5 tips on how to name your business or product

Hello My Name Is... Dunny

Hello, my name is… Dunny! Photo by Robert Occhialini

What’s in a name? Actually, quite a bit.  I know, I know,  Shakespeare. Today, someone in business might say, “An iPad by any other name….” Wait. “iPad” is a terrible name. In fact it was the biggest pop culture joke after the iPad was released. It may sting the ego, but it doesn’t hurt sales to be made fun of on SNL or MAD TV. (Lana del Rey anyone?) Which brings me to my point: the name of your business or product is crucial.

Here are 5 tips for coming up with a name that works:

1. Take your time. Finding a good name might be hard, but it’s not impossible. It’s worth a solid chunk of time. When you found something you like, don’t rush out to buy the domain name or announce it to the world right away. What sounds good after hours of brainstorming will often sound terrible in the morning. Ruminate on it. Let it breathe like a fine wine. Let it rolllllll off the tongue.

2. Be short, clear and concise. It is a cliche, but people say it for a reason. Keep it simple. You want people to remember and repeat the name… correctly. If you’re making up a new word, or putting two words together be extra careful. This has the potential to go haywire in a heartbeat. Take for example, BookGoo (sounds like some messy art project for 2nd graders rather than a sophisticated highlighting tool for your browser) and even Fairtilizer (“fertilizer” can already conjure up a mental image of a big pile of crap. When it looks like “fartilizer” you’re going on a full offensive.)

3. Make it pretty.  Most often, people will read the name of your business or product before they hear it out loud. If you want it to capture their attention, think about the way the letters look on the page. Make it easy to read instantly. Think about how the name might appear in a logo. Is it too long? Too short? Words with double letters and palindromes work well. ELLE is a perfect example of both.

4. Don’t box yourself in. Some of the best company names don’t have anything to do with the products they sell. Just think about it. Amazon, eBay, Apple, Monster… It’s a good strategy that has allowed each of these companies to expand their markets. Therefore, it is better to choose a catchy name that is conceptually vague over a name that describes exactly what your business or product does. Books a Million is a company that sells magazine and e-subscriptions too, but the name immediately makes you think they are only involved in books. Let others try to put you in a box, don’t put yourself in one.

5. Don’t do it alone. Get feedback. More important, get outside feedback. From strangers, not your co-workers, friends or Mom. Take it to the streets. Tell people your ideas and when they give you feedback, listen. You don’t have to do every random thing you hear, but if half of the people you poll don’t like the name or have a hard time understanding it, it’s time to kill your baby. After all, this is your audience. You want people that don’t know you to buy or invest in your product or business.  Use social media to your advantage. Conduct polls and pose questions your audience on Facebook and Twitter.

*If you can’t find a good name, just do what Apple did and come up with a really terrible one. Just make sure its terrible enough to land you a skit on MAD TV.


3 responses to “5 tips on how to name your business or product

  1. You are wrong. It is not a terrible idea – it is a great idea. You are simply feeding your own prejudice by being locked into a position. You need to learn to brainstorm and open up to possibilities. I’d wager you are not employed in any kind of creative work. You speak with certainty but I doubt if anyone here cant see that its just chest beating bull. You are certain it will be a useless product? Really? Like so many here declared the iPhone and the iPad few short years ago.

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