October 7, 2016 by Ed Kennedy
What’s in a Name: Finding a Name that Suits your New Startup
With the rise of the online economy it has never been so easy to start selling goods or services. Though in a bygone era a new business would usually need think about things like a brick and mortar location, operating hours, and launch capital, today it’s far simpler.
A signup on Shopify, getting a social media account running to build awareness of your brand, and you’re officially off and running. That’s what it appears on paper anyway. While the digital age has brought with it opportunity, it has also brought challenge. A online economy means other businesses are always in operation, the marketplace is global, and the ability to get traction at the start can be harder.
Here is why a brand name is so important to a new business.It is important to have a name that signifies what you are seeking to sell in the eCommerce sphere. In turn, to understand where you should go in future its worthwhile looking on ‘what could have been’. Let’s do that now with three globally renowned brands.
For a global eCommerce store Amazon is a fitting name. Taking its moniker from the largest river in the world located in Brazil is a fitting name for a business that seeks to transport and flow throughout the Earth. The similar connection to the Greek myth of Amazonian women that were leaders, warriors, and just all around world beating is also envisioned in the minds of many who setup an eCommerce store for the first time and seek a platform that’ll give them a market edge.
Yet, such a strong brand name (whatever people associate with it) was not always on the cards. For a time Amazon founder Jeff Bezos aspired to name his burgeoning business Cadabra. Building an enterprise with a play with the magic phrase ‘abra cadabra’ may have brought its own success as a theatrical callsign; but with a friend of Bezos mishearing the name for cadaver the CEO of today’s’ global brand felt it best to put the original name ‘to rest’.
Its known that the moniker Virgin is already something of a risky name in so far as branding. While today it sits among other cheeky brand names like FCUK in the marketplace as one that now trades off its cheekiness rather than being hindered by it, originally it all could have been very different from Branson & Co.
Starting out his empire with a order-by-mail music service, originally ‘Slipped Disc’ was put forward by the early team members as an option. Notwithstanding the potential for confusion with his local chiropractor, Slipped Disc promised to do what it should: indicate music slipped into the mail would be sent along to customers. The challenge to this would have come further along the way. Slipped Disc Hotel, Slipped Disc Mobile, and space travel via Slipped Disc Galactic would not have had the same appeal as the names they are known under today.
Whether one if a fan, critic, or indifferent towards Donald Trump’s US presidential campaign, its undoubted his business career makes for a compelling example of a strong brand, albeit with some caveats. Whether you are in New York, Chicago, or further afield: people know staying at a Trump hotel shall bring it with a celebration of glamour and luxury other chains may not offer.
From a brand point of view, Trump has also built an association with his name and brand well beyond his own real estate holdings. This has at once expanded his name recognition, while also complicating it. While a Trump hotel may indeed be owned by the Trump empire, there are many others that are not; simply having gained right to trade and use it under license.
So what does this mean for a startup?
There are lessons in all three businesses here for a new startup. While no business is perfect – and you’re especially likely at the outset to make some mistakes and missteps – by learning from these experiences you can hope to anticipate and see off future complications that could otherwise arise.
Pick a solid name to start
Picking a good, simple, and straightforward name is vital for a new business. This doesn’t mean it cannot be stylish, vibrant, or cool – but it shouldn’t be confusing, vague, or too long. Doing so can not only make it far harder to get your brand traction at the start, but also inhibit further growth as people unable to easily recall or pronounce your brand are unlikely to recommend it.
Strike a balance
While Virgin has since established itself as a global brand its likely cadaver would have hard a far harder time of it. In turn, while a brand or product that sells with a bit of edge or controversy can be a winning approach; something that is outright offensive or awful is unlikely to sell well today, or find your business in good standing tomorrow.
The old adage ‘don’t tell a joke you wouldn’t tell your grandma’ is not the best guiding star here – after all, some grandmothers can be pretty bold themselves – but trust the judgement of someone close to you that you know. Your grandmother may be easily offended by a lot of today’s media, but if you find your best friend goes pale when you say your brand name its not a good sign; so if your going with a controversial name still consider whether it can hit your target audience without horrifying them.
Consider whether you shall expand
Amazon could feasibly sell just about anything and still link it back to the idea of a sprawling river flowing throughout the world. Virgin was able to make a change before slipped disc became a real problem.
Trump has done well expanding his brand well beyond its original base, even if there have been some questionable expansion choices that are outside the real estate realm and contrast with its strength.It could be said Trump may have been/could still be well-served by performing a similar split that fellow New Yorkan Rupert Murdoch’s empire has done. This has been done already to a degree, but does not represent the strength of brand division Murdoch has done via 21st Century Fox and News Corp going their separate ways.
Know you CAN change
While it is important to get a good brand name right at the start – and doing so can save you a ton of trouble with re-registrations and money (like reprinting promotion materials) down the road – its also true you can change your brand name as you go on.
This is evidenced by even established and global brands like Google who’ve in recent times sought to trade as Alphabet, as well as Facebook emerging from its originally name The Facebook.
So, try to pick a name at the start that works for you, and is one that you can keep long term. If you’re spending so much time trying to come up with a name that it actually prevents you from making progress with actually starting and selling in your business? Then pick one and run.
A Unique Name for The Ages
Its great you’ve found a name you like for your new soda business, it’s highly problematic if that name is Coca-Cola. While you cannot anticipate every challenge that arises going forward – and you there are many businesses with similar names but who don’t clash as they trade in different fields – even if you can do so, a prominent name that is also shared by others can be a headache from a marketing point of view.
So, rather than need have a WWF war over Apples and Apple, seek to ensure you’ve a unique business name at the start. Do this as you pick a name that’s simple, a eye-catching if offensive, and fit-for-expansion (as needed), and you’ll be set to build strong with it for the long term.Ed Kennedy is a journalist and web designer proudly from Melbourne, Australia. Say hi to Ed via firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Edkennedy01