12/17/13

What’s In A Name?

Image Credit: Steven Depolo

It’s no secret: TOMS shoes are a big deal.

Almost immediately after the company hit the scene, that little blue and white rectangular label became recognizable.  Just about everywhere you go, you're likely to see at least one person wearing them and, more importantly, almost everyone sporting a pair of TOMS shoes can retell the brand's mission: one for one.

I bought my first pair of TOMS in 2008, and quickly purchased multiple pairs. Sure, they’re cute and easy to slip on, whether I’m running out for errands or heading to the office. But, I was drawn to the amazing mission of this for-profit company – for every purchase, someone in need receives one pair of shoes. I’d much rather spend my extra dough on a pair of shoes that impacts someone else in the world than on just any pair of shoes.

The other night, I picked up “Start Something that Matters”, a book written by TOMS’ founder, Blake Mycoskie. In the first few pages, Mycoskie detailed how TOMS got its start. While in Argentina, he’d come up with the idea and when brainstorming the name for his new venture, he sketched out his idea Shoes for Tomorrow. And the name TOMS was born. It struck me how simple and memorable the name is, how easily he named it, and how, despite both of these things, there’s such a powerful brand story behind it.

Unfortunately, for many, naming a business doesn't come so easily.

I see so many new businesses struggling to come up with the perfect name for their venture, but it doesn’t have to be difficult.

If you’re trying to brainstorm a name for your latest business – or even if you are renaming your company – here are some tips and tricks to help you along the way:

1. Keep it simple. 
You know those company names that have four words (or more!) and try to explain their entire business in the company name? Yeah, I can’t think of any either. Your target audience will remember a business name if it’s short and sweet, so don’t try to explain everything in your name. That will come from your branding.

2. Your friends and family are not your target audience.
Don’t ask them what they think of your company name (or logo design, for that matter). If you do, you’ll get a handful of opposing views and you won't get anywhere. Instead, keep your target audience in mind when selecting your name. But, one word of caution: don’t read too much into target audience. If you do it right, they’ll fall in love with your brand, not your company name. And that's a good thing!

3. Make sure it sounds ok when saying it out loud.
Trying to do a mashup? Sure it might look ok on paper, but say it out loud before calling it your final name. Chances are it might be hard to pronounce or it may sound like something completely different than what you had intended.

4. Tie it into your brand story.
When meeting a new client, often times they’ll ask you how your company was named, especially if you’ve got an interesting name. If you’re looking for something out-of-the-box, make sure that it’s meaningful. For example, it could have something to do with the founder’s background, your company’s mission, or is involved with your brand story in other ways. Trust me, it’ll help make your company memorable. (See What Is Sisarina)

5. Do your research.  
There’s a lot of legal stuff surrounding your business name. Often times, even if another company has a name similar to what you’re hoping for, you can still use it as long as it’s in a completely different industry. But, please, don’t take our word: team with an IP attorney to make sure you dot your i’s and cross your t’s when naming your business.

Have you recently named your company? How did you come up with your company’s name?

If you’re ready to name your company but are unsure of your brand, don’t get discouraged. Work through our What Is Your Brand document before starting the brainstorming process. Trust us: it will help!