Seven Different Ways to Name a Company

| February 17th, 2009 | , ,

Each day brings with it another round of fresh online apps built to alleviate our small business and freelancer woes. Many of them are solid contributions and will find a hungry marketplace. Others will fizzle after the initial flurry of tweets praising them as the latest and greatest reinvention of X. Aside from what these apps actually do, do you ever wonder how they get named? In my experience as both an applications developer and a graphic / web designer, I have seen several methodologies commonly used to name a company. Here are some of my observations, for whatever they are worth.

  1. The Acronym
    You’ve started a business that makes really great widgets, so why not call it RGW? Makes sense, right? And puts you in the same league as ABC, BRE, CBS, and their brethren. Except that it doesn’t. An acronym is bland and gives your company zero individuality.
  2. The Phonebook
    You want to make sure you are the first person they see when perusing the phone book for a design firm or a vacuum repairman. So you name your company A1 Web Design or AAA Vacuum Repair. Successful businesses are built on providing exceptional products and services, not on having pole position in the phonebook.
  3. Available Domain Name
    The meaning of the name is not nearly as important as having the domain name, so you mash together Greek root words into pronouncable combinations until you find one whose domain name isn’t already taken. Then you make up a meaning to make it look like you weren’t just going for the domain name. This is why we have companies with names like Tanquent, Syncera, and Viaterra, that become difficult to remember.
  4. Adjective + Noun
    This can be a clever and fun way to name a company and can result in a successful brand if you do it right. Names like Laughing Dog or Blue Sunshine can come across as clever and ironic in a hip way, or they can sound like you couldn’t think up anything better. Be careful when using this approach.
  5. Make up a word
    This worked great for Google and Yahoo, as well as a few others. It’s failed for a lot of others. Making up a word from nothing requires an extreme amount of creativity. The english language is so full of words already, it’s really difficult to find words that haven’t been discovered yet.
  6. What it is
    You see this a lot, especially with small business. Instead of trying to pursue a brand, the company is named according to the product or service it provides. We’ve seen companies like The Fish Company, Time Tracker, The Baby Store, and so on. There is no chance to gain any kind of identity — outside of your local community — with a generic descriptive business name.
  7. Metaphor
    This has always been my favorite methodology for naming a business. The name does not have to be unique. Find a concept, a metaphor, that encompasses the spirit of your company. Done right, the branding opportunities are limitless. We named our company Intervals because it works on so many levels for our product and our company. Intervals is a brand that is easily attributable to time tracking and project management, but it also speaks to our love of music and the ocean. Intervals is also an extension of Pelago, a business name that conjures up imagery of fluidity and interconnectivity, attributes of our web design agency. Obviously, we are huge fans of metaphorical approaches to branding a company.

Regardless of how you choose to pursue your naming and brand, consider the pros and cons of the methods listed above. You’ll find yourself thankful you did, because once you choose a name, you’re pretty much stuck with it.

Lear

6 Responses to “Seven Different Ways to Name a Company”

  1. Alling says:

    very nice and informative site. I really had a great time reading some of you post.. keep it up and looking forward to read more soon.

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John Reeve

John is a co-founder, web designer and developer at Pelago. His blog posts are inspired by everyday encounters with designers, developers, creatives and small businesses in general. John is an avid reader and road cyclist.
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Michael Payne

Michael is a co-founder and product architect at Pelago. His contributions stem from experiences managing the development process behind web sites and web-based applications such as Intervals. Michael drives a 1990 Volkswagen Carat with a rebuilt 2.4 liter engine from GoWesty.
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