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Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself: How NOT to Name Your Business

Launching a new business brings and onslaught of decisions. You’re focused on developing your product or service idea, nailing down your ideal target market, and determining the most effective way to reach them with your message.

One of the most crucial aspects of your business is not what you sell – it’s what your staff and customers call you. Your business name is the first impression your company makes on any prospective customer.

Too many small businesses and start-ups make one of two mistakes when naming their business:

  1. They don’t give their business name enough thought
  2. They give their business name too much thought

The former results in generic or forgettable names. The latter often leads to a name that is so over-tooled and meticulously crafted, it either unnecessarily narrows the scope of the business (which can cause issues down the line, should your business need to expand your offerings or pivot due to marketplace realities), or becomes a complex name more suited to a specific product than a full brand.

If you’re considering launching a new business or renaming an existing entity, here are a few tips on what not to do. Avoiding these mistakes will help you develop an awesome business name that is completely unique and totally you.


Vague business names are for drug traffickers and shell companies. Your company name should be memorable and mean something. “GDD Construction” or “LJ’s Tackle & Bait” might reflect the initials of the ownership, but names like these provide few mental anchors for customers to lock into memory. If you want to personalize business name, try using a full name instead.

Weird Homophones

Your business name will not exist solely in print, so it’s important to think about how your brand will sound every time you introduce yourself, when customers tell others about your business, or in any other auditory context. “Big Tow” will sound like “Big Toe.”  “Accounting Heirs” may turn off clients who call. Avoid ideas that will require you to explain/spell the business name every time you introduce yourself at a party or run an audio ad.

Words that Are Too Close to Other Words

Like homophones, words that sound like other words run the risk of interfering with your business’ perception from the outset. “Shiphole Industries” might be a perfectly fine maritime supply company name, but you’ll likely need to do lots of explaining to new customers.

Puns, Oh the Puns

Certain puns are charming in certain context. “Sew Fine” works for a crafts shop, but for higher stakes businesses (construction, finance, other professional services), a too-cute name may inadvertently undermine your expertise.

Evaluate Your Business Name in Written Form

Just like homophones interfere with the sound of your business, certain spellings and word combinations may not be technically offensive but can leave an equally unsavory impression.

A tech company called “ASH I.T.” sounds fine when spoken, but things get trickier in print. Also, be very cautious when combining two words to make a new compound word – these can sometimes look intimidating to pronounce, causing your client to stumble over your name when talking about your services with others.

Don’t Make it Too Long

Longer phrases are better suited for a tagline. Very, very few companies can get away with long names, and these are often specific products under an overarching brand umbrella. I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter…is owned by Upfield.  If it feels like a full sentence, consider holding off for your company name and see if there is the potential to use the idea elsewhere as another part of your full brand strategy.

No Strings of Syllables

Corvatex, Ventricon, Posirax…what do these things mean? Strings of syllables without any meaning behind them (or a meaning that is so convoluted it requires verbal or written explanation) are paradoxically both complicated and forgettable (double whammy!) Pharmaceuticals companies are often guilty of this and therefore any name that contains a grab-bag of syllables will sound like a medicine, whether true or not.  Unless it’s the evolution of an existing, well-known brand name (ex. Federal Express becoming FedEx) leave company names like this alone.

That said, how SHOULD you choose your name?

With so many “don’ts,” it may seem nearly impossible to name your business now. Actually, the above cautionary tales are useful guidelines to pressure test any company name ideas before proceeding too far down the wrong path. Luckily, there are many strategic, easy-to-follow directives on how to name your company.

  • Your company name should be meaningful to you or your industry (or both!)
  • Limit your company name to one, two or three words
  • Think about the impression your company name makes. J.D. Barnard & Sons has a different connotation (established, prestigious, finance) than Beebu (children’s, online, app).
  • Look at your list of name options in print. Say each out loud. Which one makes you feel most confident or proud to say?
  • Ask your designer to do a simple, typography-based mock-up. How does your name look? Tight and impactful? Or long and complicated?
  • Ask your friends and colleagues their opinions – but remember: not all opinions are equal. Insight from a colleague in your industry should carry more weight than your well-meaning aunt.

Work with professionals

Professional brand strategists and copywriters are experienced in developing brand and product names that don’t violate any of the above (unless there’s a very good reason) while generating a punchy, memorable name for your business. Discuss your ideas with your brand strategy team and let them apply their creativity and experience to develop a captivating business name you’ll be proud to carry for years to come.

Are you thinking of launching a new brand? Our brand strategists can help you break onto the scene in a big way.

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