A simple guide to naming your new company.
By Joachim ter Haar, Managing Partner Skriptor Zigila.
Imagine if Steve Jobs had named his company after his favorite flower instead of fruit? Would Tulip have been less successful than Apple? Probably not. It's never about the name; it's the success of the concept that determines the strength of the brand name. Choosing a name is choosing a word, which you will gradually turn into a brand by associating it with your successful business. The name must be fundamentally strong enough to support this. That's enough.
The most important benefit the name will provide is an identity. The first opportunity to differentiate yourself from the competition. There are many types of names to choose from. Descriptive names that literally tell what you do (e.g., Software Solutions), positioning names that tell how you do something or what it brings to the customer (e.g., iDeal), or names that say nothing but are very distinctive (e.g., Oppo). Usually, it's a combination of these. This will be different for each company, depending on the concept, positioning, target audience, and competitive field. Short or long, hip or conservative, disruptive or conventional, all have their pros and cons.
Think long term
Generally, we advise choosing a name that won't limit you in the long term, is distinctive from the competition, and can be registered in the local and/or International trademark registers to protect the economic value you create. Descriptive names are therefore not recommended as they lack distinctiveness, can be used by anyone, and will be rejected by the trademark register.
Don't get fixated on an exact match with an available .com or local domain name. This can significantly limit your creative options. By combining your name with all or part of the designation, you can almost always create a unique URL that performs well on Google with the right SEO strategy.
Google is not king
Checking your ideas on Google is logical and can prevent mistakes. However, the same names can coexist as long as there is no confusion. An identical name in totally different category or region does not immediately disqualify it. For example, the Ajax brand name is used for well-known football, cleaning and fire extinguishing brands without limiting one or the other in their success.
With the above perspective, you can also prevent emotions from taking over your decision making process. Ask 20 people what they think of a name, and you'll get 20 different opinions. Language naturally evokes personal associations. Everyone wants a cool name that explains everything instantly. Those are extremely rare and have already been thought of. We advise you to let this go and allow yourself the space for a structured search.
The fun part is that there are so many possibilities. Start by creating a clear briefing. Based on this, develop lists of names in all possible directions, either by yourself or with the help of a specialist. Discuss them in person with your team. Not by email; it's the discussion that clarifies what works and what doesn't, and equally important, why. Be open and willing to kill your darlings in the face of strong arguments. The directions then become sharper step by step, and the candidates get better. If you end up with a list of distinctive names that all in the team feel positive about your are well under way.
The next step is to select a shortlist of names that could all potentially work. Preferably, have them legally reviewed to avoid infringing on existing trademark registrations. As a starting entrepreneur, you may be able to take more risks and register the new name without legal research. This depends on your ambition. If you expect to be successful and stand out quickly, we recommend a thorough assessment of the legal risks by experts. A forced late stage name change is painful and costly.
At this point your are ready to make the final choice. Claim the URL, register the trademark, and you exist. Set to do business and build your brand. To stars, and beyond.
A final note: plan your branding investments.
In your enthusiasm you may want to create a full brand identity and trademark in a very early phase. Be careful, this can be quite costly. We see start-ups invest too much too soon, or too little too late. Invest enough to validate your proposition, product market combinations, and business concept. But at this stage it is not necessary to have your final name yet. Only when you are ready to scale up it is time to go all out and choose the definitive trademarked brand name. It may be emotionally difficult to let it go of the your concept name, but you and your business will benefit in the long term.