You use it all the time. Whether you are having conversations, answering the phone, writing emails, leaving voicemails, etc. This one thing is the most important part of your brand, and should be a clear reflection of your strategy.
IT’S YOUR NAME.
Finding just the right name might seem easy, but it requires tedious research, creativity, and the ability to be your own devil’s advocate. There’s a lot at stake—the wrong name could open you up to unnecessary legal risks. It could even alienate an important market segment. It’s the single most important cog in your marketing wheel. It’s the first step—after research and feasibility studies—and yet, it’s the one thing clients don’t typically come to a branding expert for. Some even spend more time naming their pets than they do their business!
Here are a few “must-haves” for naming your business:
- It must be meaningful. It should communicate something important about the essence of your brand.
- It must be memorable. A name that is not memorable may hinder your marketing efforts. It could even drive your customers to your competition.
- It must be shareable. As well as memorability, it should also be easy to share in emails or social media. It should be easy to spell. Shorter names are almost always better for this purpose.
- It must lend itself to a strong visual design. It should manifest as a professionally wrought, simple logo, that can be easily applied to social media, signage, web, stationery; all of your brand’s touchpoints. It should also look great on business cards, and in written communications. Ideally, it should be something that a third-grader can draw from memory.
- It must have “legs”. It must be modular, with natural extensions. A good example of this is Twitter. Extensions include “Tweet”, “Retweet”, and “Twittersphere”.
- It must be legally available. This is often the toughest part. You may be able to devise a name that answers all the above requirements only to find out that it’s not legally available. And even it is legally available, the accompanying web domain may not be.
If you don’t have a big budget, your name is even more important. It should clearly communicate exactly what you do, or what your product is. A name like “Monster.com” can be successful for a company with millions to spend on advertising, because they can afford to run ads that make their brand name memorable, even though the name has nothing to do with recruiting or finding a job. But if you own a local donut shop, your name should probably have the word “donuts” in the name. “Charlie’s Donuts” will immediately communicate better than simply “Charlie’s Place”.
- We can do it ourselves.After all, it’s just like naming a child. Corporate brand naming is a much more rigorous and exhaustive process. Sometimes hundreds of names are brought into play before finding the one that’s just right, that answers all the criteria for a good brand name.
- I’ll know it when I see it. Everyone has a filter for processing information, and everyone’s filter is different. A good name is the result of a well-rendered strategy, and must be thought through, tested, and proven solid. The best name may not be apparent at first.
- We can’t afford to have the name vetted. Your name needs to last a long time. An intellectual property lawyer has to conduct extensive research to make sure your name is not only available but isn’t too close to another name in your category of goods and services. To adopt a name without the proper vetting is too great a risk.
It’s been said that you can throw any number of random letters on a table and someone somewhere is either trying to trademark it, or register it as a domain.
Years ago, it didn’t matter if a business in a neighboring state had the same name as your business. But online marketing has changed the face of that, and made the marketplace a much smaller place.
Typically, the first thing a consumer does is search online for something they need. If your name is easy to remember, chances are they’ll find you quickly. But if it’s hard to remember, or doesn’t reflect your brand strategy, they may spend several precious minutes searching. Then not finding you, they settle for something they can find. Your competitor.
There is a lot that can be done to legally vet a name even before taking it to a trademark attorney, thereby reducing your outlay with trademark searches. It’s not an easy undertaking. Best have someone who can navigate the waters.
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