TotallyTwisted” for a pretzel company, or “WebWave” for a marine-related web site. A rhyming name could also be positive like DupreesTrees or MellowYellow. You might also consider having your company name begin with the letter “A” to get to the top of alphabetical listings or “Z” to be particularly memorable. You can also mix and match these attributes in an attempt to create an optimized balance.

Nevertheless, you may not find a name that you and your stakeholders like with these characteristics included, but to ensure you ultimately make the best decision, spend a lot of time studying your options. Also, get votes and opinions on your top name options from as many people as possible including from crowdsources like mturk.com. If you find consensus in a name, then it is likely to be a great choice. In this case you could add naming questions and voting as part of your market survey process mentioned earlier in this book. At the end of the day, make sure you and your direct stakeholders feel comfortable with your final naming decision whatever it may be.

Before you choose a business name, be sure that you can buy the “.com” Internet domain name that is an exact match. For instance, don’t name your company TotallyTwisted if you cannot buy totallytwisted.com to use for branding reinforcement. Doing so would be a failure from which you would never fully recover. Getting totallytwisted.net will not suffice because your brand would always be at risk of dilution by the primary Internet brand holder, which is always whoever owns the exact “.com” extension for any word, phrase, or company name.

In addition, when naming a business (and therefore your domain and all of your branding) it should be consistent, easy to say, easy to spell, and easy to remember.

You should also be able to trademark (TM) it via the US Patent and Trademark Office if it is not a generic descriptive industry term. Be sure someone else hasn’t placed your name in line at the USPTO before you invest in your own business with that same branded name. If you believe that you have the first rights to that expression, you could invest in counsel to fight the other parties, utilizing the trademark process to gain legal control of that expression in your market space. You can locate information on filing trademarks and review existing marks and applications from the US Patent and Trademark Office at www.uspto.gov, but you will probably require legal counsel nonetheless.

A couple of things to keep in mind:

(a) To get a trademark, the name cannot actually describe the product. For example, you cannot call your company Hot Pancakes if you are actually selling pancakes because that would preclude other pancake companies from using that same basic terminology in marketing which would be unfair. Conversely, if you named your brand of auto parts Hot Pancakes, you would likely qualify to get the trademark. Then others in the auto parts industry could not use the words Hot Pancakes in their marketing since you gained legal control of that non-descriptive terminology first. You can protect non-descriptive terms like Hot Pancakes for auto parts, but you can’t protect descriptive terms like Hot Pancakes for a pancake company.

(b) There can be no other trademarks similar to yours that are already successfully registered or in line to be registered. So don’t name your company TotallyTwisted if you can’t register that identical trademark for your service. Again, you need the “.com” domain also (in this case totallytwisted.com) to go with your company name.

Next Section >