The Importance of a Name + 4 Things You Have to Consider Before You Commit

I am having a baby any minute. Well, any day. I'm six days away from my due date and that means I'm in the zone. We do not know whether we are having a boy or a girl, which makes the anticipation even more exciting. For us, it has also made picking a name rather difficult. There are so many factors to consider - what nicknames will people use? can anyone besides me pronounce this name (we've picked some wild ones in the past)? who else already has this name? what does this name say about our hopes or expectations for this sweet little one? Then there are the things that make the name a non-starter like already knowing someone with the name that did not create a positive connection. For us, we run away from the "popular names" so, if a name is on a "top baby name list" it's automatically OUT for us. Maybe because I was never the only Kari - there were always others, seven in my graduating class to be exact. Finally, we thought we had a really great name and then a celebrity couple used that rather unique name for their child and we thought, "dang it, now it will look like we are copycats." There are few things more horrifying to an IP attorney than appearing to copy. Back to the drawing board... This article isn't going to be only about what to name my sweet child, but if you do have ideas, please send them my way!

Meanwhile, this article is about is naming your "baby". Not like your actual human child, because I cannot pretend to know what will be important to you when you name another soul, but I do know some things that should be important when naming your studio, venture, company, store, etc. Interestingly, there are many factors that parallel naming a baby and a business - here are a few:

1. Is Everyone Else Using that Name? RUN AWAY!

Getting noticed requires being unique. [tweet that yo]  Let's start with the popular regional name or team name.  Love the local college or pro sports team? So does everyone else. How many businesses in Arkansas start their name with "Razorback"? TOO MANY! There's Razorback Dental, Razorback Plumbing, Razorback Pest Control, Razorback Pool Services, etc. etc. etc. etc. forever. It's not just the Razorbacks, I've seen it with all the teams. 

How will anyone every remember your name if you share a portion of your name with one third of the other Google results in your zip code? They won't. You might get lucky that they will call you back, but your name won't be memorable.

 
 

Same principle for unique geographic features or regions. Please don't name your business after Mount Hood, everyone already did that. Get creative! How can your name be the first step in creating a unique experience? 

2.  Is Your Name Confusingly Similar to Another Name? MOVE ALONG!

If your child will always be in the same group with another kid who almost has the same name, you can anticipate some confusion. The same holds true for your gig. If your band name is nearly the same as a well known or locally loved band, that equals trouble. If you need to trick people in order to get their attention, you aren't ready to launch. [tweet that] You need to be ready, willing and able to stand on your own unique and awesome reputation.

How do you know if your name is too much like another name?  Dig deep!  You have the whole internet at your finger tips.  Here are the very basic searches you need to complete before committing to a name:

  • Trademark Search - does someone have a federally registered trademark the same as or nearly identical to your proposed name? Are they in the same general market area? If yes, move along. You can conduct a free and simple trademark search via USPTO.gov
  • Domain Name Search - if someone already has the .com, this does not bode well for you. When people are trying to find you online they generally do one of two things. First, they may type whatever they can remember of your name and throw a .com at the end.  The dot com is still king and if you cannot control it, you will fight misdirects your whole career. Not worth it. Get another name. Second, if a potential customer or supporter doesn't type in yourname.com, they will do a web search. One guess as to which entity comes up at the top of the search? Bingo, the other crew with the .com name. You can fight it with a competing lower ranked domain, but why?  Back to the drawing board until you find a name that you love and that you can get the .com 
  • Social Search - Jump on the most powerful platforms on the web - does someone else already have a facebook page, Instagram @yourname or what-have-you with the name you love? BUMMER!  This may even be worse than someone else having the .com version of your name.  Think long and hard about the two sides to the social coin. First, is your name available on the platforms that you do (or should) care about? Second, can you have the same name on all the socials? It's incredibly unhelpful if you are one name on Instagram, another on facebook and another still on Snapchat (full disclosure - we haven't really snapped yet, but sharing the account as an example of claiming ground before you are ready to use it).  Keep brainstorming until you have a name that can be "you" on every platform. [tweet that yo] Related, as soon as a new social platform hits the webs, go secure your name. Decide if you will use the platform later, claim your ground first!

3. Hard to Pronounce? TAKE ANOTHER SHOT!

If you introduce yourself and your business to a new friend at a coffee shop, can they pronounce and remember your name?  Queen Bey was really onto something when she told us to "say my name, say my name." 

Kinda funky can be a really good thing for a name. A made-up word? So great. Impossible to pronounce or remember? You better have some incredible launch or advertising dollars. It can work, but please have a strategy about how people will remember and search for your name. Business cards are basically over in the creative community - have a plan for how people will find you later. [tweet that]

4.  Is It True Love?

You have to love the name. Every time you say it or type it does a little smirk appear on your face? Does not using this name make you sad? If someone beat you to the market with this name, would you cry? You are the main audience hat you need to "sell." If you don't love the name, it will be difficult for you to convince other people to place it on their love list. Don't launch until you are fully committed and truly, madly, deeply in love - with the name. 

Does the Name You Are Using Break These Rules?

These rules can be overcome, but the climb is very steep but still an option (unless you lose a "confusingly similar" challenge in court - then you are so done).  Just like people, companies can change names. It takes some work, trust from your clients, time and money investment, but it can be done. Carefully weigh the pros and cons before you jump ship. Can you modify to streamline? If you are considering a change, can you combine it with a new feature, location, product line or feature to make the new name seem like it might have been in the cards from the beginning? 

What else do you think makes a great business name?

Go build something,

Kari