4 Big Trends in Choosing a Business Name

rsz_computerwithphone by Tim Parker on February 13, 2013
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What does “Hulu” mean, and what does that have to do with TV? Unless you’re up on Chinese proverbs, nothing, but nonetheless you are likely to associate it with the company that allows you to watch recently broadcast content on your computer or mobile device. It’s a great example of how businesses can find the inspiration for a name just about anywhere.

Are you currently working on naming a business for the first time or planning to re-brand an existing one? Here’s a run-down of the latest trends and a few tips for picking a savvy moniker.

Current Trends

1. Made-Up Words — Instead of borrowing foreign terms, Skype, Acura, and Zynga invented their names. Be careful with this strategy: If you don’t plan to wage a massive advertising campaign to make your brand a household name, confusion or obscurity may hurt your business, according to Anita Campbell, CEO and Executive Editor of Small Business Trends. Researching Hulu reveals that the name does have meaning, but will your customers take time to do that? On the plus side, securing a web domain name and social media handles should be easy, because other people are unlikely to be using your name already.

2. Misspelled Words — Using an existing word and eliminating a letter or changing the spelling altogether gives your brand a modern twist. Think Tumblr and Digg. Keep in mind that, although your customers will be able to say your name, it might be less than intuitive for them to find you online. If you rely on word-of-mouth advertising, customers may not want to provide a long explanation of how the company name sounds like one word but is spelled differently.

3. Two Words Combined — The best example might be Facebook. The brand is easy to say, easy to spell, and easy to remember. This can work well for just about any type of business. As with most branding efforts, try to come up with multiple ideas and ask friends and family to give you honest feedback. (Tip: Make each word one syllable.)

4. Initials or an Acronym — The popular retailer IKEA is an example of using initials in a business name. IKEA comes from founder Ingvar Kamprad’s initials joined with the first initial of the farm where he was raised. There are two main problems with using initials or creating an acronym. First, how will people know what your business does? If you put your initials on the side of your truck, you’ll likely have to include additional text to describe the business. Second, if you want the domain name that goes with your three- or four-letter acronym, it’s probably not going to be available. The price tag to acquire it could be substantial.

Tips for Choosing a Name

If you’re unsure where to start with finding the right name, here are some suggestions.

1. How reliant are you on your brand to communicate the nature of your business? Adopting a modern branding strategy for your tech startup or trendy restaurant may work, but a plumber that relies on his company name and strong online keywords to identify his business may want to use a more traditional branding strategy. In this case, “Bob Smith’s 24 Hour Plumbing” might be better than getting overly creative.

2. Contact your state filing office. If you intend to register your business (and you should), your state will not allow you to register under a name that’s already taken. Make sure your new business name isn’t already claimed.

3. Conduct a domain search. Ideally, your website address should be your business name or some form of it. Check the WHOIS database to see if the domain is available.

Your branding, whatever the strategy, should reflect the nature of your business. Just because something is modern or new doesn’t mean that it’s appropriate for you. Consider your type of business and the demographic you’re serving, then try to craft a name that speaks to it.

rsz_computerwithphone

Tim Parker is a business writer for Intuit and is passionate about solving small business problems.

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