I call everyone ‘Darling’ because I can’t remember their names.
Zsa Zsa Gabor
Great names do some of the work for you. They market your company just by being out there: Last.fm, SoundCloud, KissMetrics and Groupon all come to mind. One of my favorite company names in tech is Wildfire, a company that makes social media marketing apps. Once you hear the name in context, the name will forever be stored in your brain. It clicks because it contains a strong hint of what the product does: it makes your promotion spread like… you know what.
Most of the names out there are just OK. They don’t make your life any easier or harder: Highrise, Yammer, Spotify. But it’s OK to have an OK name.
Where you don’t want to be is in the third category — having a name that associates your product with the wrong things and acts as a show-stopper. Think Pen Island or a name I once proposed for a networking service – Loopus.in (which associates with lupus for anyone who has watched even one episode of House).
So how do you make the right decision?
I’ve recently been involved in choosing a name for a couple of startup projects, and it gave me an opportunity to try and understand how to do it better. Here’s what I found:
Decide where your name should fit
Will your name be descriptive like Internet Explorer and Facebook or abstract like Badoo and Skype (s MSFT? Most names are word mutations somewhere in the middle, like Klout, Flattr and Pinterest.
When you have a big marketing and media budget, you have more of a choice, but for most name hunters this isn’t the case — so homework is needed. The first step in the naming process is to do a few broad Google searches and check relevant directory/app store listings. You’ll soon have a good idea where you want your name to fit. If everyone is zigging with ‘awesome’ web 2.0 names, sometimes you want to zag and go for something old school like ITT Electron Tube Company. Other times you want to blend in, for example if you’re making a golf application, you might want to have ‘golf’ in the name somewhere. Then, of course, there are often SEO considerations to bear in mind.
Write a brief, and make sure everyone agrees on it
Unless you work on your startup idea by yourself, write the result from the previous exercise down. It’s also helpful to create list of words you want your name to associate with and stick it to your screen or wall until you’ve found your perfect name. For example: “instant” and “coaching” when you’re naming a real-time sports feedback app, or “news” for a content curation tool.
Then make sure all the founders and stakeholders agree with the brief. One recent naming experience involved switching back and forth between names that contained a strong hint at what the company does and abstract names because one of the founders wasn’t quite sure at the beginning. It wasted a lot of hours for everybody on the team.
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