Naming Your Business: What You Need To Know


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Naming your business is probably the second thing you’ll do when you start it, right after you decide what sort of business it will be. It’s a decision that you’ll have to live with every day so here’s something to think about before you print up those business cards.

Names don’t matter. Really, there is no correlation between the success of a business and it’s name. Only the first time or two that someone hears the name of your company will the words have any meaning. After that, it becomes a collection of sounds.

Maybe the first time you heard the name Nike you associated it with the goddess of victory, and that’s only if you studied mythology. Now your first association is with athletic wear. The same is true for Reebok and Adidas, and you probably don’t even know what those names are in reference to in the first place. The business becomes their meaning.

Your name doesn’t even have to describe what your business does. Take Revlon as an example. Or Accenture. When I was thinking of names for Stesnet, my website, I noticed that many of the most successful sites had nonsense names, like Yahoo!, eBay, and Amazon. Meanwhile, a company with a descriptive name like sank.

Your name can even be misleading. Take Duane-Reade, the ubiquitous New York City drug store chain. The name comes from the fact that the first store was founded on Broadway between Duane and Reade Streets in lower Manhattan. They’re everywhere now, and only one is at the location that bears the company name. Even more confusing, Bleeker Bob’s Records sole location isn’t on Bleeker Street; it’s a block away on 3rd.

The only time names do matter is when they’re really bad. Henry Ford made the right decision in naming his company after himself. If his last name had been Czerniejewski, he would have had problems. Another example of a way to go wrong is like when a Thai restaurant opened here in New York under the name of Phuket. They changed it as soon as their customers explained to them what was so funny. Also, avoid names that are too close to those of big companies. Coco-Cola is probably going to get you letters from lawyers.

But, given the option, name your business something catchy and descriptive anyway. Even if it doesn’t help, it can’t hurt. Look at Dunkin’ Donuts, or NetFlix. Even a ho-hum descriptive name won’t hurt you, like British Petroleum, or American Airlines.

Pick a name you like, and live with it for a week or two. Then get three opinions from people you trust. If it passes those two tests, go with it. If later you decide you don’t like it, you can always change it, like Philip Morris and the Bell Atlantic Corporation did.

Fred Stesney Stesnet Community Host Stesnet is the only online community created exclusively for business owners.


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