What is the best way to name a company?

The best advice we’ve found is from:


A name is a peg that people use to hang all the attributes of your business. The LESS it has to do with your category, the better. If you call yourself International Postal Consultants, there’s a lot less room to hang other attributes. Some names I like? Starbucks. Nike. Apple.

Focus on what the words remind you of, not what they mean. The structure of the words, the way they sound, the memes they recall…  This is all very irrational, artsy fartsy stuff, and it’s also important. “HRKom” doesn’t sound like the same kind of company as, say, “Jeteye”. The entire point of “secondary meaning” is that the first meaning doesn’t matter at all (especially since you picked a name with no meaning to begin with). Over time, a surprisingly short time, your unique word, especially if it sounds right, will soon be the one and only word.

Don’t obsess about getting a short web name. I think many of these rules have changed, largely because of the way people use Google. Flickr is a good name. So is 37signals. The design firm Number 17, however, is not. Do a Yahoo search on radar and you won’t find the magazine or the website in the making.

Please pick a real english word, or a string of them. Axelon and Altus are bad. Jet Blue, Ambient and Amazon are good.

Find a name that came up with close to zero Google matches. Sort of a built-in SEO strategy. Do a Yahoo search on radar and you won’t find the magazine or the website in the making, and do a search on simple and you won’t end up at the very expensive simple.com domain. You will also have far fewer trademark hassles. The only English language matches I found for Squidoo were for a style of fishing lure.

Be sure it’s easy to spell AND pronounce. Prius is a bad name. I can’t tell anyone to buy a Prius because I’m embarrassed I’ll say it wrong.

Don’t use a placeholder name. People will fall in love with it. Find your name, use that name and that’s it.

Don’t listen to what your friends and neighbors and colleagues tell you about a name. All your friends will hate it. GOOD. They would have hated Starbucks too (you want to name your store after something from Moby Dick!??) If your friends like it, run.

Some actionable tips:

  • Using the fantastic NameBoy service (also a great name), I found thousands of available domains that managed to sound right and were unique. It took more than a month.
  • All the obvious and most of the silly dot com choices were taken a very long time ago. Time for wordoid. Scroll down on the left, put a short word in the ‘pattern’ box and off you go.
  • Use a stock photo CD and find cool pictures that match your name BEFORE you pick the name. If you can find a bunch of $30 images that work with a name, grab the pictures, then the name.

see more from Seth Godin


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What is the best way to name a company?

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