7 steps to a good company name

In 2003, the only other company that I was aware of that used a number to start off their company name was 37signals. I am sure there were more, but at that time on the web they were the only ones I could think of and therefore I didn’t see any issues with using a number for my company. If I were to start all over today I would think twice about using a number simply because there are so many sites and companies out there that employ this naming scheme.

So what are the criteria for coming up with a godo company name? Well the list is short and sweet, but that doesn’t make the process any easier. So many names have been taken up that now you are either starting to see some recycled goodies or names that come from words that don’t even exist.

In his book The Brand Gap, Marty Neumeier has come up with a wonderful list of seven characteristics that you should consider while coming up with your company name. Here they are along with my own thoughts.

1. Distinct. Is it unique and does it help you stand out from the crowded field that you are more than likely entering?
2. Short and sweet (aka brevity). Can people get it out without having to take a breath in between words? The longer the name, the more likely people will come up with an abbreviation that probably won’t make sense to the person they are talking to. Does anyone even care what IBM, GE, or GM even stand for anymore?

3. Is it appropriate? This one is a bit more flexible because unique names are rarely ever appropriate. Yahoo and Google don’t signify what the companies really do, but Bob’s Plumbing should be a plumbing business and not a pizza delivery service.
4. Easy. Can you say the name easily? Can you spell it easily? It’s hard enough getting people to talk about your company so don’t make it even less enticing by calling yourself Xzving.
5. Popular. Are people going to like the name? I like saying Yahoo and Google. They are fun names and that already leads to a favorable impression.
6. Extendability. Can the name be used for multiple purposes. This is the beauty behind 9rules. You can come up with your own set of 9rules if you wish or simply 9 types of anything.
7. Protectability. You probably don’t want to go with a name like Apple today because it’s nice to be able to trademark your name. It’s also nice if the name is actually available on the web to use.

So if you can’t afford to buy a 3-4 letter domain like everyone else seems to be doing, I suggest you follow these guidelines when thinking of the next great thing you are creating. Don’t let a bad name put you back 10 paces before the race even begins. A lesson that Pajamas Media definitely learned with their original name of Open Source Media.

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