Catchy Business Names: The Tom-ay-to Tom-ah-toe Factor

catchy business namesUpdated by Cedric Jackson on February 25, 2014

A catchy business name is worth its weight in gold. Think Google. eBay. Target. Apple. All successful companies – and for a myriad of reasons (a driving genius, for starters) – but beyond the brains behind the operation and sales and marketing techniques, there is another ingredient to their successes: their names.

A famous Montague once said, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” While this might stand true when it comes to star-crossed lovers, the same cannot be said for business.

Your business’ name drives business, makes your brand identifiable, and helps to set your company apart from the competition – all with the power just a word or a few and, often, before you even have the chance to sell your product or service. That said, it is incredibly important to your success that your company stands out – but what exactly does that mean? In a word, “catchy.” More on this in this small business marketing course.

Make no mistake: catchy is not the same as kitschy (though this is certainly a tactic that has worked for some.) Catchy is that “secret ingredient,” if you will – it’s the magic that makes a potential customer form instantaneous interest in your organization, that makes you memorable, and that forms that first impression.

So it’s that easy – just give your company a catchy name. The end.

Okay, okay – so it isn’t quite that easy… in fact, giving your business a catchy name definitely falls into the “easier said than done” category. Get started on the path to success by following the five rules of creating a catchy business name.

More to come on that…

A Quick Sidebar to Acknowledge the Internet

business nameThere are lots of ways to accelerate your company into success – and creating a successful brand, including your online brand, is an important component of that success. Given that, these days, more people use their Yellow Pages book as a booster seat, door jam, or fire kindling than an actual business directory, your online presence is often your first impression – and it’s more important than ever.

Today’s always-on society is consuming information at a mile a minute – and that instantaneous gratification has us spoiled; if we can’t have it now, we often won’t have it at all. That leaves big shoes for your company’s name to fill.

“Back in the day,” consumers used to scroll the Yellow Pages to find services and stores – they’d literally see a company name, an address, and a phone number. That’s it. Today, consumers Google using the internet and receive a linkable business name or statement, meta description, and that’s it (beyond the sponsored listings which include the linkable business name, address, and phone number). There are two main criteria for earning that click:

  1. A catchy business name
  2. A high search engine ranking

We’ll get to how to design a catchy business name in a moment – but let’s take a quick minute to talk about item two: securing a high search engine ranking.

Those companies who show up at the top of your page one Google results don’t just luck out with a Google lottery – they earn that listing through lots of hard work. Things like blogging, publishing unique articles, smartly designed websites – the list goes on. But the activities all have one thing in common: they are all types of content generation.

When you generate content, you build interest in your brand to the public, but you also make your company more interesting to search engines. The more relevant your content, the better you’ll do. The more often you publish, the better you’ll do. There’s actually an entire field focused on securing good search engine ranking results – so one you have figured out that catchy business name for your organization, take the next step and learn how to build your brand with blogging, SEO, social media, and more.

But for now, let’s get back to catchy business names…

The Five Criteria of a “Catchy” Business Name

If I could give 100 ways to create a catchy business name, I would – but in truth, this is one of those times when simple is best… which takes me right into item number one on my list of the five criteria for creating a catchy business name.

1) KISS (Keep it Simple, Stupid Superstar)

KISSApple. Pepsi. Coca-Cola (aka, Coke). Target. Chanel. These are not just brands; they are international successes. But in boiling down their success, they have one up-front thing in common: simple names.

Think about it – what are you more likely to remember: “Ray’s” or “Ray’s Southern BBQ?” In a real world example, “Donna Karen” or “DKNY?”

People are much more likely to hang onto a name that is easy to remember – and what’s easier to remember than one word? Beyond the simplicity of single word business names, one-word names are automatically more memorable and can lead to an iconic business name.

The rule of KISS is particularly important as the discussion goes live online – your impact and presence on social media, forums, and blogs is PR gold – and no one wants to waste limited character counts or valuable real estate on a lengthy company name; they’ll either drop you or shorten it for you. So shorten it at the get-go – you’ll end up with a more catchy business name as a result.

2) Rah-Rah, Sis-Boom-Bah

business nameNo, we’re not talking about using cheerleaders to get your name out – we’re talking about using words and phrases that are fun to say – the ones that bounce off your tongue.

Two-syllable business names (or words, in general for that matter) carry with them a certain amount of rhythm which helps to further engrain the word into memory. Nike is fun to say, as is Reebok, Apple, and Kirkland’s. The words carry with them a bit of bounce – pep, if you will.

Great “peppy” letters include T, K, C, L, M, P, and B, for the record – your tongue kind of bounces off of them.

Double the fun by trying your hand at consonance – or two words that both start with the same letter. Think “Kip’s Kittens” or “Chloe’s Candles.”

3) Like the Gum on the Bottom of Your Shoe

You know that song on the radio that, every time you hear it, gets stuck in your head? You want your business name like that – it has to be “sticky.” Instinct is often your best lead on this one – when you brainstorm your company name, don’t decide on the first night. Instead, pay attention to whether there is one name that keeps coming back to your mind; the one that just feels “right. Run the name by your friends and family – then ask them later about it; if they can recall the name, you have a winner. If they can’t quite recall it, it doesn’t mean it’s off the table – but perhaps it needs some additional consideration.

three guys4) Three Guys Walk Into a Bar…

Great names often come from stories – it’s that simple. Take Nike, for example. This global fitness brand, known for its sporting equipment and athletic wear, takes its name from Nike, the Greek goddess of victory; who in sports wouldn’t want to be associated with victory? Or Lego, which stems from the Danish phrase, “leg godt,” meaning “play well.”

For you, it might not be Grecian history or foreign languages – but take a few moments to consider what it is that important to you and where the roots of your business lie; allowing your name to reference your story can help to make your business name catchy and add interest.

5) The Dictionary Adds New Words Every Year

googleMaking up your own language doesn’t have to make you weird; it can also make you insanely popular and memorable. Some of today’s most successful global companies are named using made-up words – Google, for one.

Google’s name is no longer just a business name, but a verb — phrases like “Let me Google it” are now commonplace – how cool would it be for that to happen for your business?

Think outside of the box to come up with new names. Try combining two words together or spelling something incorrectly or as a pun. If it’s fun to say, short, and makes sense to you, you might have a winner. And, as an added benefit, you probably do not have to worry about how the word will translate or its meaning in other languages.

While your competition is using boring descriptive names, your business can be known for taking risks and striving to be different.

These five tips are all great ways to create catchy business names – an important factor to setting your business up for success. That said, incorporating your offerings into your business name can also help to clarify your business upfront and differentiating you from other potentially similar-named businesses (we’ll call this rule 5.5).

Does your business name meet these five (.5) criteria?

If not, then go back to the drawing board.  While you are there, try acourse on how to brand yourself and your business to pick up some useful information and it might even help you with your idea generation.

As you consider inspiration, think about what it is about names that makes them memorable for you. Each of the below six companies have gone from ground-up to sky-high success in their respective industries – and they all have one thing in common: every single one has a catchy business name and found it in a unique way.

From googol to Google

The name Google is a play on the word “googol,” a large number defined as 10 to the 100th power; the term represents the massive amount of information on the Web that the company was planning on organizing. While the founders initially planned on naming their company Googol, the word was mistyped as Google when searching for unregistered domain names. When google.com came up as available, the founders changed their minds and googol was history (and Google is modern-day history in the making).

Häagen-Dazs from New York

The founders behind Häagen-Dazs may have been ahead of their time.  When faced with the dilemma of what to name their new New York-based business, they settled on a made up name that sounded foreign. The added bonus is that no one can replicate it.

The Virgin founders were Business Virgins

VirginWhen searching for a name for his new mail-order record business, entrepreneur Richard Branson took a coworker’s advice and called it “Virgin.”  Why use such a stark name in the record business? Because Branson and his coworkers were self-professed “virgins at business” and they wanted to embrace who they were.

If you are interested in learning how to be an entrepreneur in the music industry, check-out this course centered on band as a business and a musician as the entrepreneur.

Jump Ship to Samsonite

For the first 56 years of its life, Samsonite was called The Shwayder Trunk Manufacturing Company after its founder Jesse Shwayder.  Shwayder named one of his first products “Samson” after the biblical figure and trademarked the name “Samsonite” in 1941.  Eventually, the brand power of Samsonite outweighed the original and the company switched names. We have no idea why the “Shwayder Trunk Manufacturing Company” didn’t stick.

Kodak is obsessed with Ks

Kodak got its name because the founder, George Eastman, was obsessed with the letter “K.”  He believed the letter was punchy and effective and went to great lengths to name his company with a word that started and ended with the letter “K.”  He was “korrect.” Kodak is now more than 100 years old.

Out of the Box with Apple

Many people know about Apple but not the history of its name. Steve Jobs was a young rebel in his industry and had just returned from an apple farm. When faced with what to name his new company, he strayed from traditional “cold” and “technology heavy” names and instead went with something he considered “fun, spirited, and not intimidating.” And just like that, Apple was born.

Learn more about how to be an inventive entrepreneur with a class on realworld entrepreneur training – you’ll learn the ins and the outs of everything you need to do to get your business off the ground. After defining a catchy business name, of course.