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What’s in a Name?

Naming Your Company is a Difficult Challenge…today more than ever

Sound of Music? Nope…not referring to the classical musical here, but it was the original name of a well-known retailor.

Back Rub? Nope…I’m not offering. Rather, I’m pointing out the original name of a popular search engine.

Blue Ribbon Sports? Nope…it’s not a beer waiting to be chugged at the end of a charitable 5K. It’s the original name of a best-selling sportswear company.

All were quick ‘fails’ from a naming perspective and prompted the companies to head back to the marketing drawing board to create new names.

Don’t be too tough on them. Naming a company has always been a tall order. Years ago, you merely needed to be mindful of state conflicts with your prospective name.


It’s a different ballgame altogether.

Now, you need to be aware of conflicts on a global scale when coming up with a name for a business. These are concerns–not just from a legal standpoint. No, these are concerns from a marketing perspective. After all, you want a name that allows you to snare the proper domain, right? And that’s just one concern.

With many complexities in mind, here are a few tips when naming your new business:

Step One…Brainstorm

Yes…Brainstorm! This is typically the most fun part of the naming process. Occasionally, this is done with just the company brass…maybe with some wine involved; or, it can be done in a more structured environment. We can bring in other employees and individuals whose opinions are valued. Then, we simply break into groups of two or three. A word associated with the company would be posed and the group would create names from that–then pass those to another group to see if their names sparked ideas from their own list, etc. From a few rounds of that, there is typically enough possible names to put ‘in-play’ during the next phase.

Step Two…Focus Group

Our next order of business when tackling a naming project is to go to the source: prospective customers. Generally, this will be done as part of a series of focus groups that are helping us build a brand direction for the company. If ‘naming’ is part of the agenda, we pose a few possible names to get a general idea of the thoughts and reactions from those perspective customers. We don’t ask them to come up with names or to dissect the names. That can open a can of worms that is less than productive. We look for general reactions. Feelings. General ideas and thoughts about a possibility. The process helps us gauge a temperature for each possibility.

Step Three…Narrowing the Field

The possibilities that remain from the focus group now need to be narrowed down further. See which names pass the ‘media’ test–can you imagine saying the name of your company to a reporter? See it in a news story? At this stage, eliminate any names that are similar to competitors or might strike a mental chord with another business. Do a domain name search and look for names that you would be able to own with no issues.

Step Four…And the Winner is???

At this point, you most likely have your name. If there is still concern, run it through another brainstorming session or focus group. But you are most likely on your way to step one of building a brand: the name!

It will most likely be far better than Sound of Music…which became Best Buy; Back Rub…which became Google; and, Blue Ribbon Sports…which became Nike. All of whom chose better names for obvious reasons! Actually, numerous obvious reasons!

Need help in building a distinctive and relevant brand identity? Including naming your business? Just send us an email and we will send you information on our process. Email us at or email me directly at

By Scott Trueblood, of BrandVision Marketing. BrandVision Marketing is a full-service marketing agency based in Knoxville, TN.

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