Naming Primer

By Alan Bennington

It all begins with the information contained in the naming brief. This can come from your own company supplied brief or by using the Naming Brief/Questionnaire

Think back to the very last time you spoke with someone, a few seconds ago perhaps... a friend, loved one...a co-worker or with a group. Were you addressed using your name?

Did you hear it even once... often, or not at all? Now recall who used your name and I can guarantee that you'll retain a more favorable impression, a fondness perhaps, or closeness...maybe more respect for this person.

Your reaction probably was imperceptible... perhaps it went totally unnoticed or indeed; maybe it was very visceral, especially if it came from a loved one.

Your name is means everything. It's so very important that we crave to hear it mentioned over and over again. Hearing it can bring back a flood of thoughts and memories filled with meaning and associations... remembrances both good and bad. Our parents gave us our name...the announcement to the world we had arrived and that we mattered.

So, you need a (new) name?

Normally, the reason for forming a new company or entrepreneurial endeavor is because you or others have new ideas…you have new solutions & answers to common problems…solutions that stand out in a sea of, perhaps, poor choices.

You are advising or helping a poorly run business by, improving the company’s customer service, or, (no service), as it often is, or exploring new technological innovations to enhance the consumer experience.

Using a conventional “safe” name seems antithetical to the newness, uniqueness or brilliance of a new idea…the cynosure moment if you will. Where would Google, Apple, Microsoft or Virgin be if they were named differently…perhaps right where they are, at the top, or only half way along.

Remember your mom’s admonition “…make a good first impression.” …you might not get another chance.

Make yourself responsible for your new name...or at least limit the size of your name selection group, (those assisting). A horse designed by a committee will likely get you a camel.

What’s in a name?

Cocaine & kola nuts...Coca-Cola has done well as a company, a stellar success by all standards. It’s been reported that Coke's physical assets are valued at $24.5 billion dollars, but their brand value is closer to $70 billion. Over time, well executed branding implementation will greatly increase your name’s value...maybe not to a $70 billion dollar value, but having that “great name” start will give you an edge.

What the heck is Google? There is a meaning. Google is a misspelling of googol which refers to the number (1) followed by one hundred zeros.

The correct choice of a name for a business, product or service is vital and can’t be overstated. Generally, a bad name never hurt a good product or business… likewise a good name can’t help a bad product.

The best name, and it could be one of several choices, will either advance you along the road to success or relegate your business to obscurity.

Coming up with a good name is relatively easy…finding names that are available & trademark-able is the challenging part, especially if the mirroring domain name is needed.

As with most subjects, experts will disagree upon how to come up with a winning name. See the Naming Glossary to learn more about the intricacies & methodologies used by myself & others in the naming game.

There is no one ideal or perfect name. A dozen expert namers could each present their individual choices… all could be equally great & conform to the given parameters of the naming brief.

Any professional namer will admit that as each day passes it becomes a more difficult task to provide suitable names for whatever the project might be. A new name that is perfect & possesses the qualities & traits your company holds dear is a very worthy asset. It may not be quite $70 billion, (Coca-cola), but, it's still invaluable.

Again, this is especially so in securing a domain name & extension that mirrors your company name.

Having these two elements match is vital, if not mandatory, for many businesses. There is no valid argument against not having a web presence; and not having your URL address the same as your business name, otherwise it can be confusing to your customers and may not be in your best overall interest.

The prime function of having a unique business name is to identify & separate you from your competitors… the same challenge your parents had in announcing you to the world.

You distinguish yourself from others in the business world by:

  • Having a unique & special name

  • Having a visual identity (logo ) that is truly unique, inspired, & memorable

  • Creating a corporate identity through Branding & Marketing

Given that your name candidates have passed trademark muster and have been linguistically cross checked over a variety of languages & cultures…how do you decide which name to pick? Whichever name you believe that best represents & defines your product or business. Choosing correctly at this point is crucial. You do not want to spend tens of thousands of dollars in marketing and branding costs only to discover you made the wrong choice.

"The heart has its reasons which reason does not know.”

~Blaise Pascal

Don’t start out as Ohio Drapes & Blinds when, perhaps, in five years you’ll be selling nationally or even internationally. Maybe six years from now you’ll become the new version of Amazon selling everything under the sun. Remember, think big, think long term, and the right name will serve you forever.

This is not quite as obvious and simple as it appears...a good reason to work with a professional namer.

Your name should echo & reinforce the core elements of your business today and tomorrow. Introspection comes into play here. For many, this level of discovery can be daunting. Knowing the rules of the road in the name game should help to make the task easier. Do you know the “rules”?

Naming Principles

  • Think big, start locally, then nationally, finally, go global.

  • Avoid being a copycat…don’t be like Hollywood where almost every new TV show is a clone of last year’s success. Eschew the pedestrian.

  • Avoid the similar marketing and branding solutions of others.

  • Keep the name simple.

  • Make it memorable.

  • Avoid undesirable connotations... linguistic screening plays a part here.

  • Does it work here (USA) and across global cultures?

  • Is the name unique enough to be trademarked (® ™)?

  • Somehow, try to associate or connote what you do or offer along with the nature of your products if possible.

  • Get the URL, then register the other common extensions to prevent competitors from latching onto your name, example ,.net, .co or .biz

  • Remember the intrinsic value of your name…Coke, Pepsi, Ford.

  • Is it easy to pronounce? Is it easy to write? Is it easy to spell…literally or phonetically? Is it easy to understand? Will people understand the concept without struggling to figure out what you are all about.

  • Keep it short, preferably three or fewer syllables.

  • Is it well balanced, where vowels & consonants are alternately spaced?

  • Does it resonate through use of alliteration or other poetic device?

  • Most people will instinctively know when a name “sounds right”.

  • We want name a logo. Styles and trends change, your name survives.

  • And, you thought it would be difficult….

Take a look at the Naming Glossary if you have not looked it over to learn more about how names are formed.

Successful naming is part art & part science

Art: The expression of what is beautiful or of more than ordinary significance.

Science (Psychology): The science of the mind or of mental states & processes.

Types of names


Invented Names or Coined Names: Neologisms, Portmanteau words

Experiential, from your experiences


Real, could be experiential/evocative

Many successful names are in two components.

  1. A word that somehow relates in a direct sense by letting people know what a company does.

  2. A word not related to the company, but one that evokes a feeling.

Smashing Pumpkins...verb/noun..., but not just any noun.

Rolling Stones...verb/noun..., but not Rolling Boulders.

Dancing Bloomers......verb/noun..., but not Dancing Underware or Dancing Skivvies.

Some naming pros love made-up or coined words, (neologisms). They generally are very trademark-able because of their uniqueness. These words are neutral in that they don't carry positive or negative connotations. They are often called empty vessels (names). On the other hand, they may be perceived as complex, hard to understand or relate to, and may require more effort in establishing their market position.

Faux Pas… Some prominent name goofs made by “experts”.

One of the newest is Microsoft’s search engine Bing). This name was created by a very large and well known design/branding firm. “Bing”, depending upon the intonation of a Mandarin Chinese speaker, means disease or diseased…a nice way to start your day?

A Spanish manufacturer introduced their new potato chip brand named Bum in the US… how well did this work?

The automaker Ford, introduced the Caliente years ago, it means “hot” in Spanish… it’s also slang for “street walker”.

Irish Mist introduced its new drink product but was unaware that “mist” is German slang for excrement.

Honda’s Fritta had to be renamed Jazz. “Fritta” is Norwegian slang for a female’s genitals.

While mentioning genitals, sorry... Ford’s Pinto, in Portuguese slang, means “small penis”.

Enron Corp, the now bankrupt & disgraced energy company, started out as Enteron. Unfortunately enteron has to do with the small intestine or colon. Too many body part goofs on this list.

Trademarking® ™…yes or no?

After selecting your ideal name…should you consider investing the time & considerable extra expense in researching & registering it as a trademark? You can perform preliminary research for free at It’s recommended that an attorney specializing in Trade Mark law be involved at some point.

The short answer is no. As long as your name doesn’t infringe on anyone’s trade name you may use your name. Check with the Secretary of State’s office where you reside (USA), to see if your name is okay to use.

If you wish to remain a small business and never branch out in size or reach you’ll probably be fine.

The longer & more detailed answer is yes. Consider it strongly.

For some it’s hard to imagine a business enterprise never wanting to grow. Most people have dreams of becoming the next Microsoft, Google or Apple. Your ambitions, abilities & desires…along with some luck will dictate your growth for the most part.

As soon as you get on the web you’ll become an international presence… like it or not… more reason than ever to protect your name. People and companies routinely infringe upon the copyright of others, blatantly so in many cases. Copyright protection is of enormous concern for large and well known companies. This is a highly litigated field not normally noticed by the public at large.

Even the smallest business should undergo trademark consideration & screening.

You may be operating in Georgia today and wish to open an office in New York, but suddenly you find a company with the same name as yours.

You’re at a dead end unless you change your name; you can’t operate legally in New York.

Think long term…what about franchising your business in 5 years?

You’ll need to prepare ahead. Invest now & avoid large & possibly crippling legal expenses & entanglements.

Good luck on your voyage to finding and acquiring the perfect brand, business or domain/URL name.

The United States Patent and Trademark office

An agency of the Department of Commerce Home page Listing of International Trademark Servicemark Classes US Trademark name check NAICS (North American Industry Classification) US private trademark search Trademark info USC Title 15 Commerce & Trade Laws US individual state laws Canadian Trademark Office Australian Trademark info New Zealand Trademark info British, UK Trademark Office Slogan check Intellectual Property Office European Trademark info International Trademark Assn. World Intellectual Property Organization Alphabetical listing of worldwide TM offices Useful info Re: "The Madrid Protocal" Inquire with us to consult about naming and logo/identity design.


All text & graphics Copyright 2012 Alan Bennington/BOXEDBRANDS and other copyright holders

website security
Payment Processing