Naming a company has always been a difficult feat and with the advent of the internet, even more so. It involves a least a cursory knowledge of trademarks, domain names (especially if you plan to market yourself via a blog or full-blown website,) your market and some thoughts about taglines that describe exactly what your company does. Your company name has to be something that you’re proud of, as well as resonate with both your established, and potential customers.
A company name is the cornerstone of any logo design or branding project – the very DNA of your identity – and decisions you make now will be with you for the life of your business.
After thinking about it for a while, let’s say you’ve eschewed the personal route, and want to develop an entirely new corporate name. Fair enough. You can choose several routes – each with pros and cons – and keeping in mind some fairly basic trademark principles. This isn’t something to be taken lightly either. While you may be selling computers out of your garage for the time being, you may be at the helm of a bazillion dollar empire five years from now (ala Michael Dell.) You want a name that contains your business core, is unique enough to stand out, and is protectable when you achieve a fair level of success. There are several avenues you can take.
The notion of arbitrary names is quite simple really – actual words that have nothing to do with the company activity itself, but usually feature some rather abstract connection. Think Google (a really, really large mathematical number,) Yahoo (a yodeling phrase or description of a hooligan,) anything with Vista (panoramic view) in it. These offer a myriad of brand building options, but are a riskier option when it comes to trademarks. You could, for example, start up a company called Apple Widgets & Co. (just an example – apols if the trademark already exists.) You’d find out exactly how lawyers work if you tried to start up Apple Computers. While the Cupertino company doesn’t own the word Apple, they do own it as it applies to computers, mobile phones and music too (the Beatles’ guys lost.) They’re also pretty ferocious when it comes to protecting their trademark, even in cases where you’d suspect they don’t have the rights to do so. Arbitrary names are also sparse in the web address department, most having been snapped up years ago – including the .net, .org, .info variations. In terms of taglines and straplines, the same general concepts apply as we’ve already discussed in the ‘fanciful’ names section.
Suggestive names infer some feature of the product, service or company itself. Think names like Mustang (a fast car,) Tiger (a fast Macintosh operation system, though that was arguable,) Rocket (fast whatever,) Quality (name speaks for itself,) Micro (small,) etc, etc, etc. In order to turn a ’suggestive name’ into a decent company name, you’ll probably have to add a descriptive phrase – Rocket Computers as one example – in order to establish core business activities. Due to the infinite number of variables, suggestive names are easier to trademark, if your category of business is available. You’ll find most have been snatched up over the years. Not that it isn’t possible – continued use will establish some rights – but some opposition is pretty well to be expected if you’re entering a saturated market. Like ‘arbitrary’ names, most suggestive web addresses will have been purchased eons ago, and you’ll find that even with a secondary name added, an available domain will be quite rare.
These are company names that spell out, in no uncertain terms, what the company does. It is the least creative and imaginative of our options but in many ways, the simplest. Think Car Wash Center, Nuts and Bolts Manufacturing, Register A Domain, Paycheck Loans, etc. Names like these have enormous search engine potential (if you plan to use Google and Yahoo search indexes to promote yourself) as they’re keyword-laden and describe exactly what users are searching for. Trouble is, they’re generic names, not terribly creative and won’t earn much in the brand loyalty department. It’s a 50/50 proposition on whether the domain for a descriptive name will be available (I’ll leaning towards no for most) and while effective one way, these kinds of names run the risk of being seen as – for lack of better phrasing – cheapo and hacky. In my industry, there are (were?) companies that called themselves “Cheap Logo Design” though I’m willing to bet that’s not the real name of the company behind the website. They figured many people would be looking for “cheap logo design” in search engines and hoped this name would give them a boost (though imagine answering the phone “Good morning, Cheap Logo Design, how can I help you?”)