What not to name your business

How to choose and register a business name that will create a strong brand identity – while avoiding the typical pitfalls

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Starting a business is an empowering and exciting time, you’re taking the initiative to try and make your way by yourself. However, while a lot of people have ideas about starting a business, when it comes to actually doing it – there are a lot of questions and challenges.

Aside from the formalities of actually registering a start-up, you will have numerous things to consider in terms of creating a brand and identity.

One of the most crucial considerations in regards to this is choosing your company name. You might have a strong idea of what you think you will name your business but what you initially think is a great company name may actually prove to be a poor choice – there are myriad elements to consider and it’s difficult to get the balance right.

Before you start brainstorming fantastic business names, it can be useful to understand what makes a bad business name. So, let’s look at what not to name your company.

What’s in a name? Everything

You might think that your business name isn’t terribly important, and it’s true you can always change it at a later date, but the name of your company is one of the most fundamental ways in which customers or clients interact with you and your brand.

As a result, it is extremely important to thoughtfully and judiciously choose a company name. Your name will affect the perception of your business, this includes the following:

  • Awareness. A poorly chosen company name can show a lack of awareness. This is not a desirable trait for clients and customers! If they judge you by your name to have a lack of awareness, they may very well take their business elsewhere.
  • Uniqueness. If you have a generic and dull name that doesn’t sound distinctive or that doesn’t represent your brand effectively, you may find that customers have a difficulty in distinguishing your company from others.
  • Attentiveness. Poor company names display a lack of attentiveness, so having a good one is important to make sure that you portray a high level of capability – and are the type of business to thoroughly think through every aspect of the service.

So there we have an idea of how a bad name can affect your business. Whenever you pitch anything, your business name will be the first thing you talk about – so it must be thought through properly.

But what specifically should you consider when choosing a name?

Choosing a company name that works for you

There are several tips on choosing a name that can keep you from falling into the ‘bad name’ trap:

  • Simplicity. You might want to attach all kinds of things to your brand like ‘Group’ or ‘International’ or ‘Foundation’ – but think about whether you really need to. Indeed, some terms are protected by Companies House so unless they are specifically relevant to your business they may not be suitable. Avoid flowery language and dressing up your company name – keep it simple and true to your company values.
  • Positivity. The psychological attributes of your company name cannot be understated; people will naturally attach certain things to your business based on the name. As a result, keeping it positive is important. It’s hard to pinpoint, but make sure any words in your company name have positive connotations.
  • Singularity. Whatever your company name is, it has to be unique. So, make sure you do your research. Unique means completely unique, so it can’t even be a similar name to another company – especially if that company is a competitor or already has an established market share.

Approaching the name of your company with these principles in mind will make the process of choosing a name much smoother, and will help make sure your business has the best chance of success.

Keeping perspective with names: Your business makes the name

It is worth pointing out that whatever name you decide on, your business will make the name – and not the other way around. Most of the time brands are made into their name, and there are some very successful companies that have names which may have been thrown out had harsh limits on naming been in place.

Branding expert Will Burns wrote in Forbes that “There are countless fantastic brand names out there today that could have been shot dead on the spot”. He then cites examples like ‘Banana Republic’, which has some negative and disparaging connotations. Burns concludes that “The name – no matter what it is – will come to mean what you want it to mean”.

So, although the points here will make coming up with a business name simpler – just remember that the business itself will shape the meaning of your name, so you should always maintain focus on running a great company that can be reflected by your name.

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