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Naming your business: 
Five approaches to avoid

5 Mins

Although a great business name is no guarantee of success, a poorly-chosen name can present challenges you could do without. So it’s something you’ll want to get right.

Unfortunately, there’s no magic formula for generating the perfect business name, but these tips will help you to avoid the most common naming mistakes.

(1) Don’t be descriptive: think brand, not bland

When you’re starting up, it’s tempting to go for a descriptive name. After all, it makes sense to have a name that describes what you do, doesn’t it?

The trouble with this approach is that it results in names that are a combination of keywords, or generic words used by everyone else in your field. So by being descriptive you’ll be forgettably anonymous… and you’ll be hard to find online.

You’ll also miss out on the opportunity to convey some of the character and personality that makes your business different. It might be sensible and accurate, but it won’t give your business the head start that a memorable, engaging brand name can.

(2) Don’t paint yourself into a corner: keep it future-proof

Your business will probably change a lot during its lifetime, especially in the early years. If it’s successful, it might move premises or add locations. You might even acquire senior business partners as you grow. And your product range or scope of services will probably develop.

So using a geographically-specific name, or your own surname, could prove inconvenient over time. And naming your business after your launch product might create confusion in the future.

Your name is a crucial part of your brand, so it should be future-proof and remain consistent and relevant as your brand grows and develops.

(3) Don’t follow a trend: be yourself

Following fashions might be a harmless part of modern life, but when it comes to naming your business, it’s best avoided.

Game-changing businesses deservedly get a lot of exposure in the press and online, and their sometimes odd or quirky names soon become comfortably familiar.

Unfortunately, the desire to replicate their success leads to copycat business names that start with a lowercase i, remove a few letters from a common word, or end in -ify or -ly. 

But this brand mimicry simply comes across as lazy and indicates a distinct lack of imagination. It does nothing to make your business distinctive or memorable. Your name should be yours, not a version of somebody else’s.

(4) Don’t play safe: avoid the classics

If you want to sound and look credible – while steering clear of fashionable gimmicks – you might start to consider reassuring, business-like names: the classics.

These names are credible, familiar and timeless. And if chosen carefully, they can suggest definite qualities, like Kingfisher and Swift, Orion and Neptune, or Optima and Advantage. Names like this never go out of fashion!

Unfortunately, familiarity is really all they offer. They don’t make for good brand names – because they’re too ubiquitous, they’ll never be “yours”.

Going for a classic may be a safe choice, but it’s not a wise one.

(5) Don’t be too weird: keep it credible

In an ideal world, every startup would have a totally unique name with a nice, short .com address.

The trouble is, this objective can lead to choosing a business name just because the .com domain is available. This can result in some very weird names indeed – names that squash two random words together or combine letters in barely-pronounceable groups, like GingerWardrobe or Zwigld.

This approach could work if your business is ground-breaking and your customers are open-minded. But beware: there is a very fine line between branding genius and gibberish.

A great .com domain can be a real advantage, but if you take a “domain-first” approach you still need to end up with a name that’s easy to spell and pronounce …and that’s appropriate for your market.

Dave Clark is a branding and naming specialist and is co-founder of brand name store Novanym.com.

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