Naming a company is hard. The client needs to like the name, a suitable URL has to be available, and the name has to pass the trademark sniff test. Enter Alexandra Watkins, who names stuff for a living and has a new book on the topic, Hello My Name Is Awesome. I’ve pulled out three of my favorite insights below, each related to the Herculean task of naming a company.
Full disclosure: Alexandra has her own company EatMyWords and is also one of my resident naming experts at my company, Ideasicle. I can attest firsthand to her expertise in anchoring the rest of the experts on any naming project.
Now, on to three insights from Alexandra in naming a company.
ONE: Settle on your brand name first, then get a domain name.
Don’t start the naming process at a domain registrar such as GoDaddy. That’s backward. Begin by creating your brand name, then find a domain name. If an exact match domain name isn’t available, you can find a creative workaround.
Assuming the brand name is loved by the client and passes the preliminary trademark search (we use uspto.gov at Ideasicle), and assuming the preferred domain name with the .com suffix is not available, all is not lost. Alexandra has some useful creative workarounds when securing the domain that might just save the name.
You can add a modifier in the form of an extra word or two. Her example was Goodbit, a company her firm named that educates the public about cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. They landed on Goodbit101.com and got it for next to nothing, and it says exactly what the company does. Nice.
Another thing you can try is NameStudio where you can input your name and it’ll generate all kinds of options for you.
My favorite idea of Alexandra’s is to come up with a memorable phrase and use that for the URL. Like Peanut Butter & Co with their www.ILovePeanutButter.com. Or Paramount Coffee Company with www.JoeKnowsCoffee.com. Or Greenberg Smoked Turkey with www.GobbleGobble.com (fantastic!). I personally think these URLs are genius and, more importantly, easier to remember than company names.
And this last idea also dispels the myth that a URL must be short. According to Alexandra, that’s a myth. Much more important to be memorable than short.
TWO: Avoid spelling-challenged names.
If your name isn’t spelled like it sounds, it’s a mistake. Spelling your brand name in a noninutuitive way isn’t clever; it’s a cop-out.
She sites a couple examples here. One is “Yooneek.ly” which she admits is cute and might make for an easier time securing a domain name. But think about this company’s customer service calls having to constantly spell out the name/URL for people. What a waste of time and energy when a more intuitive name would have done the trick. Other examples of spelling-challenged names: Chuze, Zaarly, Svpply, Flickr.
In her book, Alexandra suggests a great litmus test to avoid noninintuitive names and it’s right in your pocket. Use the “Siri Test” and see if Siri (or other voice recognition bot) spells it correctly from just hearing you say it. Does it get garbled? Does autocorrect suggest an absurdly wrong word? If so, keep thinking of more names.
THREE: When naming a company think about the future.
Look into your crystal ball and imagine what your company might grow into down the road. Plan ahead, and choose a name wide enough to cover you in the future.
It’s tempting when naming a company to believe that the company is what it is, and will always be what it is right now. But according to Alexandra that can be dangerous thinking.
In her book she sites some great examples of brands who did not think ahead. Canadian Tire now sells all kinds of products beyond tires. Like toasters, tackle boxes, tool belts, trash cans, telescopes and loads of other household items. Lawn Love started out as a lawncare company, but has since added snow removal and Christmas lights installation. “Lawn Love” doesn’t work so well now. And, did you ever notice that the Dollar Store has almost nothing for a dollar anymore? Another good example of not thinking ahead when naming a company.
But one company that did think ahead? Amazon. That name doesn’t commit to one SKU and really says “huuuge” so can work forever. As Alexandra suggests in her book, can you imagine if Amazon were originally called Book Barn?
So there you have it. Start with the brand name, not the domain; avoid spelling-challenged names; and think about the future. All from Alexandra Watkins and her great book, Hello My Name Is Awesome. The book is riddled with many, many more insights, tips and tricks when it comes to domain names.
I highly recommend you pick it up before you name anything ever again.
This article first appeared in www.forbes.com
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