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A rose by another name might smell like crap

ThirtyOne

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Shakespeare had it wrong, the name matters.

He was talking about romantic partners and not brand names, but even a girl in love is gonna hesitate to marry a guy whose last name is "Balls".

So while a company name might not be as important as the customer service, the solid product/service you provide, and the need you fill, a BAD NAME can hurt the customer experience, even if they otherwise love you.

Credentials: I've worked for hire as a Professional Namer. Yeah, it's a thing. I've worked with big brands like Google and Doritos to come up with new product names.

Here are some rules to follow in naming your brand or product:

-Make sure it spells like it sounds

TOO MANY companies violate this rule (I'm looking at you XanGo), and they waste precious time spelling it out for people.

CUSTOMER: So I just go to your website to order?
AGENT: Yeah. Xango.com
CUSTOMER: Okay, how do you spell that?
AGENT: It's like "mango" but with an "x".
CUSTOMER: "m-a-n-g-o-x"?
AGENT: No. Sorry, "x-a-n-g-o".
CUSTOMER: "x-a-n-g-o". Ahhh, I get it: "mango but with an 'x'".
AGENT: Bingo.
CUSTOMER: wait...so an "i" not and "a"?
AGENT: Damn it.


Multiply the above conversation by every phone call and in-person meeting you'll ever have and you'll wish you weren't so clever when you changed that "z" to an "x" years ago at the beginning.

-Keep it short and it'll last long

Short names travel well. This gives you flexibility to place it in various locations on social and physical media.

For example, it's kinda hard to fit I Can't Believe It's Not Butter on a small business card or email address (thirtyone@icantbelieveitsnotbutter.com), which means that people WILL abbreviate your brand name, which WILL weaken your brand name.

I'm betting that all internal communications at I Can't Believe (yikes) are shortened to ICBINB, rendering it a meaningless sequence of letters. Way to steal your own thunder.

-Make it unique and avoid descriptors

Google. Nike. Apple.

Pretty unique names in their industries, which makes them sticky and easy to remember. I mean, I've never heard of a tech company named Billion, or a shoe company named Zeus or Hercules. How about a computer company named Carrot?

Come out with a clothing company tomorrow named Chocolate Milk and you'd have an easy-to-remember name.

Of course, the value you provide will really make your name sticky. Hence, Google, Nike, and Apple will never be forgotten.

Descriptors kill any memorability, because our brains categorize descriptive words differently from pronouns or names. How many words do we have for "great"? "amazing", "good", "exceptional", "big", "grand", and on and on. How many words do we have for "carrot"? One.

The over-simple reason for this is that nouns are used objectively in language, and adjectives are subjective. You and I can talk about a carrot and we won't argue about whether or not it's a carrot, but we can argue for hours about whether or not that carrot is great, good, etc.

So, a name like Great Clips could easily be misremembered as Best Buzzes or Hot Haircuts or Clean Cuts. Of course, Great Clips is a big enough brand that they overcome that issue despite the potential weakness in the name.

-BONUS: Try to make sure your immediate reaction is visceral

Don't make people THINK about your name, because they won't. We have so many brands advertised to us EVERYDAY that our brains are great at tuning them out.

One way to do this is to borrow equity.

Many words have equity or meaning in the zeitgeist. For example, it's subtle, but Google gives connotations of a huge number or amount of something, making it feel big. And the company lives up to its name.

There's a manicure company in the Castro in San Francisco that wanted to snatch up the male market, but it's admittedly difficult to get most men to walk into a store that's says Nails or Beauty above the door.

Thus, Hand Job was born.

Conversely, you've got names like Analtech, a company that sells chromatography plates. They meant to combine the words "analytical" and "technology". If you go to their website, you can see that they have the name still but made it as small as possible. I wonder why.

That's all for now. There's more to naming, but thems the ones I can think of off the top.

And of course, come up with 100 names before you chose one, because by now you should be able to answer "What's in a name?"

It's a lot.
 

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Philip Marlowe

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Great stuff. Question:

How do you choose between a real (dictionary) name, and something you've concocted. For example, if I want to create a social media photo sharing app and I'm thinking of: "PhotoShare" vs. "Instagram". When people want a photo sharing app, how do they end-up at Instagram's site when Google should potentially point them to "PhotoShare" based-on their search?

Not sure if my questions is clear...
 

ThirtyOne

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For example, if I want to create a social media photo sharing app and I'm thinking of: "PhotoShare" vs. "Instagram". When people want a photo sharing app, how do they end-up at Instagram's site when Google should potentially point them to "PhotoShare" based-on their search?

Not sure if my questions is clear...

I've mentioned the value of a brand name elsewhere. The idea is that people will search for "photo sharing app" today, and you can hope your app shows up among a list of 100 other similar apps, OR if you have brand recognition (like Instagram), people skip searching for "photo sharing app" and just search for "Instagram".

That means the searchers would have to hear about your brand elsewhere and that's where powerful marketing comes in.

I'm not sure how Instagram got to the top, but I know they were one of the first apps whose sole purpose was "photos as a social medium". Being first helps because when people do search "photo sharing app" you are one of the few that have those specific tags associated with your app.

Otherwise it's targeted ad spending, influencer partnerships, so on and so forth.
How do you choose between a real (dictionary) name, and something you've concocted.

Making up a name is OKAY, as long as it follows the above rules, particularly the BONUS rule, IMO. Instagram is a made-up word, but it works because it kinda borrows equity from "instant" and "gram", making you think of an instant, personalized message. It's "feel good" (who doesn't wanna get personal messages?) and has much more personality than the sterile "PhotoShare" which kinda has no emotional equity.

If you can create a positive emotional response to your name, made up or otherwise, you've got something.
 
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ThirtyOne

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Analtech.. LOL

Right??

For fun here are a few more real companies with unfortunate names:
-Wong Doody (it's the owners' real last names). Fortunately, they removed the CEO's name, because it's Weiner. They are an ad agency out of Seattle.
-Hooker Furniture (again, owner's last name). They sell furniture not procured from prostitutes.
-Morning Wood Furniture. What's with these furniture companies??? I understand if you're trying to be edgy, but they aren't.
-Badcock Furniture. Okay, enough with the furniture stores. I mostly posted this one so you can see that my first claim about a girl hesitating to take a dude's name isn't exaggerated. This one is the owner's last name.
-Phartronics Engineering "So, you've been dating our daughter for a while now, ThirtyOne. Before it gets too serious, I want to know you can provide. Where do you work?"

"Uhhh...I'm uhh...McDonalds."

Oh, and for a bonus, ANOTHER RULE:

Think of how your name will work in URL form. For example, what do you think the following site offers as a service?

http:// www. therapistfinder. com/
 
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ApparentHorizon

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Think of how your name will work in URL form. For example, what do you think the following site offers as a service?

http:// www. therapistfinder. com/

I mean....if that has happened to someone, a therapist could be a good next step.

And it has been shared so many times as an example domain both in educational and memed settings...all of that SEO link juice....

By the looks of it, the owner of the domain is renting it out to a local biz.

On a related note...

How much does the story/meaning behind the name matter?
 

ThirtyOne

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And it has been shared so many times as an example domain both in educational and memed settings...all of that SEO link juice....

I thought it was at least lesser known than the unfortunate penisland .net , purveyor of pens... I hope.

How much does the story/meaning behind the name matter?

Stories have to be told to be worth anything. So, not usually much, in my opinion, unless you have a really powerful story and it permeates all your marketing.

Toms Shoes have no story behind the name Tom that I'm aware of, but we all know their story and it's a compelling one: buy a pair of shoes and we'll give a pair to someone in need.
 

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Instagram is a made-up word, but it works because it kinda borrows equity from "instant" and "gram", making you think of an instant, personalized message.

I never realised until your comment that Instagram was a play on the word telegram.

I couldn't even tell you for sure what a telegram is without googling it, much less have that come to mind when I see the name Instagram.
 

ThirtyOne

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I never realised until your comment that Instagram was a play on the word telegram.

I couldn't even tell you for sure what a telegram is without googling it, much less have that come to mind when I see the name Instagram.
I'd be surprised if you didn't at least know that a telegram was a form of messaging.

And then there's "program" (meaning public writing/message), "Christmas gram", "candy gram".

It's possible you got it viscerally or subconsciously.
 

Andy Black

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ThirtyOne

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A kinda related thread. Curious what you think of my thinking:

Solid post. All that stuff's pretty new to me, but it makes a TON of sense. I mean, the control of the SERP real estate alone is pretty worth it. I tell, you the more I learn about "new media", the more I think it's similar to "old media".

Page 1 of a google search is like having a billboard in Times Square.

I do have a follow up question on that thread, btw.

The domain name can make such a difference to the click-through-rate in an ad on Google.

I agree. Domain names can definitely help click-through. I also think that they can help the overall customer experience.

For example, I had an idea for a natural energy drink that's sweetened with xylitol which comes from birch trees. The product name would be Birch Slap. The url could be birchslapme. com . Branding would be edgy and fun, a la Snickers commercial campaign lately ("Hey Mike, you become Betty White when you're hungry). Lots of "you need a birch slap" bumper stickers, swag, etc.


I love your tips in that thread for people. However, a name with a visceral or emotional response for the customer helps give you an edge over the competition. I wasn't too keen on the name teveko, for that reason.

Based on his rules to be real estate rental/buying related, I would've suggested a url like housemagnet.com

Otherwise, I might go with something a little more flexible.
 

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Andy Black

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I love your tips in that thread for people. However, a name with a visceral or emotional response for the customer helps give you an edge over the competition. I wasn't too keen on the name teveko, for that reason.

Based on his rules to be real estate rental/buying related, I would've suggested a url like housemagnet.com

Otherwise, I might go with something a little more.
Agreed. A domain name with a nod to the vertical helps much better.

Teveko is a "startup" name... haha. It allows them to "pivot" into something completely different. Leanly.
 

ThirtyOne

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Agreed. A domain name with a nod to the vertical helps much better.

Teveko is a "startup" name... haha. It allows them to "pivot" into something completely different. Leanly.
gotcha. Get the ball rolling, don't let lack of name get in the way of providing value.
 

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