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September 6, 2022

What To Avoid When Choosing A Company Name

Your company name is one of the single most fundamental aspects of your brand. Not only will it influence your logo design and entire visual branding, it also plays an important role in brand identity and your marketplace reputation.

Since your company's name is how your customers identify and remember you, finding one that fits is one of the most effective ways a business can gain a competitive edge. Your products may be first rate, but what are the chances of success with a bad name?

Let's take a look at 5 most common mistakes entrepreneurs make when naming their businesses - and how you can avoid them. 

Mistake #1: No Research

We'll start with an obvious one.

There are several reasons why you need to do your research, the first one being to ensure your name is unique.

Now, you might think, “I’m just a tiny local business. It doesn’t matter if my name is similar to that other business." That couldn't be further from the truth. 

You can be at risk of getting sued for using another business's name. The last thing you need is for your company to have the same title as a competitor.

"Once a name has been trademarked in the U.S., that name is protected in all 50 states. In order to form a business entity like a corporation, LLC, or non-profit, you have to file formation documents with your state, and state laws require new business names to be sufficiently different from existing names.

Additionally, if you ever want to officially trademark your business, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will deny your application if the name already exists."

To avoid potential legal issues, search the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s trademark database. Make sure the company name and the web domain you want isn’t already taken by another business before filing any paperwork.

The second reason for research is to avoid names that are, or could be, offensive.

As you brainstorm name ideas, make sure you avoid topics and connotations that might throw up a red flag, such as politics, race, or religion. Are there are any scandals or bad reputations associated with your name choice?

You can't necessarily please everyone, but it's not worth the risk to invite unnecessary controversy and friction.

Even if controversy is part of your business, it shouldn’t be the focal point of your company’s brand. Bottom line - if it's not essential, steer clear of potentially offensive references in your company name.

Along with that, there's another thing to check for: global discrepancies. Companies trademark their product names, only to discover later that their name has a mortifying double-meaning in a different language. It happens more often than you think!  

Check that your business name doesn’t have offensive slang, idioms, or embarrassing translations in different countries - your name should say only what you intend it to say! 

company name

Mistake #2: Difficult To Brand

Names immediately bring a visual to the mind of the hearer. For example, when hearing the word 'computer', most people will picture a laptop, a desktop screen, perhaps a charging cord and a mouse, or maybe even the Apple logo.

It's difficult to brand a boring name, or one which doesn’t have any automatic connotations or mental links.

Some things to consider:

  • How do you want your customer to feel? (e.g., inspired, impressed, encouraged, etc.) Use adjacent and uncommon words that evoke those emotions.
  • How will your name will look on a logo or website? In your mind's eye, can you clearly see the "face" of your business? 

If you want to get across a certain image, shape your brand name around that. Fictitious or random names are great - as long as they they stay true to your brand's identity and messaging.

#3: Too Long And Complex

What is more cringe-worthy than a name that is "trying too hard?" And what smacks of "try-hard" more than a long, complex name? It's great to be unique, but for names, it's also good to be simplistic.

The only time you can get away with a long product name is if your brand is already greatly recognized. Or if you're the owner of Wish.com.

Choose something too complex, and no one will remember you.

Wildcat Wood, Genairtec, and Pro Rustics are great examples of shorter names. Think of popular organizations such as Google, Coca-Cola, or Jacuzzi. What do they all have in common?

Brands such as Better Homes & Gardens or Bear Creek Beverages are slightly longer, but roll off the tongue easily, and are relatively easy to communicate. 

An easy way to gauge whether your chosen company name is the right length is asking your target audience how comfortable they would be using it in common speech.

#4: Difficult To Spell Or Pronounce

Going hand-in-hand with #3, this mistake is a big one to watch out for.

It’s perfectly fine to experiment with interesting spellings or puns to make your name pop, but if something is difficult to say or spell, it'll likely be difficult to remember.

Folks won't pass it on, not through word-of-mouth or online. Again, don't be afraid ask your customers for feedback on easy of use! 

The 5th Mistake: Too Generic 

Yes, we just got done telling you not to choose anything too complex. But it takes equal parts strategy and creativity!

Relying on limiting, generic words for your business name is a near-guarantee that it’ll be forgotten. Most successful companies have memorable, catchy, and fictitious, names.

One trap many businesses fall for is choosing a narrow-minded name. For example, a name like Rick's Lawnmower Repair is too descriptive. What if he want to expand some day to repairing all small motors, but now he's stuck with a name that limits him to lawnmowers?

If you're a service person, shy away from using your city or a county in the name, as that implies it's only customer base you serve. Steer clear of generic "ABC Services" - you want your name to stand apart from competition and catch customer's attention.

A good company name grows with your business, and does not hinder you from expanding.

Stay true to your brand, but don't be afraid to try catchy, creative names. Puns and word combinations make great names with a unique twist - just be careful to not overdo it, or no one will take you seriously.

The Bottom-Line: Don't be afraid to think outside the box.

Need Help With Your Branding?

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What's In A Name?

A lot actually. Your company name is the customer's first impression of your business, and it is the cornerstone of your marketing efforts. Research tells us:

Naming a business is a tall order; summing up your passion in just a few words is tricky. 

Our hope is that by naming the most common pitfalls, you can make a choice that will save you time and money, and set yourself — and your business — up for long-term success. 

About the author 

Brenda Schlabach

Brenda is an artist and photographer from a small town in southern Kentucky. She enjoys working as a designer and content specialist for Troyer Websites Of Texas, a full-service digital marketing company.

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