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What Should You Name Your Business

What Should You Name Your Business

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Published by vikramrajan
The best ways to name your business... originally published as a newspaper column.
The best ways to name your business... originally published as a newspaper column.

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Published by: vikramrajan on Jul 21, 2007
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07/08/2010

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How Should You Name Your Business?By Vik Rajan, PersonalBrandMarketing.com
Just the other day I was having breakfast with a local business owner. He had attendedmy Long Island Hispanic Chamber seminar last month on Personal Branding. He wantedmy perspective on what his customer told him:“Never trust an entrepreneur who doesn’t have his name in the business [name].” Thatguy may have trust issues, but he does provoke thought.Many entrepreneurs are tempted to name their business after themselves, or their allegedteam: “John Smith & Associates.” On the other end of this spectrum, many coin a word,a neologism, like Xerox. Either way, as potential customers, we are left confused as towhat the business does (by reading the name alone).
Every business name is an answer to two questions: “Who are you? What do youdo?”
Our first marketing job is to make them ask those questions. Our most memorableanswer is our business name. Properly naming our business is therefore significant.Our name is even more memorable than visual logos, as Daryl Travis explains in his book Emotional Branding. Clearly Coca-Cola, Google, and IBM believe this: They simplyuse their names, written
distinctively
.Target, on the other hand, has been making it a point to use their visual logo in place of their name; of course, their logo is very reminiscent of their name. But most often,smaller businesses awkwardly mix both their name and some other visual cue. This may be superfluous and confusing. If your visual logo does not help your prospects remember who you are and what you do, then stick with making your name memorable.
 
Still the Name Battle rages on: On one hand, of course, we want prospects to understandwho we are, and what we do. Yet on the other hand, many of us enjoy being creativewith our mark. There are a myriad of outcomes to this battle.“The Company Name Spectrum” will help you choose the right business name, for you.It will surely inspire you to cite examples and role models. You may be able to discernthe questions that should be asked. It’s much easier to use this Spectrum graphically,with right counseling. Ask me for a copy of its poster.
Your company name should always consider two aspects: your business Culture andits Capability.
How we refer to our Culture is how we answer, “Who are you?”Cultural references talk about you, your values, or your people. When “culturalreference” is high, it highlights your name, a mascot, or the community to which you belong and serve. Can you think of examples?Other businesses opt out, and prefer to go with zero cultural reference. Small businesseswho do this risk sounding like un-caring bureaucracies. “Big Box” stores are full of them: Home Depot, Staples, and Stop’n’Shop. Mostly they describe what they sell(capability reference).
The middle-ground is surprisingly interesting.
A middle-of-the-way “cultural reference” is a metaphoric answer to “Who are you?” It’swhen you imply, “
 How
you are.” Yahoo! sounds like a fun company. Both Amazon andGoogle imply big-ness (if you know what a googol is). But just from the business name,we can infer little else.
 
 Names that only answer the Who-are-you Question purposely leave its product or capability to speculation. Often it’s to pique curiosity. Unfortunately, it leaves most prospects ignorant or confused; and they may not care enough to become resolved. BothAmazon and Google were not over-night successes, especially in having people knowwhat they do.Just calling your business or product “Mike,” may be fine if you can leverage a personal brand like Jordan. The name itself makes no reference to the product.
As a small-business owner, you should leverage the second factor: Your capability orproduct reference. But you don’t have to be boring.
Referencing your product or capability – as in Mike’s Pizza – is a better answer thosequestions. Mike’s Pizza isn’t terribly unique, and is therefore hard to trademark.Incidentally, Wal-Mart leverages Sam’s legacy of frugality, and relates to its culturethrough personal branding. “Lifestyle brands” often leverage personal brands; thefashion industry is full of them.Metaphors, analogies, and wordplays are neither devoid of reference, nor explicit.Capability metaphors imply
how you do
what you do; but not quite
what 
you do. For example, Panasonic must have something to do with “all sound,” etymologically (itsroots). Neologisms (words that you coin), with low to no reference to your product or capability, puts more pressure upon your marketing. Such names, mind you, are easier to register asyour trademark.There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to naming your company. Sure, culturalreferences – those about you or your values – help to engender trust. And capability

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