When creating a truly great business name, the number one consideration should be the level of “engagement”.

“Commitment?” you ask incredulously.

Yes … commitment.

While there are all kinds of naming strategies … metaphors, acronyms, coined / invented, key attributes, positive connotations, etc., the only common denominator that separates the mediocre from the memorable is the degree to which the name engages the mind. . of the consumer. Most new business owners opt for company names that they report and describe, leaving nothing to the imagination. They often don’t realize that the context surrounding the name (the ad, store sign, proposal, brochure copy, etc.) will define what they do, so the name can be free to describe. how do they do that. In other words, no customer will hear or see the name in a vacuum of mind. However, this is the way we often judge names when “brainstorming.” And that’s why focus groups are so notoriously bad judges of good names. It is not the people who are flawed, it is the process itself. Most feedback takes the form of free associations, all in an effort to determine whether a name is “good” or “bad.” It goes something like this …

Interviewer: “What do you think of the name Monster?” Respondent: “Ew! They are scary and dangerous!”

Interviewer: “What about Amazon?” Defendant: “Jungle … drowning … snakes … piranhas …”

Interviewer: “Apple?” Defendant: “One bad apple spoils the whole group.”

Interviewer: “Caterpillar?” Defendant: “Squishy, ​​smooth, and twisted.”

Interviewer for a new business owner: “I think we can safely assume that these would be bad brands …”

So if it’s not about free associations, what makes a good name? Again, it is that all-important element known as “commitment.” Engagement is what makes you lean forward, ask twice, invite more information, and continue the conversation. A good name should invite a discussion, start a conversation, and “get” the other person’s interest and attention. That’s why Amazon, while not saying anything about what it does, performs better than Books-A-Million. Amazon is open and welcoming and Books-A-Million is literal and descriptive. Amazon talks about the process … fluid, easy, abundant. Books-A-Million talks about products … books. And while Amazon leaves room for the company to grow in either direction, Books-A-Million leaves the company in a bind. I once heard an ad for a company called Just Brakes. Since they had outgrown this narrow niche, they adopted a new tag line … “We are more than just brakes.”

Let’s take another example. Linens & Things is unnecessarily redundant since most people, after seeing an ad in the newspaper or passing a store window, will know that the company sells bedding and other things. It would be better to use the name to capture some key strategic position or advantage, or to evoke a feeling or emotion. Is Linen & Things the best, the fastest, the biggest, the most service-oriented, the most modern? We just don’t know. They have described but not evoked. They have explained it but have not compromised.

The objection I usually hear is “But with names like these, no one will know what I’m doing!” And that’s when I explain that it takes trust … trust in the power of context to fill in the blanks. In this way, the name is released to paint an image, engage the senses and position the brand to reflect not what it does, but how it does it.

So will some weird word work?


Stranger for stranger will only leave the customer scratching their head, baffled to carry on nonchalantly. Bold and attractive names will create the desire to know more, and that’s where you should be ready to tell the story. The name then becomes a transition to a larger story. It begins with the name and the motto and then continues with the elevator speech of 15 seconds and more.

One of our clients we named was TKO Surgical. When asked if he is a boxing reference, our client responds with a resounding “yes” and explains that they have a mission to defend and fight for the needs of their clients. They will defend your cause and stay in your corner until the last bell rings. Your catchphrase? “Technically superior”.

So whether a name is based on a metaphor, a key attribute, an acronym, or a positive connotation, the overall goal is to create a name that appeals. Perhaps that is why Albert Einstein stated that “imagination is more important than knowledge.” If given the option to participate vs. informing, opt for a name that asks for more. It may seem strange, but the results can be wonderful.

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