Naming your businessThe name of your company is your main branding tool. The name should define who you are, what you do and will determine how you are remembered. Many of us didn’t give much thought to our business name when we first started up, but likely have wondered at some point: “Did I choose the right name? Should I change it? Can I change it?”

The all-knowing internet has the following advice:

You want to choose a name that will last and, if possible, will embody both your values and your company’s distinguishing characteristics. As a small business, you’re likely willing to be a little bolder in your choice of names. Here are some ways to turn that instinct into a handle worthy of your brand:

  •  Pick a name that lends itself to wordplay: Eat My Words, is a naming firm, who decided to toy with the food theme in its name. •    A strong name should be simple: Make it easy to spell and pronounce, and meaningful to your audience, not just to you. •    Avoid using puns: A pun in your company name is risky. If you land a good one it can make your name memorable, but you don’t want one that’s over used or too cutesy. •    Don’t be a copycat: Pinkberry, a popular frozen yogurt chain, has spurred countless imitators with “berry”-studded names, so when a new yogurt chain looked for a really distinctive name, they ended up calling the company Spoon Me

Your first step in choosing a business name will likely be to find out if an appropriate domain name is available. These days it is nearly essential to own a website, and a domain name is your first requirement.

The next step should be to register your name, specifically if you plan to incorporate your business. It would be a disaster, if you have decided on a great name, spend money on acquiring the domain name, but only to find out that you can’t use that name to register and incorporate your business.

Also remember, that over the life of your business, you will be writing and announcing your business name multiple times each and every day. Don’t pick something that is too long or too difficult to pronounce. What does your name look like as a wordmark, as an abbreviation as a graphic image?

When I chose to name my company Black Tulip, I was motivated by two reasons. One, I wanted to have a connection with my home country and Holland is known for tulips, cheese and wooden shoes. I decided that tulips were the more sophisticated choice.

And second, I wanted to provide people with a graphic image to remember, because they certainly wouldn’t remember how to write or pronounce my first name. Twenty-six years since I registered the name and incorporated the business, it has proven to be the right choice. People easily remember Black Tulip and often ask me why I chose to name it such.

Changing an existing name is a bit of a pain, but it is definitely possible. If incorporated, you need to do articles of amendment and get a NUANS report, which will show you if your chosen name is available. But of course a name change needs be accompanied by a re-branding campaign, which could be costly and likely should involve professionals such as a graphic designer, a website developer and a marketing professional.

So if you decide you need a new business name, take your time researching and take your time deciding on the right choice. Make lists, from crazy to conservative, run it by people whose opinions you trust, but avoid making a choice by committee. There are “naming firms” out there who for a solid fee will give you multiple options and help you make the right choice.

Names are important, but remember re-branding doesn’t always work. The most infamous example is Coca Cola’s attempt to rebrand their best-selling product in 1985. Their attempt to change the name to New Coke had to be reversed and cost them hundreds of millions.

Happy Naming!

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