February 19, 2013

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Setting the Stage

Find the Right Business Name to Build Your Brand

Di Lewis

February 19, 2013

What’s in a name? A lot, it turns out.

When naming a new business, “you want that name to be helpful,” says Carrie Gaykowski, chief strategist at Intrepid. “You want it to be engaging. You want it to create that positive emotional connection.”

The name, and the way it’s “treated”—the font, color and any symbols used—is powerful, she says. A company’s name is often the first interaction with customers, clients and employees, and it can help or hurt their ultimate opinion of the company.

Figuring It Out

When Derek Minor, Jay Bean and Chris Finken decided to start a software business, talk quickly turned to names. Finken says they wanted a name that resonated with people, was recognizable, made people think of good things and didn’t have any hyphens.

The company would be targeting small businesses as clientele, so they also wanted a name that would look good and be easy to put on marketing materials and schwag, says Finken, OrangeSoda co-founder and advisor.

After tossing out several ideas, Bean told the others he’d just bought the domain orangesoda.com, and Finken says they just stopped talking because the name felt right. It didn’t have negative associations, lent itself well to marketing materials and wasn’t a clear statement of the company’s services, so people would have to ask them what the company did.

“We stood out in our marketplace of companies that reek of ‘dot-com,’” he says. Many competitors were using terms like media, agency or solution, making OrangeSoda different.

Gaykowski says she works with companies to define what qualities their business has and what the company offers to stand out from competitors.

“What we do and what I feel every company needs to do, whether they are a startup with angel investing and no money or they have really deep pockets, is they really need to establish a brand identity,” she says. “Who are they, fundamentally?”

Think of Everything

Because a name means so much, there are a lot of things to consider, says Gaykowksi. One of the first things she would advise a company to do is Google potential names. A surprising number of people don’t and end up running into issues. Either they can hit a copyright problem, or a business they don’t want to be associated with could come up high in a search, she says.

“Getting a good name in the English language is hard because everything is so domain driven that it’s more a matter of what’s available. What you want to name your company and what you can name your company can be two different things,” says Brennon Garrett, chief marketing officer at CampusBookRentals.

After Googling the name, a company should use an attorney to make sure the business is free of copyright conflicts as well as copyrighting the name it chooses, Gaykowski says.

Garrett sees three big things to think about. A name should be easy and memorable, it should allow for flexibility in the company’s offerings and should have an aesthetic quality that appeals to people.

He says CampusBookRentals has struggled with its name because it’s long, gets confused with competitors and hasn’t allowed the company as much flexibility to branch out as they now want.

“We’ve thought about renaming the company so many times, but can’t quite quantify the damage,” Garrett says.

The company is growing and the industry is changing so quickly that the original name doesn’t cover the auxiliary services they offer that don’t involve rentals, Garrett says. They now own a secondary service called RentBack and are exploring different naming options for the future of CampusBookRentals.

Having a more literal name versus something that’s more creative is not an issue of right versus wrong, Gaykowski says. It just depends on the qualities the company wants to convey, its future plans and whether or not the company passes the “friend test.”

She says if you can’t describe to someone what the company does without them asking many questions, the company might need a more descriptive name to help people understand what you do.

Finken says the downside of a non-literal name is OrangeSoda had to invest more time and money in the beginning to build the brand and make sure people understand what the company does.

And in the end, he says, “[A name] should be something you like and can be proud of.”

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