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The 5 keys to choosing a competition-beating business name

It’s obvious to everybody that a business name must be memorable

So how important is a business name? If you’re planning to grow your business, then lack of forethought and planning in choosing a great business name is a lot like building a house before checking to see if it is in a flood zone.

Your business name will influence the first mental image that a prospect forms when he comes across your services and products. As you are more than likely planning for your business to lasts for many years, time and effort invested into choosing a good name is time well spent. Part of the value of your business is represented in the name as a branded name can be more valuable than the assets of the business itself.

The following are the 5 key guiding principals I use to guide us when we help clients with their new business names.

1) It must be easy to spell.

It’s obvious to everybody that a business name must be memorable – but steer away from being too clever. If a prospect is trying to find out more about you online, a name that is easy to spell and rolls off the tongue is far better than a quirky name such as “Fjallraven”. Unique is good, especially when it is short, but difficult spelling should be avoided at all costs.

Imagine how you’d go if I had told you about one of these companies over drinks last night, and this morning you wanted to check them out (yes, these are real business names):

Hammacher Schlemmer, Reckitt Benckiser, Boerhinger Ingelheim, Niederegger, Shu Uemura, Faconnable, Intimissimi, Tchibo , Arcelik, Qashqai, Kerastase, Mondalez, Napapijri, Szerelmey – yes what the!

2) Invest in a strong visual element.

What immediate thoughts do you have when you see the business name “Fjallraven”. Not a lot? Human beings use visual queues to make quick associations or judgements. An image that supports something they see or hear helps our prospects’ recollection by using association to anchor the name within their memory.

An easy to spell word and a strong visual element are a great starting point; now it’s the emotional side of human nature you need to worry about.

3) Make sure your competition-beating name has a positive connotation.

A Connotation is one of two principal methods of describing the meanings of words. Connotation refers to the wide array of positive and negative associations that most words naturally carry with them. Most words will have a connotation that is either positive, neutral or negative. This will depend on the emotional associations we make as individuals.

As an example, the connotation of cheap suggests something is of poor quality, while inexpensive, which means the same thing, does not.

So when creating a name think about the positive and negative connotations that might be associated with your business.

For instance, if you are starting a building business you don’t want weak or negative connotations in the name. ‘Pinetree Building’ or ‘Possum Constructions’ – a bit extreme I know – don’t convey reliability or strength. However, ‘Buffalo Constructions’ creates a much stronger visual image.

4) A competition-beating name talks about what you do.

Being found online by your prospects is the equivalent to today’s holy grail. When a prospect does find your website you have only three seconds to earn his attention. A business name that talks about what you do is almost mandatory nowadays. Large companies who have already built brand recognition have paid big dollars to have their name stamped into our memories – think Apple or Nike. You don’t have that luxury.

Your new business name must give your potential prospects clear clues about what you do. This is just as important for a plumbing business or a suntan salon as it is for a new online password manager or SEO tool.

5) A competition-beating business name is not long.

Everything you can do to make your prospect’s life easy is the key to building a brand. In my mind, to help your clients remember your business’s name and tell other people about you, a short name is non-negotiable! It also works well on any promotional material, business cards, websites, advertisements and, importantly, your domain name.

And a last tip:

For your business to reap the benefits of using branding as a core driver of your success, you need to begin the process by understanding and then managing, in a more holistic way, the elements that contribute to your brand equity. Your name is the foundation on which your marketing will rely. Make every word count.

About Peter Engelhardt


A highly respected brand strategist, sought-after speaker, and an accomplished author, Peter is the driving force behind Creative Brew. Working at the intersection of design and strategy, Peter and his team specialise in helping business owners whose dream is to stop working in their business and start building a brand to rise above the noise, grow and prosper.

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