Minding Your Own Brand: What Are You Going to Name it?

Minding Your Own Brand: What are you going to name it?

My wife and I recently had our second baby, and like all expectant parents we had to go through the often difficult process of picking a name. Choosing a name is one of the first big decisions you make for your child and it can have a large impact on their future. Anyone familiar with the 1980s movie The Sure Thing remembers the diatribe of John Cusack’s character in which he expresses his disgust for the name “Elliot” who will grow up to be “a fat kid with glasses who eats paste.” He then goes on to explain that “You gotta give him a real name. Give him a name! Like Nick….Nick’s a real name! Nick’s your buddy. Nick’s the kinda guy you can trust.”

Choosing a name for your company or product is as important as naming your child, so don’t take it lightly. First and foremost the name has to be unique. Growing up in classrooms filled with Davids, Johns and Jennifers, the one thing that set me apart was my last name. Speaking of my last name, that brings me to the next point. You have to be able to say it and spell it. I know first hand how having a name like Lubelczyk, which is both difficult to say and spell, can be a real pain. In this world of URLs, search engines, and online directories, being able to spell your company’s name is crucial unless you want to spend a lot of money registering all the misspellings of the name. Before you pick a name, make sure you can get the .COM because chances are if you can only register the .NET, the .BIZ or you have to put in a lot of dashes or an “e” in front of it, no one will ever find you…but they will find your competitor.

A name also has to fit the personality of the company now and the personality you want it to grow up to be. Unlike Little Rickey who can become Richard the CEO or Rick the Fireman, you are stuck with that name for a long time. So choose wisely. If you have to change it later, the costs both financially and in lost recognition will be massive. The longer you have a name, the harder it will be to change. Just ask KFC who has recently gone back to Kentucky Fried Chicken because despite massive amounts of advertising telling us that KFC was their name and it stood for “Kitchen Fresh Chicken”, no one really forgot that this company southern-fried their chicken.

Another thing to remember when picking a name is to avoid trendy names, names based on a fad, names that include current technology, or names that expire. Let’s face it, does anyone get the latest electronic equipment at the Hi-Fi Shack or Computers 2000? I don’t know many people who still want to go to the Cineplex, the Roller Disco, or the Bowladrome. These all may have been great names “in the day”, but now they seem dated and irrelevant. So unless your company offers a retro theme or wants to forever stay in a time warp, avoid these names at all cost.

A popular naming trend is the use of only initials. This comes from the success of companies like GE, IBM and AT&T. But unless you’re a “Blue Chip” company, this is probably not a good idea. Not many people want to buy from EDP NOW nor do they see ABC Office Supplies as unique. I can’t even guess what ADSP Inc. sells. Finally, AAA Computer Repair may get you the first listing in the phone book but does it really differentiate your service?

My entire family had very strong feelings about what the baby should be called and your company’s stakeholders do too, therefore you must choose wisely. Always remember to consider if the name is appropriate, will people be excited about it, does it sound good, will people relate the name with the products or services you offer, and is it the type of company name people want to associate with. If all else fails, ask for help. There many good companies who specialize in developing the perfect name for your business.

For anyone who is interested, the baby’s name is Nickolas and even though John Cusack had very little to do with the name, I hope my son grows up to be a buddy, the kind of guy you can trust, not someone who eats paste.

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