Rules for Naming Your Startup

A good company name can impact how easily people remember you. That instant identification and recognition with your company name comes easier as your company develops a branding presence both online and offline. But as a startup, you can help build the instant branding connection by coming up with a great name that people can say, remember, and spell.

At Webgrrls, we made a naming mistake. Back in 1995 when we were trying to come up with a name that reflected the fun personality behind the company, we came up with (web women was too boring and webgirls sounded too young). Coming up with a fun name was not the mistake…it was not buying the domain that forced us to come up with creative means of building our brand. When we mention Webgrrls to vendors and clients we always say it with personality and emphasize the GRRL part of it and sometimes even point out that GRR stands for empowerment.

So how can one come up with a name that is meaningful and fun and also helps build brand awareness? Evan Paull of GigaOM suggests a two-part rule:

Look at many of the most successful brands and you’ll notice they’re often compound names, consistently made up of two components:

  • a word that relates to the company product in a direct, literal sense, establishing a clear association between the brand and what the company does.
  • a word not literally related to the product, but rather a metaphorical adjective to evoke a differentiating characteristic or “feeling” about the company’s product.

Our minds are built to make connections, mostly at a subconscious level. When a metaphor is detected, it triggers a process in our brains that associates the metaphor with the next object or reference. This naming system forces the mind to take the cognitive step of associating the metaphor to the product it represents, thus forming a positive association to the brand. And once your brain has woven the connection, it sticks, so there’s a great chance your company name won’t be forgotten.

Having a good company name will help you tremendously in your grass roots marketing efforts. If people can’t remember the name of your company or remember how to spell it, it going to be hard for them to recommend you to their friends and for their friends to find you once they hear about you.

Evan also points out that “of course there are startups that get so far out in front of their competitive fields, or whose products are so exemplary, that names which ought to have been tricky are nevertheless well received”.

For more resources on finding a perfect name for your company, check out Guy Kawasaki’s guidelines about naming a company or product and an archive of how some successful company names originated.

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