Are You Giving Your Business a Bad Name?

A Refresher on Naming Your Business, Product or Brand

Naming your business

The right name can mean the difference between success and obscurity.

I’ve written in both my books about the importance of naming your business, but in my experience, it’s still overlooked as a critical component of a business’s overall brand image. What you call your business, product or brand can quite literally make you a household name, or an also-ran.

Let’s start with a few simple rules for naming.

Rule 1: Avoid generic sounding names

This seems obvious enough – if your name is too generic, or even cliché, what are the odds prospective customers will remember it?

Most often, companies make this mistake because they want to be viewed as large, established players in their industries. So they incorporate words like Universal, Consolidated or General. (Does a word get more generic than General?) Words like this are the equivalent of elevator music, blending into the background while a more interesting brand is giving a compelling elevator pitch.

Smaller companies do it, too. Which is more likely to catch my attention – another Discount Tire Center, or Road Ready Tires?

Today’s startups and app developers have figured this out. They’re probably the best at creating memorable names for their ventures and products. Take, for example, Evernote, Snapchat, Spotify, or everyone’s favorite photo tool, Instagram. Instantly memorable, they paint a picture (even when the words are made-up or nonsensical).

Rule 2: Avoid initials or acronyms

A couple of years ago, I needed to replace a router for my computer network. A colleague suggested I go with a company called SMC Corporation. In the end, I bought a router from a company called NetGear instead. Why? Well, when the time came to conduct research, companies like NetGear and Cisco sprang to mind, while SMC left no impression.

(A quick Google search shows they’re still in business, but I had the name wrong – it’s SMC Networks. No wonder, when you consider that the name manages to violate both rules 1 and 2!)

By now the reason for this rule should be clear: Acronyms and initials communicate nothing of value or interest to the consumer. They leave no trace in the consumer’s mind.

Rule 3: Avoid names with too many words

Long names might be the least problematic of the three naming mistakes, at least if they’re somewhat memorable or descriptive. However, it still makes the customer do too much work. Whenever possible, shorten a long, rambling name into something concise and evocative.

A company with a name like Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Company hardly sounds like a leader in innovation. Yet that’s exactly what this particular company wanted to relay. Which is why the company smartly shortened its name to the now-familiar 3M.

The Art of Renaming

From time to time, you might discover there’s a solid reason to rename your business, product or brand. Perhaps it violates one of the rules above. Or maybe there are specific business advantages to making the change.

Here are three such examples.

Tap into brand equity. 37Signals produced simple, user-friendly project management software. The name had cachet in tech circles, but customers often referred to the company by its most popular product: Basecamp. So this year, in order to capitalize on that brand’s popularity, the company officially changed its name to Basecamp.

Reform a negative brand image. Most of us know Philip Morris as a producer of tobacco products – an unpopular industry in today’s health-conscious culture. After being targeted in high-profile lawsuits and demonized in the press, the multinational corporation decided it needed to shed those negative associations. As a result, Philip Morris became Altria, a new name that carried no baggage and, the company hoped, would allow it to reshape its brand image with a clean slate.

Address new capabilities. CallCopy originally chose its name to reflect its core product: call-recording software. Unfortunately, when the time came to expand its capabilities, it was difficult to shake the public perception that call-recording software was all it had to offer. So CallCopy changed its name to Uptivity, which speaks to its new wider focus on “work-force optimization tools.”

Is your business, product or brand name interesting, memorable and concise? Does it distinguish you from the competition? If not, use these three rules to make a name for yourself.

One comment

  1. Pingback: Are You Giving Your Business a Bad Name? by Rocky Cipriano, InSight Marketing Inc, Westchester NY

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