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The art of business-naming: 4 factors to weigh for greatest PR, marketing impact

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When it comes to your business--or that of a client who is in the midst of launching or re-branding its business--what's in a name?

Although it's impossible to quantify with any degree of precision, there is plenty at stake when you get down to choosing what to call your enterprise. Here are four factors to consider that have long-term marketing and public relations consequences:

First-Impression Impact

Upon coming across your name, whether it appears on a business card, on a marquee or in a news story, what do you want people to think, to feel, and, ultimately, to do? This is a powerful moment that can become a great long-term ally or an albatross that bogs you down. So choose thoughtfully.

Striking the right tone is important: do you want people to chuckle when they see your business name? To view you as a straight-laced, conservative type? To regard you as an expert in your field? Maybe you want to elicit one or more of those responses, or it could be that you want to evoke something else altogether.

There's no one right answer, obviously, but be deliberate in developing a name that is in synch with the tone you want to set and the impression you want to make in the marketplace.

A lesson first learned from World Wide Group leader Bill Hawkins, a high school English teacher-turned-business mentor as an Amway Diamond: long after you have met someone, possibly the only tangible remnant they will have of the interaction is a business card. You want it to be professional, not a contender for the lead-off spot in amateur hour.

Ability to Say Much with Little

The adage "less is more" certainly applies in the realm of naming your business. For practical purposes, you want to employ only so many words, numbers or symbols.

This can be taken literally: some of the biggest brands in the world have as few as two (and often less than six) characters in their name, particularly when abbreviated: GM, UPS, Coke, FedEx, Nike.

But more broadly defined, strive for an economy of words that succinctly and clearly announce what you are all about. In the infant stages of my public relations practice, nearly a decade ago, I wracked my brain for nearly a month before settling on "MB Communications."

Succinct, yes, but was it clearly articulating my emphasis on public relations and related communications services? Not necessarily, as "communications" can be construed as "telecommunications" or even something entrenched in the technology realm.

My vastly improved business name, Inside Edge: Public Relations & Media Services, emerged in mid-2006 only when re-writing my biography for the umpteenth time and zeroing in on an anchor early in the narrative--that I provide clients with the "inside edge" that helps them connect with media decision-makers.

Make it Memorable

Is it easy to remember? Something that a second grader could spell?

As alluded to above, having a sense of humor can be an effective device, as long as it's in good taste. One of my favorites in the suburban Chicago area is Technical Shmechnical, online at www.techshmech.com and based in Oak Park.

The computer consulting company's founder and principal, Tracy Houck, injects humor in crafting a name from the perspective of her target audience: people who see the technical side of computers as an utterly foreign language. By doing so, Houck has augmented her well-established expertise by baking into her business name attractive customer-attraction ingredients like self-deprecation and market awareness.

Another memorable local business with a great hook for a name is Acupuncture POINTS...Your Way to Health, a practice that has been a mainstay in Downtown Oak Park since 2007.

In creating the name for his practice, online at www.oakparkacupuncture.com, Yosef Pollack applied some creative play on words: acupuncture involves needle points and acupuncture points (or directs) people on the path to a better health state.

In short, he makes two, ahem, points at the same time.

Internet Presence

As you brainstorm what to name your business, type key words into search engines like Google and see what pops up. Is there a glut of competition already out there for the name you are considering, or do you foresee having the ability to carve out a good chunk of cyber-turf for your brand?

Because so much of your marketing will be waged on this platform, it's essential to anticipate the pros and cons of whatever name you are contemplating.

If the name that meets the Internet test also makes a solid first impression in other contexts, conveys a whole lot in a relatively short order, and has a memorable quality, then you just may have the winning combination that will help propel your public relations and marketing endeavors to greater heights.

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