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How to Avoid Having a Loser Company or Product Name

Admit it. You judge companies and products all the time based on their names. “Who thought that was a good idea?” you think. Maybe you even mock them to your friends. And then there are other times a name is so perfect that it rolls right off the tongue and lodges in your memory.

There can be incredible power in company and product names, and their impact can run the gamut from inspiring to downright terrible.

If you work in sales or marketing – especially at a startup — many times the first hurdle you have to jump involves brand recognition and your company’s actual name. When you meet someone at a networking event or talk to them on the phone and say, “Hi, I’m Joe from XXX” they are judging your company name right away. In general, they’ll have a neutral reaction (which is what you want) or a negative reaction. Rarely will a company name in and of itself elicit a positive reaction, unless you’ve created something amazingly clever, but that’s fine.

Obviously you don’t want to get that negative reaction and discredit your business before anyone knows what it actually does. So if you’re ever in the position to create a company or product name, there are a few key things to remember.

Make sure people can pronounce the name when they see it on paper.

How would you pronounce these names: Cuil, Xobni and ipipi.com? The first one is pronounced just like the word “cool,” but it turns out the company wasn’t. It was created by some former Google employees, but only lasted about two years. It now lives on in Internet lore because the name was so bad. How annoying would it be, as a marketer, to constantly have to tell your prospects that it’s pronounced “cool,” but you have to visit cuil.com to learn more. The lesson here is obvious. Just because you think the name is cute or clever doesn’t mean it really is.

Don’t get caught up in domain name drama

In the business formation stage, too many founders are tied to the idea that they need to have a company name that corresponds to an available URL. This sort of thinking is short sighted. We’re all to the point now where so many good domain names are taken that you’re better off coming up with a great company name and tweaking the URL, as opposed to compromising on your company name just to fit a URL.

Plan for the long-term.

Here’s where simplicity becomes so important. Do you really want your company to be taking off and then be hindered by a confusing or clunky name? Is the name too long to fit on your marketing collateral and that’s driving your designers crazy? Will reporters be able to pronounce it? Will customers remember it clearly so they can ask for your products?

When you do come up with some names, test them out just like you would campaigns. Run them by friends and family, and don’t be insulted by their reactions. You need to find out in advance if your dream name is a dud, or that punny name you think is so clever sounds obnoxious to the public.

And don’t be disappointed if the name you land on seems basic. When you think about companies like Bank of America, Home Depot or Manpower, it’s clear their names are simple, descriptive and easy to pronounce. Your name doesn’t necessarily have to describe your business, but it should be easy to understand, speak and remember. Follow those rules and your company or product name will pay dividends in the long haul.

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