10 Rookie Naming Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

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Before you trademark your name, make sure it isn’t cursed with anything that could be a stumbling block for potential customers. Here are some of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen rookies make and why you should avoid them.

1. You believe your domain name has to match your business name.

Tesla doesn’t own the domain name Tesla.com. Do you think someone wanting to buy a Tesla gives up if they go there and don’t find the website? Of course not! They type “Tesla cars” into a search engine and find it in no time flat. And they don’t even notice what the domain name is, which by the way is TeslaMotors.com. If Tesla doesn’t have to have an exact match domain name, neither do you. For more domain name strategies, secrets and silliness, go to my book website to download the free domain names chapter: http://awesomebook.eatmywords.com

 2. You name your company and product the same thing.

It’s confusing and shortsighted to name your product and company the same thing. And although you may only have one product now, think about the future. What if Apple had named their first computer The Apple? What would they name the dozens of other products that have launched since then? Your company name should be a wide enough umbrella to fit any product name under it. If you’re launching a product and company simultaneously, I suggest you name your product first. You can only expect consumers to remember one name, so make it the name of the thing they’re actually buying.

3. You name your business after yourself.

Your own name is meaningless to your future customers and evokes absolutely nothing about your business. If you’re like most of us, your name is either hard to spell, hard to pronounce or hard for people to remember.  The only time to use your name as your business name is when it lends itself to wordplay. The Wynn Hotel in Vegas is a great example of when it makes sense to use your own name. Although, there are some exceptions to this rule. If your name happens to all ready be well known, respected and trusted within a specific industry then you might try naming yourself after your own name to maintain your loyal customer base. Another time you might have to name your business after yourself is if you are among one of the specific industries where there is a state law that requires you to name the partners of firm within your business name. 

 

4. You name your business something that won’t scale to fit future products you introduce.

You don’t want to outgrow your business name. What if Amazon had been named Bookstore.com? They would be limited to selling books. One name that outgrew itself is Burlington Coat Factory. When they were naming their store, they didn’t think far enough into the future. When they expanded their product offering, they had to change their tagline to, “We’re more than just coats.” (They also always have to have a legal disclaimer in their ads that says, “Not affiliated with Burlington Industries.” Ouch.)

5. Your name is spelling challenged.

If your name is not spelled exactly as it sounds, you will always have to spell it for people when giving your domain name or email address. Worse, your customers will have to spell your name when telling people about it – this happens a lot with made up names that start with a C or K. Think about how often you have to spell your own first and last name. Why would you want to have to do this with your brand name, too?

6. Your name pronunciation is not güd.

Your name should be approachable and intuitive to pronounce in your brand’s country of origin. Don’t rely on punctuation marks or letters in different colors to aid in pronunciation. Your name will not appear in color in the press or in search engine results and people go batty trying to find accent marks and umlauts on their keyboard.

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7. You invent a clunky coined name.

If you invent a new “word” for your name, there is good news for you because distinctive names are easier to trademark. Be careful that it doesn’t sound unnatural though. Mashing two words together or mixing up a bunch of letters to form a new word rarely appears or sounds smooth. And be cautious using trendy suffixes to make up a new word. Sprayology, Teaosophy, and Perfumania are all train wrecks.

8. You try to be mysterious.

A sure-fire way to annoy people is to choose a name that’s completely random and seemingly meaningless. One I wonder about a lot is Vungle. I have no idea what this company does. I don’t want to know. It sounds like an STD. Likewise, can you guess what companies Qdoba, Magoosh, Iggli, Kiip, Zippil, or Zumper do?

9. You get 2 cute with numbers.

While it may work for texting and clever license plates, embedding numbers in a brand name looks cutesy and unprofessional. When you use numbers in your name you will 4ever have 2 spell it out. For example, you would have to spellcoast2coast.com out loud, “COAST NUMERAL TWO COAST.” Your goal is to have a name that you can say proudly – e.g., “Coast to Coast dot com, just like it sounds.” (If you can’t get the domain name CoastToCoast.com, add a modifier word, such as Go CoastToCoast.com or FlyCoastToCoast.com.)

10. You think backwards names are the right way to go.

Most names spelled backwards are unpronounceable. One of the worst I’ve seen is Xobni. Tennis superstar Serena Williams’ clothing line is named, “Aneres.” How do you say that? A backwards name that does work well is Harpo, the name of Oprah’s production company. It’s a real word with memorable imagery (Harpo Marx) and makes us smile in either direction it’s written.

 

Want more tips? Buy Alexandra’s new book, “Hello, My Name is Awesome: How to Create Brand Names That Stick” or hire Eat My Words to do the work for you. Learn more at eatmywords.com.

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