Ten Things to Consider When Naming Your Domain, Product or Business

  1. Who are my consumers?
  2. What am I naming?
  3. What type of a name do I want?
  4. How long should the name be?
  5. Do the sounds in the name have the right appeal?
  6. What associations should the name evoke?
  7. What are the foreign language implications of the name?
  8. How should I test the name?
  9. How will the name appear in directories?
  10. Can I trademark the name?

Who are my consumers?
You can't expect to sell to everyone, so define narrowly who you want to sell to and make the name appeal to that group. You need to know how the members of that group think. You will make your best guesses with your current knowledge, but you must be willing to discard some personal favorites when later testing shows that they don't work. Unfortunately, your first inclinations are seldom your best. Trust your testing.

What am I naming?
The goal here is to give the product a name that has appealing associations. In all types of naming it is important that the name evokes the right emotions, associations, and images. In addition, if you are naming a product that will be on a retail shelf, the name should be short enough to fit on the retail box and be legible from several feet away.

If your business, product, or service is altogether new, you will generally want its name to communicate at a glance what it concerns. For example, business names (trade names) such as GENERAL NUTRITION, SPORTSMAN'S WAREHOUSE, BURGER WORLD, and PETSMART communicate immediately what is at issue.  On the other hand, if you are naming an additional product in an established business, the product name need not necessarily communicate what it is. For example, it is not necessary for names such as Mustang, Thunderbird, Marboro, and Camel to communicate that they are cars and cigarettes, because the consumer knows what they are from the company names.

What type of name do I want?
Names can be categorized in various ways. Some are surnames like Anderson Lumber Company, or Covey Leadership. Others are ordinary words combinations such as New Balance Shoes, or First Security Bank. Some names are coined words like Kodak, Nu Skin, Nytol, or Intel. Others such as Taurus and Nike have been borrowed from Greek mythology. Below are some of the types of names that you may consider:

Coined Names:
The trend to coin business and product names is increasing, largely because they are quite easily trademarked. Names such as Nu Skin, Computune, and Envirocare are all recent coinages that communicate the types of businesses they are. Pentium is a well-known product name for Intel's fifth-generation product. A recent trend in coining names for cars has been to select a prestige two-syllable beginning, and end the name with "a." Consider "Maxima, Accura, Altima, Integra, Lumina, and others. Observe how the names of medicines tend to end in in, possibly to evoke an association with the word medicine: aspirin, penicillin, herpecin, corracidin, pamparin, and cholestin. And, we are all familiar with two-word names written as single words as in WordPerfect, Microsoft, and WriteExpress. Thus, coining names may be done in a number of ways, and coinages often follow trends. WriteExpress PowerNaming is especially designed to help you in this creative process.

Common Words with a Twist:
New Balance Shoes, WriteExpress Easy Letters, Out'n Back, All a Dollar, Wallpaper Warehouse, and Four Seasons Flowers are all business and product names that consist of common words in short, meaningful phrases. Each name is memorable because of the associations it evokes. Such traditional names are good but sometimes difficult to trademark.

Surnames and First names:
The current trend is to avoid the use of surnames unless they are well known or you have the means to make them well known through advertising. As a general rule, they are difficult to trademark. Successful surnames include  Smucker's, Fudrucker's, Albertson's, Covey Leadership, and Franklin Quest. Successful names that include first names include Oscar Meyer, Fred Meyer's Mama Maria's, and Tony Roma's. The use of first or surnames often works well when linked with another identifying word. For example, Jone's Paint and Glass, Peggy's Bridal, Crawford Electric, and Knighton Optical. Be aware that such names often work locally, but not internationally, unless they are widerly recognized.

Telescoped or Alpha-Numeric names:
Some persons refer to names that combine numbers and letters as Alpha-Numeric names.  Such names have worked well for companies such as Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company that telescoped its name to be the 3M Company. Other good examples are Food 4 Less,  A-1 Steak Sauce, 9-Lives Cat Food, and 7-UP. Many such names are successful because the numbers carry important meanings in clever ways.

Names with deviant spellings:
Nite skool, Krazee Kids, Kandy Korn, Peteet Neet School, tuff skins, Xtreme are all examples of deviant spellings that play with sounds. The rhyming and alliteration features of WriteExpress can help you find words with the desired sound combinations, but you provide the innovative spellings. Be sure that the deviant spelling appeals to your target consumer. What appeals to one group of consumers may just be silly to another. The advantage of such names is that they are memorable, but you may find them difficult to trademark if there is a similar-sounding trademark with a more conventional spelling.

Acronyms and Abbreviations:
Acronyms and abbreviations are effective ways to shorten otherwise long names and make them unique and memorable, particularly when the name is already known. Thus NRA is recognized as National Rifle Association, aol is America on line, and KFC is Kentucky Fried Chicken. Otherwise, the acronym or abbreviation must contain other information to carry its message. For example IHC Health Care, CNN News, or M & L Rentals. In some cases a clever acronym is introduced with the product as in US West's Directory Expert called DEX.

Place Names:
The key is for the place name to carry the right associations. New York Deli, Philadelphia Cream Cheese, Chicago style pizza, San Francisco Sourdough, Kentucky Fried Chicker.  Ficticious place names can also work if they have the right associations and are therefore memorable. Consider The Olive Garden Restaurant, The Attic, and The Terrace. If the nature of the business, service or product is not obvious from the name, you still have an advertising problem.

Alliterative or Rhyming Names:
Names with alliteration are those that have the same sound at the beginning of two or more successive words. Roto Rooter, Cellular Source, Peter Piper Pizza, Water World, and Bargain Basement are words that are memorable largely because they contain alliteration. The WriteExpress rhyming and alliteration features make up the world's most powerful tool for finding such names. While this is a very positive feature, don't let it  lure you into being so creative that the name is counter productive.

Prestige Names:
Names such as Nike, Sundance, Lady Di, and  Pierre Cardin are all prestige names. Some are from foreign languages; others are the names of celebrities. One may expect that such names are rarely trademarkable. It is generally good advice to avoid them unless you have some legal control over the name.

How long should the name be?
In naming businesses and services, lengthy names with three or more syllables in more than one word should probably be avoided. Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company was wisely reduced to 3M, and International Business Machines was reduced to IBM. If you are naming a product that will be on a retail shelf, the name should be short enough to fit on the retail box and be legible from several feet away. Selecting a name that tells the customer what the product is in only a few syllables is daunting but absolutely essential. After selecting possible names, test them with potential buyers to see whether they understand from the name what the product is. If they don't, find another short name until they do.

Do the sounds in the name have the right appeal?
Your name should be easy to read, spell, and pronounce, and should reflect the quality of the thing named. It is best to avoid names with uncertain pronunciations. Part of the meaning of a word is colored by its sounds. Words that rhyme or have alliterative initial sounds may work well for some products but not for others. "Tiny Tots' Toys" may work well for children's products but such alliteration may not work well for medical supplies. Would you want to buy "comfy coronary catheters?" Certain sounds such as the vowels in tipsy and teenie weenie carry light, diminutive impressions, while the sounds in crunch and plop seem much heavier.  Similarly, the sounds p,t,k,ch, j, a,u,o seem harder and more masculine than do l,m,n, ng, sh,s, i,e. The sounds v,f,z,s are generally associated with speed more than sounds such as p,t,b,d,l, and m.  Some experts feel that the letters q,x,z,f, and u tend to evoke negative feelings. Of course Fudruckers and Compaq have used the sounds to their advantage. On the positive side, the letters a,b,s,t and m are reported to evoke very positive feelings. Being aware of such subtleties  may help you narrow your choices.

What associations should the name evoke?
Would "Bud Light" be as appealing if it were "Tiffany Light?" "Bud" evokes masculine associations and  "Tiffany" evokes feminine ones. Notice that the difference is communicated as much by the sounds of the words as by the meanings. The sounds in "Bud" seem heavier than ones in "Tiffany." A recent fat substitute was given the name "olean," negating any notion of fat. Consider the positive associations with a name such as "Sunkist Oranges." Some names like Ajax or Mercury evoke powerful images from mythology. Others like Castmaster or Power Bait clearly appeal to the sport of fishing. The associations that your name evokes are extremely important and should appeal to the specific consumer you have in mind.

What are the foreign language implications of the name?
Without checking foreign language associations of the word, someone at GM chose "Nova," for a Chevrolet model, probably hoping to evoke a star-like association. Only later did they realize that In Spanish, "no- va" means "it doesn't go." The incident has been a lesson for all who would name products for global consumption. Successful names with good foreign language meanings include "Nike," referring to the Greek goddess of victory, and "Taurus," meaning "bull," the second sign of the zodiac. Before settling on a name, be sure to check its possible meanings and associations in foreign languages. Foreign language dictionaries will help but will not suffice. Generally they will not contain profanity. Be safe by checking with native speakers.

How will I test the name?
As you narrow your name choices, involve only persons from the group who will be the consumers. Ask them what they think of when they hear the word you have chosen. You may also tell them what you think the name of your product or service, but don't dwell on it. Contact them on the following day and ask them what the name was. If several remember it, you probably have a good name. If virtually no one does, it's back to the drawing board. Other techniques include surveying consumers with a list of possible names for them to rank, interviewing consumers in the market place, and placing lists on bulletin boards and requesting responses. Also test your names for political incorrectness, negative associations, questionable meanings in foreign languages, and other connotations or associations that may render a name unwise. Remember, the name must be unique, distinctive, and memorable.  And, before you use it be sure that the name will be free from legal problems.

How will the name appear in directories?
If you anticipate that much of your business will come from listings in the Yellow Pages, the Internet, or other directories, it will be to your advantage to have a business name that will be listed close to the start of the alphabet, because these lists appear in alphabetical order. Of course, highlighting, adding pictures, and using other attention-getting devices can help, but their effectiveness seems to be less when placed near the end of a list.

Can I trademark the name?
You will probably experience some frustration when you find that your favorite name is not legally available. Be sure you have three or four alternatives when you start your search from trademark availability. Initially, you may want to check trade journals, and directories such as the Yellow Pages to be sure your name is not being used. Most university libraries offer searching services so you can determine whether your name is already listed as a trademark. This initial search may save you time and money before you engage legal counsel. Be sure to check various similar or optional spellings for your name, because it can be denied if it is too similar to another established trademark. Large libraries will generally have books that deal with state and federal trademark laws. Trademark law can be complicated so you must get good advice on how to proceed.