The naming of a company is an essential part of branding and one that is often overlooked. The public is so overwhelmed with the thousands of pieces of branded communication coming at them at every moment that they often don’t even notice whom the messages are coming from. Think about it, do you even know the brand names of the products that you use every day? Sure, you know that your iPod is made by Apple and that Bic manufactured your pen but what about the silverware you eat with? Or the cups you drink from? You may know where you bought them, when you bought them and why you bought them but not the name of the company that actually made them.
There are many guidelines to follow when coming up with a brand name and they are highly disputed. However, there are some basic things to keep in mind when naming (or re-naming) a company. The first is that the name should be short and sweet. A lengthy brand name is difficult to remember and hard to fit into a logo or letterhead design. There are plenty of cases of a brand getting a shorter name because customers thought they were too long (Electronic Arts became EA and Chevrolet became Chevy and International Business Machines Corporation became IBM for some examples). The second is that it should be relevant to the industry that it is in. There are so many companies out there with names that seem to come out of nowhere and this makes them both jarring to customers and difficult to remember (again) because there is nothing in the product to remind you of the brand. Furthermore, it should be easy for people to pronounce (for companies that intend to go global this means a little research to make sure that your brand is not impossible for non-native speakers to say). The last is that it should be unique. If you are naming a company that is entering an already populated industry this can be difficult because your competitors have (most likely) taken up some of the more obvious monikers.
Today there was an interesting article featured on CNN.com about how some of the most popular new companies got their names. Here are some of them and you may notice how well they conform to the standards I listed above.
1. Twitter: chosen out of a hat. It seems as though blind luck won out in this case because it is a very good name. It is short and easy to say (two syllables) and it is relevant as the original meaning of twitter is “a series of short, high-pitched calls or sounds” (usually produced by birds thus the logo) and with the 140 character limit you better make sure that your tweet is short and punchy.
2. Foursquare: after its predecessor Dodgeball was bought by Google the founder wanted to come up with another “fun and playful” name. Again it is two syllables, unique and it accomplishes the playful feel that the founder was going for. Also, it is relevant because through Foursquare you can hop around from place to place and your ultimate goal is to become the highest ranked player and you are meant to interact with friends on it.
3. Spotify: literally a combination of spot and identify. This name expresses the main purpose of the service which is to find music that you like and build free playlists based off of it. This name is three syllables but it is still short enough to not be labor intensive to say.