Small business: Choosing your company name

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Choose a company name will last the test of time and that triggers positive emotional responses, says Nicole Crump, founder of Tactix Marketing Plans. Photo / Supplied
Choose a company name will last the test of time and that triggers positive emotional responses, says Nicole Crump, founder of Tactix Marketing Plans. Photo / Supplied

Nicole Crump, founder of Tactix Marketing Plans, talks to Gill South about how to choose a company name.

What should your company name communicate?

One of the basic rules of naming a company is that it should communicate a word, idea or emotion associated with the company, its products, or its services.

Brainstorm key words and associations and work off them. Don't be selective, even the most obscure ideas may lead to something. Google each word, run it through a thesaurus or dictionary, consider images the words bring to mind.

Be concise - have you ever heard of the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company? No? How about 3M?

Choose a name that is easy to say and spell, is memorable, distinguishes your company from others, that will last the test of time and that triggers positive emotional responses.

The simplest barometer is research - ask friends, family, colleagues or conduct market research to gauge feelings, thoughts and associations.

Or simply break all the rules! Häagen-Dazs chose a name that was hard to spell, hard to pronounce and had nothing to do with its product. In fact, the name doesn't actually mean anything in any language, it was simply made up to bring a Scandinavian sounding prestige to the brand.

What are the practical steps companies should take in choosing a name?

Trademarks and domain names are two major considerations here. Make sure you check each to make sure yours is not already taken. Try not to take a 'near enough' approach to your domain name, as this may lead to lost sales with people unable to easily find your website. Just try typing www.2degrees.co.nz into your browser to top up your credit and you will quickly see what I mean.

Consider what limitations using a geographical name or the name of the owner in the company title might have on future growth. On a similar note, if you are looking to take the business off shore, consider how the name translates in other languages.

What happens if you change your company name?

In one word, re-education. When the company name changes, with it must come a campaign that reacquaints the customer with the brand through a mix of advertising, public relations, direct marketing and other marketing initiatives.

Make sure you communicate the name change with your existing customers, not just potential customers to ensure they understand and feel positive about the change. This way the risk of alienating the customer is lessened.

Will the product or service remain the same? Will the price change? Where will it be found?

Have there been any changes to the company's values? Is the target audience the same?

These are all questions to ask yourself before you communicate to your customers.

Should the company name and product name be linked somehow?

There are many variables here which should be taken into consideration as, by placing brand name directly alongside product, it can be a case of risk and reward.

If your brand has already developed a strong reputation of quality or prestige, you may want to use this to leverage the product. You may not identify with the words Galaxy S3, but the word Samsung carries with it such a strong brand that the link to the product is hugely valuable.

This can obviously work both ways, with a weak brand potentially detracting from what otherwise might be a strong product.

Microsoft is a great example of a company well aware of how brand can affect product. With a reputation as a corporate and not particularly cool or youthful brand, Microsoft was careful not to play up its association with one of its most popular youth-skewed products - the XBox. Take a look at the packaging and console and you will notice almost zero mention of the Microsoft name or logo. This shows how a company, that has done the research, can be successful with a product outside of its traditional strengths by disassociating with the brand.

Buying another complementary company in your industry, or merging with another, can turbo charge your firm's growth if done the right way. But the process has to be done with exquisite care and attention to detail just like any marriage. Tell us your stories of getting together with another, and how that worked out for you.

Email me, Gill South, at the link below:

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