What’s so special about naming?
Shakespeare famously wrote, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” in his iconic play, Romeo and Juliet. But does that quote stand up under scrutiny?
In this post, we’re examining the question, “What’s in a name?” We’re discussing business, brand, and product naming by asking questions like, “How do I come up with a business name?” and “What product name will resonate in my market?”
By the time you’ve finished this post, you’ll walk away with two things: A solid understanding of how to create your business name and tips to effectively name your brand or next product release.
Does your business name really matter?
There are two arguments to answer that question:
Which do you think has more merit? We’re in support of position #2. We’ll explore why that is, but first, let’s talk about the power of names.
Names hold deep personal, cultural, and sometimes historical connections. They are a distilled representation of a thing. For example, when you see someone you know, instead of yelling out their characteristics such as, “Short lady with long brown hair and average build!” all you have to do is call out their name, and if heard, their attention is yours.
That’s a pretty powerful thing, is it not? To give someone your name is to provide them with the power to call you to attention at any point in time.
Inversely, a good name will also capture the attention and mind space of the person saying or thinking it. When someone sees or thinks of your name, you command their attention.
What’s important to note about that last point is that people across all cultures and languages have preconceptions about certain names. Or rather, the sounds that comprise names. That means that they’ll have made up certain ideas about you by the sound of your name alone, even if they haven’t met you or had exposure to your brand yet.
Have you heard of the Bouba-Kiki effect? It’s also been called the Maluma-Takete effect.
Think of two shapes, one round and the other made up of sharp angles. If you had to name one of them “Bouba” or “Maluma” and the other “Kiki” or “Takete” — which would be which?
Did you name the round shape Bouba and the sharp-angled shape Kiki? If so, you’re in good company.
Across a variety of cultures, people think of Bouba as the softer of the two names and Kiki as the spikier one. This assessment could be due to the mouthfeel of the names, with Bouba rolling off the lips while Kiki remains a staccato sound originating further back in the mouth.
Additionally, people can ascribe sharper qualities to Kiki-type names and softer qualities to Bouba-type names. Psycholinguist Penny Pexman of the University of Calgary says, “There’s something about how humans are fundamentally associative,” she continues, “We want to see patterns in things, we want to find connections between things, and we’ll find them even between sounds, and the things those sounds stand for in the world.”
Names affect brands, but how?
A good name lends trust and credibility to your business and product. A good name is one of your company’s most valuable assets, and if you don’t believe us, you need only look to one of the largest businesses of our time, Starbucks, to find out why.
Starbucks co-founder, Gordon Bowker, tells us how Starbucks got its name in an interview with The Seattle Times. He says, “We were thinking of all kinds of names and came desperately close to calling it Cargo House, which would have been a terrible, terrible mistake. Terry Heckler [with whom Bowker owned an advertising agency] mentioned in an offhand way that he thought words that begin with ‘st’ were powerful words. I thought about that and I said, yeah, that’s right, so I did a list of ‘st’ words.
Somebody somehow came up with an old mining map of the Cascades and Mount Rainier, and there was an old mining town called Starbo. As soon as I saw Starbo, I, of course, jumped to Melville’s first mate [named Starbuck] in Moby-Dick.”
There you have it — Starbucks was named, in large part, due to the perceived strength of the “st” sound that begins its name.
As you decide on a name for your business, brand, or product, keep these two factors at the front of your decision-making.
Let’s use the examples of Joan and Steven. Joan is a family therapist who’s venturing out on her own and starting her own business. Steven has worked in construction for years and is about to build his own steel manufacturing plant. They both need names for their new businesses to draw in clientele.
Joan wants a name that conveys trust and warmth while Steven wants to name his business something that conveys strength and energy.
Knowing that people associate softer, rolling sounds with the qualities her counseling services represent, Joan opts for a Bouba-type name, “Willow Counseling.” Steven, on the other hand, chooses a Kiki-type name, “Strategic Steel,” as it represents the qualities of his business. Not just that, but anyone hearing their business names will associate those qualities with them whether they’ve done business together yet or not.
As you decide on your business name, think about the qualities you want it to represent and allow that to influence your decision.
At Register.com, we’re dedicated to the business of names and naming. We’re often asked, “What makes for a good domain name?” For starters, it should match your brand name.
When it comes to a good name, here’s the basic advice you’ll find just about anywhere:
Now, while helpful and true, that advice is more suited to evaluating a name you’ve already come up with, not for creating a new name.
So, how do you create a great name from scratch?
There are a variety of types of business and brand names. These tips also work for product naming. As you come up with yours, think about the following types:
Not sure which type of business name you ought to use? Here’s something else to consider: How will you market your business?
You see, business names (and domain names) can be broken down into two categories: Brandable or Discoverable.
A discoverable name is a name made up of real dictionary words, like “Family Financial Advisors.” A brandable name isn’t composed of dictionary words; instead, it’s made up, like “Optimizely.”
The former name can count on type-in traffic for website visits. That means that people typing those keywords into their browser will likely find that business as a top result. However, it’s going to cost more for their domain name as it’s likely already been registered and is a premium domain. The latter is made up, so there’s a better chance the domain is unregistered and available. However, you’ll need to create a strong content marketing strategy to support your name so it appears higher in search results.
Before settling on a final business or brand name, make sure it’s available as a domain name and across social media platforms, too.