Name Company Business

21-Point Checklist for Naming Your Company

by Nicholas Tart on April 28, 2011 · 21 comments

Do you think Google™ would be the brand that it is today if it were still named Backrub? What if Facebook™ was still labeled The Facebook?

Old school business gurus have told me to chose a name quickly and change it later. Now with all of the different ways to spread your brand, changing your name isn’t an option.

To make sure you pick the right name for your company, use this 21-point checklist. Nine of them are absolutely essential.

What to Name a Company?

The Essentials of a Company Name

  1. Interesting backstory?
    One of the most popular questions you’ll get is, “how did you come up with the name?” If you have a cool, personal backstory behind it, this will be a chance pull in that customer with your story. Then they’ll remember it and tell other people. The story of Johnny Cupcakes is a good example.
  2. Business name available?
    In high school I tried to start a company named, “Mandles – Masculine Scented Candles.” But the Chia Pet people own the trademark so I couldn’t use it. Do a name availability search with your Secretary of State and a trademark search with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
  3. Domain available?
    You want the .com because that’s the first thing people search for. If it’s not available, then .net, .org, and .co are acceptable.
  4. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube available?
    You should have your Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube usernames. Before I registered 14clicks.com, I didn’t check. So now all of my social media profiles end in 14clicksNick (facebook.com/14clicksNick, Twitter.com/14clicksNick, and YouTube.com/14clicksNick).
  5. Easy to spell?
    The easier it is to spell, the easier it’ll be to find you.
  6. Smooth to say?
    Whisper your business name. If it sounds good as a whisper, check this one off. Good examples are Google, Apple, and Macy’s.
  7. Keywords?
    Your website will rank higher in search engines if you can sneak keywords into your business name and domain. Plus, it’ll tell customers what you do. Don’t be boring though.
  8. LLC or Inc?
    When you’re reserving your name, you have to know whether you’re going to end it with an “LLC” or an “Inc.” Facebook ran as an LLC for four years before they incorporated in 2004.
  9. Brand infringement?
    37signals was going to name their CRM platform “Sunrise” but Sun Microsystems trademarked the word “Sun” for anything related to software. So they renamed it “Highrise.” If it’s questionable, it’s best not to mess with the big guys. However, The South Butt did win their case against The North Face.

Brandable Company Names (B2C)

These factors mostly apply to companies that sell to everyday people. If that’s you, use a brandable business name.

  1. Short?
    Can you think of a company with more than ten letters in its name? The first one I thought of was Circuit City. Keep it short, sweetheart.
  2. Memorable?
    When you’re selling to consumers, they have to see your brand an average seven times before they’ll buy. This also means that they have to remember it six times before they hear it for the seventh. I’ve found that people remember “clicks” but they don’t always remember the number. What can I do to help you remember “14”?

Generic Company Names (B2B)

If you’re selling to other businesses, they tend to care less about the name of your business. The same applies for professional services like lawn mowing, plumbing, and law offices.

  1. A turn off?
    Lots of business-to-business companies don’t use MailChimp strictly because of the name. It’s comparable and, in some ways better than Aweber (aff link) or iContact (aff link). But businesses don’t want their clients to receive an email with a playful “MailChimp” logo in the footer.
  2. Your name?
    If you plan on keeping your business modest or closely tying it to your personality, drop your name in there. Good examples are PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and Ben & Jerry’s.

Bonuses of Company Name

  1. Catchy?
    Can you make an auto-tuned song out of it? We gon find you. We gon find you.
  2. Metaphor?
    One way to convey the benefits of your company is by using a metaphor in your company name. Lawyers do this a lot: “Franklin D. Azar – The Strong Arm” and “Brian ‘Bulldog’ Moore.”
  3. Dual meaning?
    Google is perhaps the most famous example. The word, “Google” is a misspelling of the word “googol”, the number one followed by 100 zeros. It signifies the vast amount of information that Google has indexed.
  4. Wordplay?
    You get two bonus points if you can pull this one off. Best Buy is the only one I can think of at the moment.
  5. Animal?
    Energizer has spent millions (maybe billions) to brand themselves with the iconic Energizer Bunny. People remember animals. And they’re more likely to remember your business if it’s associated with an animal.
  6. Cool branding concepts?
    Some company names give graphic designers the perfect opportunity to create a great brand. The hidden message in the Amazon logo is a good example.
  7. Sound?
    One of the reasons we settled on 14 Clicks is because Nick Scheidies brought up that “click” is a sound that can be used to brand audio and video files.
  8. Alliteration, onomatopoeia, or an oxymoron?
    Remember those literary elements you learned in 10th grade? Well, they’re used as pneumonic devices to help people remember things. So it’s good to have them in your business name.

More: 25 Fascinating Stories behind Your Favorite Brand Names

Monument Marketing

This week I finally formalized my freelance web projects into a legitimate business, MonumentMarketing.net. Here are three talking points about this name:

  • It’s a metaphor. The tagline is, “We Create Destination Websites” because monuments are destination spots that people want to visit.
  • I’m moving to Monument, CO. Businesses in my community will google “Monument Marketing” and I’ll come up on top.
  • It’s alliteration. So it slides off the tongue slightly smoother.

I’ve been holding off on growing the service side of my business because it’s not as scalable. But I’ve been getting a bucket load of clients over the last few weeks, so I’m going to put a little more effort into setting it up right.

14 Clicks is my long-term mission, but Monument Marketing will give me more experience that I can write about here.

Update: Since publishing this post, I co-founded a simple freelance marketplace called AwesomeWeb. If you’re a freelance web designer or developer and you need more clients, find out more and sign up here.

In the comments, let me know the name of your company or any names you’re considering, and I’ll let you know what I think.
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Post image by: boltron-

{ 19 comments }

Inkflinger June 20, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Hey there!

I struggled for weeks with my own company name… I’m a copywriter, so it should’ve been easy. My favourites were Brain Candy, A Brand Apart, WORD and Alphabet Rodeo…. i finally settled on inkflinger… Mainly because it’s only me, my main business is copy, not branding… and I has some feedback that Alphabet Rodeo sounded too wild… What do you think?>

Nicholas Tart June 21, 2011 at 9:53 am

Hey Nikki! Yeah, I think it’s good. I remembered it a few days after reading it and, based on your site, I think it reflects your personality well. It also implies that you work fast. How are you getting customers as a copywriter?

Chris Huntley October 12, 2012 at 9:37 pm

I love InkFlinger. Very catchy. I’m trying to think of a name for my insurance agency, but not sure how to shorten it. I’ve been going by “Huntley Wealth Insurance” for the last 8 years and it’s a horrible name. My receptionist answers with our name, and they say “who?” It’s not easy to remember or even understand. Anyway, very cool name.

Maria October 20, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Hello!

Thank you so much for a great checklist!! I’ve been struggling for the last 2 weeks with the name for our new company and would appreciate so much if you tell me what you think. Previously, my husband and I were working under My Africa Holdings name (in South Africa) but we want to change our style, refine the mission & goals and get ourselves a new name. Our business is community development, we are helping big corporations manage their social responsibility funds & community projects, we want to create new projects, develop strategies for communities how to become self-sustainable etc.

Please tell me what you think about these 2 names:
Future Community Strategies
http://www.futurecommunitystrategies.com
and
Vision & Strategies
http://www.visionandstrategies.com

The problem is that lots of good (and short!) names are already taken or there is no domain name avaible. (sorry for my English, it’s not my native language but I hope I managed to explain myself clearly).

Thank you very much in advance!

Nicholas Tart October 20, 2011 at 7:18 pm

Hey Maria! First of all, your comment was very well-written for English not being your primary language.

Secondly, I think both those options are too generic, not very memorable, and too long. If you’re sticking to Africa, I would try to incorporate that into the name. Here are a few ideas I had: ISeeAfrica.com, Afric.an ($199 at 101domain.com), Afreyeca.com, and Afrivisio.com (visio is Latin for vision).

Or maybe since you’re already established, you can rename it based on a particularly memorable story. For instance, if you helped a young kid overcome a big struggle, then tie his/her name into your org’s name. That way you’ll have an interesting story to tell every time someone asks about your name.

Hope that helps,
Nicholas

Maria October 21, 2011 at 8:47 am

Hello Nicholas,

thanks for the compliment and for your reply! I absolutely agree with you that these 2 names are very generic. I like your idea about ISeeAfrica.com, but we want to work internationally and not to be associated with Africa only.

We are not well established yet, so its a perfect time to come up with a good name, at this early stage. I came up with few funny options, like trust4people.com (our legal entity will be Trust but according to SA law you do not have to mention the word “trust” in your name, but if you want to – you can) or peoplevehicle.com. But they sound “too modern and funny”, if I may say this way. Our target audience is big business/ corporations and we would rather have a neutral name but which will sound a bit more serious.

Sorry, if I am bothering you too much:)) but maybe you will suggest some nice not-too-generic combinations from these words (if it is possible at all!): development, vision, sustain/sustainable, unlocking, solutions, strategic/ strategies, potential, international, development, empowerment). These are the key words in our business.

Yesterday morning we thought to call ourselves “future community strategies”. Then in the evening my husgand wanted “VisionDevelopmentStrategies.com”. I understand that all these names are very “primitive” from a creative perspective. What a task to find the right name. . . !! :)))

I know that our core strenght is to give clients (communities & businesses as well) an overall perspective for the project, initiative etc. It’s a kind of “strategic advising”, putting many separated components together, a lot about management & facilitation (by the way, strategicadvise.com is available), I am just struggling to find the right name for what we want to do, the one which will be short and easy to memorize, and also which will sound “in the same league” as big businesses, so that they don’t feel embarassed to put their name & logo next to ours.

If you have any other suggestions/ recommendations, I would appreciate so much your input!!! And if you happen to be in South Africa – you are always welcome in our house in Pretoria (it’s close to Johannesburg).

In any case, thanks for your time and help!!
It is so unusual that somebody whom you don’t know is caring about something what is important for you and invest his time and creativity into your dream.

Thanks again!! and have a lovely day!

Nicholas Tart October 24, 2011 at 1:47 pm

I think we should go at this from a different perspective, Maria. Personally, when I see a business name with the words Strategies, Solutions, International, Vision, etc., I can’t help but think of how boring that organization must be. Even though those are the perfect words to describe your mission, they’re overused and cliche.

One of the biggest benefits to your business name is being able to tell the story behind it. Stories enchant people. If your organization has an interesting story, people will tell that story to other people because they want to share interesting things.

So, think of a story that you’d like to tell people regarding your organization. And pick an object, a person, or an event that’s part of that story and use it as the basis of your organization’s name.

For instance, if you helped a corporation donate money to a little boy named Emil so he could buy a guitar to entertain his family, name your company Emil’s Guitar. Then people will ask why and you have an opportunity to tell a story that they can tell other people.

From my experience, big corporations want to be a part of a fascinating brand. If you go with InternationalStrategicVision.com, you lose a huge opportunity to build a brand.

Tell me a story.

Jess November 24, 2011 at 8:47 pm

Hi,
I’m having trouble thinking of the right name for my brand. I’m an artist so my brand is bit like Johnny cupcakes in the way that I am selling my artwork and designs on merchandise. I have a few ideas but Im not certain about any right now. Do you think it would be better to use more of a personal name like a nickname which has a backstory to it or something more random which just sounds cool and suits it? Thank you for your time.

Nicholas Tart November 25, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Hey Jess,
Definitely go with a name that has a personal backstory. One of the most asked questions for entrepreneurs is, how did you come up with your name? If you go with goofy random and tell the story, they’ll think, that’s kinda cool. But if you relate it to yourself, which I think is especially important because you’re an artist, then that’ll give you a chance to tell them your story. People don’t talk about how Johnny Cupcakes t-shirts have cupcakes on them. We tell people about the crummy car he used to sell them out of and how he’s never sold out. If you want to run your ideas by me, list them here or send me an email: nick@14clicks.com.

Hope I can help!

Vincent Richards February 10, 2012 at 1:46 am

Hey, Nick I just discovered JuniorBiz today. I am learning a lot. And plan to use everything I’ve learnt. Well the business I want to get off the ground is called Creative Gentlemen or CG for short (Please give me your opinion). The service I want offer is good quality creativity and innovation. I want my business to offer graphic design services, computer hardware and software repair, photography, just to mention a few… Any tips and ideas will be welcome.

Nicholas Tart February 11, 2012 at 4:17 pm

Hey Vincent… My best advice for you is to focus on one area of building that business. It’s good that you have a vision to provide all of those services, but I think you’ll have a much easier job getting clients if you focus on one service. It’s something I’m working on as well.

sunny vidhani February 14, 2012 at 11:23 am

hello sir,

i want a brand name for my company
pls give me some options

thanks and best regards

sunny vidhani

Suchita Jain April 3, 2012 at 4:49 pm

Hi Nicholas

I have read ur articles and i get ur point that a brand name shd be easy to recall..
i have started an apparel biz n yet i have not found the perfect name for my biz.
The products i have are mostly hand embroidered n r beautiful bt still i cannt think of a gud brand name.
Pls help

Nicholas Tart April 9, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Hey Suchita… I can’t help you much more than this article can. My best advice, since the apparel company is close to your personal brand, is name it something that insights a story. Take a look at JohnnyCupcakes.com and read his story.

Lucky Mara May 28, 2012 at 7:04 pm

Gati Global.
How does that sound for an electric power/engineering solutions company?

Nicholas Tart June 1, 2012 at 12:50 pm

I think it’s good. The next question is, what does “Gati” stand for?

Dane April 20, 2013 at 6:15 am

I like coming up with cool sounding names when it comes to business names. This is a great cool for that: http://www.pronouncey.com.

Sonya June 15, 2013 at 5:18 pm

Hello,
I read your article about naming your company and just wanted a professional opinion on the name that we have chosen for our company. We are personal stylist (Fashion). We shop for women, putting the whole outfit together. From the hair, makeup, outfit, accessories, down to the shoes.

The name that we came up with is “T.H. Styles” . The backstory is not very exciting T.H. is the initials of my partner and Styles is what we do.

Our motto is “Let’s make it personal….”

I just was curious if you had something better or if we are on the right track. Your input would be greatly appreciated.

Thank in advance
Sonya

Jason Shackelford September 1, 2013 at 7:54 am

Thank you for your help in advance. I am thinking about creating two additional law firms. The first is:

Shackelford & Kays, P.C. OR Kays & Shackelford, P.C.

The second is: Attorney Collection Services, L.L.C..

What do you think?

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