Why is a name important? How should I name my business? What are some business and legal considerations that I should keep in mind?
What’s in a name? If you’ve never given it much thought, you may want to think again. Consider this trademark wars case.
Naming your business goes beyond just figuring out what name to put on your website or what name to put on your legal documents; it’s about storytelling, about conveying a message, and about branding. It can be a powerful tool that guides your business to success. But it’s not something that you create on a whim; verbal branding requires a complex system rooted in business, marketing, psychology, and law. It’s precisely why branding agencies can demand upwards of $50,000 to create your name and develop your branding.
The naming process is an excellent way to gain clarity into how you plan to translate your idea into a business, how you want to position yourself in the market, what associations you want your customers to have with your business, and what kind of brand you want to create. Think of it as laying the foundation of your business. If you have a steady foundation, the alignment allows you to layer and layer with ease, but if it’s even slightly off, that misalignment becomes amplified.
Now that you know the importance of a name, keep the following business, creative, and legal considerations in mind when you’re in the process of thinking about how to name your business or product.
BUSINESS + CREATIVE CONSIDERATIONS
» AUDIBLE – Make sure the name can be pronounced easily.
Say it aloud several times. Have your friends and family say it aloud.
Do you enjoy saying the name when introducing yourself to a client? Is it difficult to pronounce? Would people hesitate saying it if they can’t pronounce it properly? Is it pronounced differently from the way it’s spelled?
» VISUAL – Write it down.
See what it will look like on business stationery, website, and signs. We’re visual creatures so it’s really helpful to see how it would look in use.
» SIMPLICITY – Keep it simple and as short as possible.
If it’s too complicated, no one’s going to understand it except for you. Stay away from using industry jargon or jokes that only you will know. A unique name increases your chances of getting a trademark, but if the name is too obscure, you can lose a whole subset of your audience.
» TRANSLATIONS – Consider what the name means in other languages.
The marketing world is full of reported translation blunders. Some have even become famous such as Gerber where ‘gerber’ means to vomit in French and Traficante Mineral Water where ‘traficante’ connotes a drug dealer in Spanish. To avoid these embarrassing and costly gaffes, invest the time and money in researching all the cultural implications before it’s too late. If you have a business name that transcends borders, which is more than likely in our global digital age, consider all its hidden meanings and translations. The positive association of a word in one market could be something offensive in another language and market.
» CLEARANCE – Research your name thoroughly.
Trademarks are a major legal consideration when naming a business. You don’t want to spend hours and hours to come up with a brand name only to find out that your name is already trademarked and that using it would constitute trademark infringement. Avoid costly blunders by doing your due diligence and research. Start by searching your name and confusingly similar names on public databases and search engines such as the USPTO, state registrars, and Google.
» DIGITAL – Check the availability of your digital identity.
In today’s day and age, it’s more than likely that your business will have its own digital identity, so check that the domain and social media handles are available.
» DISTINCTIVENESS – Avoid literal, generic, or descriptive names.
Names that simply describe your business’ product or service will be less likely to receive a federal trademark registration. Instead, you want to choose a name that the USPTO would consider “arbitrary” or “fanciful,” such as “Kodak” for cameras or “Apple” for computers.
A few additional things to consider: 1) Don’t fall in love with the name until you’ve received your legal clearance and know definitively that it’s yours to use; 2) Keep referring back to your brand vision, goals, personality, values, and voice; and 3) According to the WSJ, you’re 50% more likely to receive a trademark registration from the USPTO if you have a lawyer do your trademark clearance and application.
FROM NAME TO BRAND — COMING IN 2019!
Using my legal and marketing expertise, I’m developing a comprehensive system on how to name a business or product. Set to release in early 2019, it’ll include a series of mini-lessons that are full of reflective questions, charts, worksheets, checklists, thoughts to consider, legal issues to avoid, and creative suggestions. Below is a sample of one of the charts included in the program. If you’re interested, put your email on the mailing list on the sidebar and you’ll be among the first to be notified when it’s finished! →