3 Rules for Naming Companies

"What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet."
–From Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

Shakespeare was obviously not a technology marketer. I would argue that names do matter and that the name sets the tone for a company and its products. Would Apple be Apple if it were named "American Personal Computer Corporation" — No. The company might have been larger (boring company name exhibit A — IBM) or more profitable (boring company name exhibit B — Microsoft) but not have the same spunk and creativity that we have come to enjoy and expect from them

So, thinking of naming a company? Here are some simple rules:

  1. Give it a personality.
    The great challenge in marketing technology is putting a personality on what you do. Some how "Distributed Computing of Large Scale Crawling Projects" or DCLSCP wouldn’t be nearly as compelling as the name Google, although the name probably more accurately describes the founders’ original intentions. Bronto Software is named after a distinguishable thing, which helps us immensely in establishing a brand around a set of web services. Red Hat, named after a lacrosse’s cap of one of its founders, followed similar thinking and out branded their competitors with faceless names like Caldera, TurboLinux and Suse.
  2. Avoid initials
    Too often I see companies that decide to name themselves after the initials of their founders. This tends to more common in small consulting services. Avoid this temptation. Although self-flattering and cool for about 30 seconds, you’ll be wasting a perfect branding opportunity — refer to rule #1.
  3. Include what you do
    Insert the company’s function into the name, especially when you are just launching the business. I know that the rave in the Internet space is to think of something clever like Yahoo or Google but, in general, I prefer company names that spell out the function a little more clearly. Is this contradictory to #1 and #2? Doesn’t have to be. For example, Bronto Software started off BrontoMail. Only later did we switch it to have broader scope. Earlier on, it is easier to land sales and market with a self-descriptor in the name. Plus, if the business takes off, then you can name it whatever you like and not worry about naming suggestions in blogs such as these.

The rules and thoughts about naming may vary but one truth remains — naming matters.

2 thoughts on “3 Rules for Naming Companies

  1. Joe,
    This is a good post with good information. I have shared it with my readers on my blog.
    Also, I am looking forward to the new release this Monday. It looks like you are giving your customers exactly what they want and need.
    Keep up the good work!

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