If you want to hire a top naming consultant you will have to pay upwards of $50,000. And that doesn’t include your logo. Or you can read through the vast ideas people are willing to share on the internet around the different emotions different vowel sounds will cause in your customers or how a bastardized Latin version of your product category could make a good brand name (there is even a site that looks at start-up success based on the first letter of their name. Correlation not equal to causation…). There is very little evidence on the effectiveness of any of this. Your personal opinion is as good as any consultants in this case. But there are five rules you should follow when creating a name (in order of importance):
1- Be Unique. If someone only half-remembers your name, you want them to remember you and not your competitor. There is nothing worse than spending a lot of money or putting forth a lot of effort and not getting the credit. It is very very hard to break through the noise of the market, so whenever you do, when even a tiny breakthrough happens, you want to make sure people are remembering your brand and not someone else’s. This is a rule that is broken all the time by people who do not know better. Consider the senior housing referral space. These are all different companies: SeniorHomes.com, SeniorHousing.net, SeniorHousingNet.com, SeniorLiving.com, SeniorLiving.net, SeniorLivingNet.com, SeniorsForLiving.com. It’s enough to make your mind spin. If one of these companies were to create a TV advertisement what do you think the chances are that after seeing the spot, one of those viewers might find one of their competitors instead. Don’t fall into this trap.
2- Be Descriptive. Do you have an enormous marketing budget? If so this step may not matter. But if you don’t, you want to make sure your brand name is somewhat descriptive. People who hear about your company or product may ONLY hear the brand name. Ideally that name itself will give them a good idea what you do or offer. It will also help them remember you more later, since it is easier to tie your name and the offering together in their mind.
When I was launching the award-point loyalty program for Expedia we hired naming consultants. Their top suggested name was “Expedia funcierge” [pronounced: fun-see-air-shu]. It was supposed to be a play on combining the words “fun” and “concierge”. Instead it read like “fungus” and had pretty unclear pronunciation. It may have worked if we were going to spend tens of millions of dollars promoting the program, but we weren’t (even then I would be doubtful). We wanted the program to be self-explanatory. We rejected their idea and chose the far less creative, but far more effective: “Expedia Rewards”
3- Own the .com. Can you own YourName.com? You really want to. Yes, you could always pick up YourName.net or .us or YourNameOnline.com or YourNameYourIndustry.com or something equally creative, but no matter what you do you, if you are at all successful, you will be sending a significant percentage of your traffic to YourName.com. If you aren’t the owner of that domain you have given someone else a nice gift. When I started this site I could have picked up MarketingIsEasy.net for $7.99. Instead I paid $1000 for MarketingIsEasy.com. I’m convinced it is worth it. In some ways this is just a sub-rule of Rule #1 – don’t get confused with someone else.
Another hint: If you are thinking about starting a brand, pick up the website name BEFORE you let anyone know you want to start that brand. It makes negotiation a lot easier. When, in my work with A Place For Mom, we wanted to start a senior housing reviews site, I approached the owner of SeniorAdvisor.com as an individual to negotiate pricing. If he knew there was a big company behind the purchase we would likely have had to pay a lot more.
4- Make it spellable and pronounceable. Now we are moving into the “nice to have” category. Say your name out-loud to a friend. Now have your friend try and spell it. If she can’t then consider other options. This rule is broken all the time by the new generation of tech start-ups: fiverr, flickr, tindr, etc. (why do they all end in r’s?). It’s a function of not being able to follow Rule #3 if they stuck with the names they likely really wanted. So if you have a choice between a mis-spelled name like this with the .com or something like FiverServices.com, break rule #4, not Rule #3
5- Length. The shorter your name the better for many reasons.
That’s it. Those are my five rules.
Often you will be forced to break a rule. When that happens, consider these rules in order of importance. Only break Rule #1 is you are prepared to spend so much you become a huge household name and over-power anything you could ever be confused with. Actually, even then, if you are starting from scratch, don’t put yourself in that position.
You will find that the most common conflict is between Rule #1 and Rule #2. All of the bad examples I gave in #1 are very descriptive and easily meet the requirements for #2. In every case Rule #1 trumps Rule #2. You can overcome the issues with #2, but if you are advertising and people don’t know it is YOU when they see a media impression, you are just throwing away money. Unique >> Descriptive, even if ideally you have both.
Disagree? Have a rule I missed? Comment below.