Top 10 Characteristics of a Good Name

Professionals agree that these are the top 10 characteristics of a good name:


1- Short, sweet and easily pronounced

The ideal name for customers to remember, and for you to use to cut through the industry noise, is probably short and sweet and easily pronounced. This means it will have two or three syllables (or even one), and it will work on the phone or internet even if people have never seen or heard it before. If they have to be told how to spell it once, that is OK (and may even help with recall). But if they have to be told a second time, that is a problem. One of the sticky consonants (k,q,x,z) can help with recall.

2 – Unique within its industry

Your name doesn’t need to be weird or clunky, but it does need to not sound like all the rest of your direct competitors.,,,, are all easily lost in the crowd. But stands out dramatically – even though it does not describe what they do! In practice, it has become brand shorthand for job searches, just like Starbucks has become shorthand for coffee.

3 – Legally available and defensible

Your lawyers think this should be item one of course. Regardless, what is the point of starting any company or marketing campaign if you cannot have full rights in the name? Your best defense is always a magic ® – which only can be issued by the USPTO (or equivalent agency in other countries). If the USPTO won’t issue a registration certificate because they judge it to be generic, then you have problem (2) above anyway. Common law trademark searches are also critically important.

4 – Good alliteration, especially if a longer name

Sometimes a longer name does have a place in marketing. After all, the most famous brand in the world, Coca Cola, is four syllables. But notice how smoothly it rolls off the tongue. Linguists will tell you it has good alliteration.

5 – Does not lend itself to abbreviations

If you have a long descriptive name, people will abbreviate it quickly. OK, we know it worked for IBM, AT&T, CBS etc., but how many years and how many branding dollars do you have? For a small company, this means you quickly become YASI (Yet Another Set of Initials) and drown in the initial bit bucket. At least make sure the trademark part (brand part) of your tradename is a name and not initials. E.g. Ford is the trademark for Ford Motor Car Company. Leave FMCC etc. to the legal documents only. But who or what are AMA, CCI, etc.?

6 – Flexible and expandable

Too many people try to describe their company rather than name it. Copyland, Copydata, Copyshop, QuickCopy all define what they do – and are barely distinguishable from one another. But Kinkos stands out dramatically and did not pigeonhole them into only copy services. Today, of course, they are Fedex Kinkos, and can offer a raft of services without needing to update their name, unlike Texas Instruments that doesn’t even make instruments.

7 – Linguistically clean

What are the root origins of the name? How is it pronounced by a Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese or French native speaker? What does it mean in these languages? You need to support these languages just to do business in North America nowadays, especially in the populous areas of California, New York, Texas, Illinois, Florida and Canada.

8 – Will not age quickly

Is your name hip and topical? If you are in the fashion trend business this might be fine. But otherwise, be very careful of “in” words or expressions. They will be superseded sooner or later. They may also not play well across all demographics. Many markets have their own “industry-speak” and slang. The worst of these are in “geekdom”! Names with classical roots tend to endure more easily.

9 – Embraces company personality

Two competitors, entering the same market at the same time with directly competing products, will pick different names because every company and management team has its own personality. This means the executives must be involved in the decision making process. Your agency can tell you if the name fits, not if you are comfortable with it.

10 – Fits within company’s brand portfolio

The company name, division names and product names are all part of your brand portfolio. Do these sound like they all come from the same family? While this is a specific problem with merged companies, everyone’s naming architecture needs to be properly managed to maximize your brand power and intellectual property portfolio.


PS See also the article on Top 10 Factors that Make a Name Memorable.


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