Trouble Choosing a Brand Name? Avoid These Common Pitfalls
The name of a business is more than just something that will be on your logo, and it sure as hell shouldn’t be a last minute thought. Naming your business lays the foundation for the success and opportunity of your company.
Think of building your business as if you are constructing a building. Without a solid, stable foundation, everything you build on top of it will crumble.
It isn’t just the name of the company we’re talking about, either. Every name, from the products or services you provide to the titles used to navigate your website, ALL of them matter. Each and every one of these pieces is speaking the language of your brand. So, what language should your business speak? What do you plan to accomplish under this name? In the next 5 years do you plan to expand or stay the same? How about the next 10 years? You may not name your business for what it is, but instead for the future you envision for it.
We’ve been around the block a few times, and boy have we seen it all. We can certainly tell you a few stories about the successful and not-so-successful business names we’ve come across.
Whether you’re a new business building from the ground up, or you’re considering rebranding your existing company, take a look at the mistakes we’ve seen and the recommendations we’re offering, so you can skip the mayhem altogether and start off on the right foot (or foundation).
Consulting the Collective
The identity of your business is not up for debate. Sure, input can be helpful, but the fact of the matter is, nobody knows your business better than you. It’s your work and your ideas, so your business name needs to make sense to you. But the big question is, does it resonate with others?
Have someone who is completely outside of your circle take a look at your business name. If they seem to be entirely confused and don’t have even a blurry idea of what your company is about, then maybe you need to take a second look. Outsider options are something that can certainly muddy the waters, but if the name throws an outside audience in an entirely different direction than intended, it may be time to rethink the possibilities and get back in line with what you’re building and who you are.
Plain, Boring Text
We’ve seen the recent trend in boiling down a company name to a definitive descriptor word. (Soup or Burger, you get the idea). This can be effective if you choose the right word. Or if you deliver a very specific product, even better! On the flip side, it gets tricky with service companies that expand to offer a large selection of services because the title doesn’t encompass the full capabilities of the business anymore.
Customers can also be initially drawn to a straightforward name over the competition because it tells them exactly what a company is selling and what they’ll be getting. We get that. But when a company with a simple name attempts to trademark itself, there’s an obvious issue. Or they come to find out it’s difficult to defend their generic self as competition invades the market because their simple name is diluted.
Revealing Your Secret Weapon
If you’re a smart business owner, there’s no doubt you’re wildly passionate about the unique process or ingredient that sets you apart from the competition. You’re awesome and your company is going to be impressive. You may want to shout your secret to success from the rooftops, but don’t. Think again when using your unique qualities in your business name. Developing a name from your secret weapon will only dilute its power and may even come across in a premature or mistaken way. Think of it this way: as human beings, we don’t walk around with our greatest characteristic plastered across our foreheads. We would certainly not be taken seriously. Maybe you’ll grow out of your best quality? Or you’ll come up with an even sharper secret weapon? Avoid the merge of your company’s best quality and your business name and leave room for growth and interpretation.
Defaulting to Region
Initially, including the name of your city, state or region could possibly draw in customers from the area, inviting them in to support your ‘local’ business. The problem with this is that including any type of location in your business name can place a cap on growth. Once you decide to grow, your company appears irrelevant once it expands past the region it is named after. If you don’t plan on growing any larger than your town or state, then ignore this advice entirely.
Defaulting to Specifics
Similar to naming a business based off of region, including a particular product or service, or specifics about a product or service, can inhibit growth. By doing this, you’re locking yourself into a specific sector at the very foundation of your company. Using specifics could originally be useful and can send a very clear-cut type of customer your way, but a successful expansion won’t be in your foreseeable future. If you decide to expand, new customers won’t be attracted to your extended offerings because your much-too-specific business name tells them something otherwise.
The Cliché Trap
Hackneyed anything is a nightmare. A common cliché usually derives from companies who consider themselves as the top option in their industry and try to cover up bland, flavorless terms with names like ‘Summit’ or ‘Premier.’ Cliché terms are often used in conjunction with pop culture, as well. Be cautious when doing this; when the cliché fades with time, so will your brand.
Understanding the product or service your company provides will help distinguish whether or not it can handle an obscure name. Basic products like cookies should stay away from naming their company after the baker who first used artificial ingredients, for example. That’s not in the realm their customers will understand and is too convoluted for something as simple as a cookie. Companies operating in the creative industry have more freedom with this. But, as a general rule, try not to completely confuse your potential customers.
Creating a name out of thin air, or combining two words to make something new can certainly work (look at Xerox!). However, because you are creating a whole new name, the business will have to rely heavily on advertising to “make a name” for itself. SEO will also become an obstacle because the internet has no idea what the heck you’re talking about yet. Likewise, if you have a title that you can’t even spell, it’s safe to assume potential customers will have difficulty remembering your business at all.
Similar to inventive business names, stay away from names that include difficult-to-spell or unrecognizable words. A last name, for example, can be a complicated thing to spell. Maybe you’re naming your company Xhaferaj and Co. after your Albanian last name. Great! BUT, when a potential customer goes to look up your services later, are they going to remember how to correctly spell your business name? It’s a gamble. Likewise, spelling a normal word in an unusual way makes it tricky for customers to later identify exactly how you spelled your business name and prevents them from finding you again.
Build the reputation you deserve, starting with your business name. Not sure where to start, where to be creative or where to be clear-cut? That’s why we’re here. Grab a beer with us and discover how The Code provides business owners with a comprehensive branding strategy, and the badass team of experienced professionals Bareknuckle has to execute it.