Naming Don’ts

Michael Kanellos, editor at large at CNET, has an interesting article providing some advices for nowadays business naming, that even if is focused on tech companies, is still useful for businesses at large:

In any event, for you start-up execs, here’s a handy guideline for how not to name your company:

1. Avoid redundancies. This was a lesson lost on Internet Gold-Golden Lines of Petach Tiva, Israel.

2. Don’t sound like you may have a criminal or shady past. This one’s for you, DepoMed. It sounds like you’re going to sell vitamins out of the trunk of your car, not like you’re a developer of advanced medical technology for gastric conditions.

3. Don’t be lurid. Hello, XenoPort, NuVasive, and WiderThan. If you can spare the money, hire a focus group of 13-year-old boys to give you their reactions to all name suggestions.

4. Triple words are out. Yes, that’s you, VendareNetblue. It didn’t help PriceWaterhouseCooper. Even the Germans try to limit the combining of words to two.

5. Don’t sound desperate or obvious. Good Technology. KnowFat. Though, sometimes it works. Hurray Holding: Enthusiasm makes up for a lot.


Portmanteau – Brand Naming Tips

The Strategic Name Development Blog has an excellent post about the notion of pormanteau (a word that is formed by combining both sounds and meanings from two or more words), titled Company Naming: What’s in Your Portmanteau?:

It was Lewis Carroll who first used the word “portmanteau” to describe a word made up of other words – in this case, the words he had invented for the poem “Jabberwocky.” While some portmanteau words, like “guesstimate,” have an immediately obvious meaning, “brillig” and “slithy” are not so obvious.

There are two reasons portmanteaux make good company names. The first is that, as coined words, they are much easier to trademark than natural words. (But you still need to check the trademark database to make sure no one else invented the word before you did.)

The second reason for choosing a portmanteau name is the ability to evoke two or more concepts with one word: Verizon, for instance, is a combination of the Latin word veritas, meaning “truth,” and the English word “horizon.”

More resources on the subject:

Branding and Naming – Get the Big Picture

Boston Herald on branding:

What’s in a name?

Just about everything if it identifies your company or organization and tells the public what it can expect from you. Which is why the fin de siecle trend toward re-branding that picked up steam in the late ’90s is unlikely to end any time soon. “Old” businesses and organizations want to sound new. New organizations want to sound cutting-edge. “NYNEX,” after all, is so…20th century.

These days, even mom-and-pop shops are in the business of renaming themselves. Small nonprofits, looking to gin up more support from major donors, are attempting to recast themselves as well.

To be sure, companies […] need to review their logos and their overall graphic identity periodically just to make sure they don’t look outdated. That activity is something else, though — a brand refreshment, if you will, not a true re-branding.

True re-branding involves overhauling a firm’s identity and positioning.

Typically, existing customers, if they are happy with the service you provide, will come along regardless of the name change you make. It’s your prospective customers, that vast universe of potential business growth, that you want to hear from.

Don’t lose sight of your mission. Small nonprofits and small-cap companies can’t afford to give up their hard-won identity in the hope that an ill-considered new name will somehow position them better with their donors and customers.

5 Elements to Consider When Naming Your Business

A recent study among small business owners in the United States, sthow that the most stressful thing about starting a new company was not manufacturing of products or advertising to customers, but coming up with a name for the small business. Entrepreneurs spend weeks and even months trying to develop the perfect name.

Along with the Ingredients and Qualities of Good Brand Naming, Brand Naming Tips or Myths presented here before, here is a list of some other five things to consider when choosing a name for your business of product:

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Brand Names Turned to Common Nouns

Whether we’re talking about Sony’s Walkman or a 3M’s Post-it Note, there are some of the landmark brand names that made it so far that their trademarks turn into common nouns. And this should be the good part of branding: a brand name on everybody’s lips.

Meanwhile there are cases that we use such a noun without even thinking that the word itself used to be a registred brand name, say escalator for example. This is the downside in terms of branding.

Well, these words are called eponyms.

An eponym is a general term used to describe from what or whom something derived its name. Therefore, a proprietary eponym could be considered a brand name (product or service mark) which has fallen into general use.

So, what leads a brand name to become eponym? Well, for one thing, other brands of similar nature must exist; but even more importantly, the original product, even if discontinued, must still function pronominally. In other words, a specific can be used to designate a class of generics with no loss in meaning. A usual result: lower case transcription of the brand name.

In this matter there is the American Proprietary Eponyms website, which have some of the most common eponyms in english language.

Ingredients and Qualities of Good Brand Naming

Naming is an important part of branding a product or a business. More than that, an important first step when naming a business, product or service is to figure out just what it is that your new name should be doing for you. The most common decision is that a name should explain to the world what business you are in or what your product does.

On a very fundamental level, there are two basic ingredients of the best evocative names:


A competitive analysis is an essential first step. How are your competitors positioning themselves? What types of names are common among them? Are they all projecting a similar attitude? Do their similarities offer you a huge opportunity to stand out from the crowd?
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5 Myths of Brand Naming

After the 5 Tips on Brand Naming, here is an interesting post of Steve Rivkin is the co-author of The Making of a Name : The Inside Story of the Brands We Buy on 5 Myths of Brand Naming:

Myth #1: Size doesn’t matter.
Yes, it does. Shorter is better in everything from memorability to packaging.

Myth #2: There are no words left to steal from the dictionary.
Not true. Your speaking vocabulary may only be 30,000 words, but a hefty dictionary will yield 750,000 words

Myth #3: Coining a new word is easy.
But the trick is to create a new name that is meaningful, impactful and starts the positioning process for the brand or company.

Myth #4: Manufactured names are all the same.
A made-up name might be a simple fusion of two easily recognized words, it might be an altered form of a recognizable word or it might be a foreign word that some people would recognize

Myth #5: Customers will take our name literally.
Good names are suggestive. They are bundles of possible meanings. They are not contractual commitments.

Read the full 5 Myths about Brand Names

What’s in a Brand Name?

Naming a new brand without taking enough in consideration the main target market may lead you to unexpected surprises. Here is an interesting NYT article on such a case:

What better way to honor the brash origins of this city, the owners of Houston’s new professional soccer franchise reasoned, than to name their team “Houston 1836,” a nod to the year when two entrepreneurial brothers from New York arrived here to build a city atop the swampy bayous of southeast Texas.

Many Latinos in Houston, though, greeted the unveiling of the team’s name this week with a shudder. Eighteen thirty-six also happens to be the year that a group of English-speaking interlopers waged a war of secession that resulted in Mexico’s loss of Texas, ushering in more than a century of violence and discrimination against Mexicans in the state.

Read full article here. (via)