Company Naming · Branding

How to come up with a company name?

Alan Levine Graduate Student at Hebrew University

January 6th, 2015

I'm in the process of creating a web app that I plan to raise seed-money for in the next 6 months. Does anyone have advice on how to pick a name? Are there any proven consultants out there who can help? How did you name your product?

Steven Schkolne Computer Scientist on a Mission

January 6th, 2015

Hi Alan, coming up with a name is a difficult process. There are many great firms out there, and if you can afford it I recommend you hire one. If you're asking this question you may not have a lot of experience naming - in which case you should probably work with someone who has.

The most important thing is to avoid a bad name. Consider some basic parameters:
* when heard, the name should be easily written
* when seen written, the name should be easily pronounced

It is amazing how many bad names I have seen that avoid these basics. Consider also avoiding a name with a forced double entendre, highly engineered portmanteau, or cryptic alternate meaning. This is newbie mistake #1. Trying to be too smart, too clever, and ending up with a name that tries too hard and fails. A good name doesn't really help you. A bad name can definitely hurt you.

Another thing to consider: your URL. Use a site like pcnames.com to test your names. Think seriously before doing anything but .com. A good URL is, for me, the final test and ultimate constraint for a good company name. (putting a good SEO term in your name should also be considered).

With all of that said, seeing that your seed stage, at this point you should probably call yourself "New Company", "New Product", or "ABC Company" basically whatever allows you to stop worrying about a name and move forward. There's a lot more to success than a great name.

ss

Tim Scott

January 6th, 2015

This is worth a watch: 
http://thisweekinstartups.com/name-startup-wsgr-startup-basics/

Christopher Johnson Verbal branding and communication pro

January 10th, 2015

Hi Alan, I'm The Name Inspector, the naming consultant that Steve Huson recommended above. A couple local companies that I've named are zulily and Gist. I'm happy to talk if you'd like to learn more about how I work. 

Corey Blaser

January 6th, 2015

Lexicon is a great group and they are one of the leaders in naming. But expect to spend some money, their services are not cheap.

Rich Goidel Business strategist, group facilitator, agile practitioner and corporate muse

January 12th, 2015

Good advice here, all the way round.

I wholeheartedly agree with using an outside party. This is not something you should try at home. It takes a unique combination of creativity and process that is a bit of a rarity.

Also, I'd agree about not worrying too much right now ... if you can help it. My experience with brand and startups has shown that many are bound to discover their value and market position shifts more and more as they go to market - so the name you choose now may not be an expression of your brand in a year or two.

Conversely, you must weigh that against the challenge of dropping whatever brand equity you've built if you do decide to rebrand later. (I would argue, it's only the instant success stories that need to be concerned about that.)

Over time, the market will associate your name with your brand, regardless of what you're called. But that assumes the market actually cares. Which assumes you have something they care about.

To that end, the exercise of "branding," when done well, is one of the best strategic gifts you can give to your company. It can illuminate the strengths and weaknesses of your brand promise - and get everyone aligned on that promise - like few other endeavors.

Charlene Li Helping leaders thrive with disruption as a Principal Analyst at Altimeter, a Prophet Company

January 9th, 2015

I used a naming agency, Eat My Words, to come up with our company name and they were wonderful. Even better, the Founder, Alexandra Watkins, has distilled her wisdom into a fantastic book. "Hello My Name is Awesome" http://awesomebook.eatmywords.com/

My overall advice: As with anything you do with branding and marketing, be clear on the story you want to tell first. When I started my firm, I knew that we wanted to do high level strategy, but also provide pragmatic, actionable advice. Fly high, but also safely near the ground. Hence the name Altimeter. 

Good luck -- and by all means, have some fun with it! 

Christopher Johnson Verbal branding and communication pro

January 10th, 2015

By the way, Lexicon IS great (but expensive). I know them well because I used to work there.

Stephen Huson Leader in Internet lead generation, SEM / PPC / SEO and analytics

January 6th, 2015

Hey Alan - I recommend checking out The Name Inspector (www.thenameinspector.com).  I worked with him on a naming project (I hired him and was the client), and this is definitely his specialty. I'd encourage you to read the writing on his web site and contact him. If he isn't the right fit for the job, I expect you'll get good insight in any case.

Will Dukes Business Development Strategist and Professional Speaker

January 7th, 2015

There's definitely no set formula (though try to keep it under 5 syllables), and there is some good technical advice in Steven's post.  Just remember that a name becomes a symbol of your brand, even more than your logo if you care about word of mouth.  

With that in mind, what's your app all about? How do you want people to feel when they use it?  The name should reflect that.

Is it fun - a game or social app?  The name should be fun to say  -like "SnapChat"

Is it an organization utility?  Keep the name streamlined, as few syllables as possible (1, 2 max) and avoid hard syllables.

Is it a community? Reflect connection.

Will users feel more in control of something?  Reflect order, command, dominance.  

You get the idea.

The name doesn't have to say it all, or be easily/quickly "gotten" by everyone (What does Uber have to do with rides) but there should be some connection that fans can discover - another story to tell.  Go look up the origins of Wild Turkey's "Forgiven" whiskey, for example.  

Bottom line, the name is a symbol.  Is it easy to share, and does it reflect the brand in some way? 

(And go read Seth Godin's post today on Logo vs. Brand to strengthen the point that you should invest much more time in your Brand)


Jacob Johnson Artist and Creative Product Designer

January 10th, 2015

Hey Alan, I'm in the same process as you currently.  I don't have much advice for you, but you may find that these links below will help your inspiration.  Just maybe you can find something to get you into the next phase, where you can then take the time to create a custom name.


Best of luck!