One of the most important elements of a good brand starts with a good name.  I guess then, it should also hold that a lousy brand starts with a lousy name.  As I talk to companies that need or think they might need help with their general marketing, I am perplexed at the naming decisions some make.

Bad branding decisions are hard for a CMO to deal with when he or she is asked to grow sales, build the pipeline and save money all at the same time.  I find many CEOs don’t see that.  At the least a bad name can slow growth and provide an annoyance for marketing folks; at the worst, it will frustrate any attempt to grow the brand.

So first, what are the categories of bad naming?

Meaningless Names.  This to me is a cardinal sin.  Your name is the best chance you will ever have of describing what you do.  A carefully considered name, especially with a poignant tagline is the foundation of a good brand.  A couple years ago, I made a proposal to a company named “ease, Inc” who had a tagline “The power of simplicity” Yes, but what do you do?  They were a software company that had been in business for more than 25 years and had yet to crack $2 million in sales.  I rest my case.

Family Names.  We are all proud of our family names.  If you have a small accounting practice or IT consulting firm by all means call it your family name.  If you are going to be building a software business, selling products  and hiring people, think twice.  Yes, people’s names have become branded products many time (e.g. Peter Norton & McAfee in security).  I made a proposal to a company named “Lieberman Software” a few years ago and if you need software for your Lieberman, I suggest you contact them.

Too Many Names.  I have actually a couple clients that have multiple name issues.  It often happens when a product name overshadows the corporate brand.  Or vice versa, the company name becomes synonymous with the product and an attempt to introduce a new product is met with confusion.  I have another client that adds a name and website every year I think just because.  They enjoy describing their companies in grand terms “Blue Company is a subsidiary GHJ Industries and a part of the IUY family of companies.”  The confusion level on this one is huge.

Hard to Spell; Hard to Say Names.  Now I must say some foreign companies have taken advantage of their strange looking names and made a positive out of a negative.  Good for them.  In general, however, you’ll want to choose a name people can pronounce and spell.  Just sayin.

So what then, are the elements of a good name?  That’s easy:

  • Easy to say and spell
  • Represents what the company does
  • Looks good in the logo

Names are difficult and expensive to change once you have them, so consider your name carefully when you have the chance.  There are ways however, to minimize bad branding decisions, and we’ll cover that in a future blog!

What issues does your company’s name have?  Can the situation be improved?

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