Name Game

A misnomer means a lost opportunity; compelling IDs can open doors.

Don’t use your corporate name in vain.

When it comes to branding and corporate identity, your company’s name is your most valuable asset. It’s your flag, the one clear, consistent face that you present to the outside world. And it jumpstarts the positioning process: Every time someone hears that name or sees it on a business card or ad, it tells what your business is about and what makes it different — or, at least, it ought to.

The trouble is that in the mad rush to get to market, entrepreneurs usually don’t spend enough time devising a compelling name, which means missed opportunities.

Make It Memorable and Meaningful

Powerful company names have two things going for them: They’re easy to remember, and they’re easy to comprehend.

Some names are notable because they are easy to recall. Suppose you’re in a restaurant and want to order a beer. You ask for a Bud without even glancing at a menu. Or perhaps you want to order vitamins online, so you type in Mother on your browser’s address field. You didn’t have to think twice.

Another aspect of memorability is recognition. Some names don’t immediately spring to mind, but when we see or hear them, they click. Say that you’re thumbing through the Yellow Pages looking for a moving company. You may not have thought of Mayflower, but when you see its name, you recognize it.

If you seek recognition, you can select something more distinctive. But if you want a company name that’s easy to recall, keep it simple. One caveat: Avoid initials. One study revealed that words — whether real or made up — were 40% easier to remember than all-initial names. (And, no, those famous corporate initials that leap to mind — IBM, GE, TWA, UPS — don’t qualify as exceptions. Remember: They all started out as highly descriptive phrases — International Business Machines, Trans World Airlines, United Parcel Service — that evolved into household initials with time and heavy marketing.)

Not sure whether recall or recognition would serve you best? Consider the purchasing process.

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