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The reality is that names do affect perception. The instant we hear a new word, our brains immediately go to work trying to make sense of it – What does it remind us of? How does it feel?

What’s in a name?

A lot, as it turns out, especially when it comes to naming your business.

Choosing your company’s name is one of the most important decisions you’ll make when you start a new business, as it sets the tone for all your future branding initiatives. For better or worse, your business name helps create a first impression with potential customers and investors, so it’s not a decision that should be taken lightly. The right name will empower your business for years to come, so give yourself enough time to make a smart choice.

In this article, we’ll review the 10 crucial mistakes to avoid when choosing product brand names.

[READ MORE: 12 lessons on business strategy from the game of Chess]


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Copying a well-known name

No one likes a copycat, so why go down that road? It’s all too common for people to copy coined business names. It may seem smart to borrow some brand power from established names. The problem is it makes you seem lazy and unoriginal. Not to mention, you could wander into a legal gray area.

The whole point of branding is to get people talking about the great things that set your business apart. Names have strong associations.

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Choosing a long name

Shorter is better when it comes to choosing a business name. Longer names are difficult to remember and tiring to look at. Aim to keep your business name short for two reasons:

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  • Everyone gets distracted easily these days. Don’t make people work hard to recall what your business does.
  • Chances are, you meet potential customers everywhere. You want the most forgetful person to recall your name even without a business card or brochure.

If you’re determined to go with a longer name, try coming up with a shortened version as well. Think CBS, NBC, or P&G.

Ignoring trademark laws

New companies are popping up everywhere; so, choosing a good business name is getting tougher every day. Checking for existing trademarks can help you avoid legal battles down the road. Keep in mind, there are federal and common law trademarks. A competitor with a similar name doesn’t have to own a registered trademark.


A quick Google search is an absolute must and you may want to supplement it with a professional trademark search.

Choosing complicated spelling

The last thing you want to do is confuse people with a name they can’t say or write easily. If you’re using common words, customers will choose the most obvious spelling. Now imagine what will happen if they try finding you in a search engine and 20 other businesses come up first. You will lose valuable business, and the customer still won’t know how to find you.

If you can’t say it, you won’t be able to remember it. When you make up names that aren’t real words you need to make sure that they are easy to pronounce. Don’t try to be clever at the expense of being understood.

Brainstorming in isolation

Starting a business is about sharing your products with the world. That’s why you should consult people you trust when you have a strong list of names. You see and hear things one way; other people catch things you don’t. Even big companies run into trouble when their creative teams overlook alternate meanings or hidden words. With this in mind, make sure you:

  • Say names aloud at various speeds. When mashed together, words can unintentionally send the wrong message.
  • Write names down without spaces. When you pick a domain, you don’t want the joined words to contain alternate meanings.
  • Check for words in other languages. If you work with international customers, make sure your business name isn’t offensive in another language.

Don’t choose a name that is too generic

It’s hard enough to stand out, so don’t choose a name that is too generic. Generic names include acronyms; stay away from them. You want a name that will provoke curiosity and the desire to learn more about the company behind the name. Being too generic will cause people to overlook you if you sound like every other company out there. A generic name will also make it difficult to buy the domain name and to register the name for social media accounts.

You haven’t researched competitor names

Many businesses don’t realize the power of brand recognition and will have almost the exact name as another business, especially in the same industry. The name should be creative and strategic, set you apart from the pack, and summarize what the company does.

You’re following a short term trend

Do your best to select a name that will stay relevant for years. Many phrases are catchy, so they get overused and annoying within a few years. Businesses can influence trends, but they don’t have complete control over them. Trends frequently develop associations with certain groups or stereotypes, but those stereotypes don’t always overlap with your intended target audience.

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You haven’t tested your name with your target audience

Naming a company may be one of the most important strategic decisions a company will make. Once you have the name (or names) you are considering, take the extra step and test it with the target to make sure it delivers the image you want and it resonates correctly. And make sure that the target can easily pronounce the name; this will eliminate market confusion

Even if you don’t make these 10 common mistakes, you should still consider getting a legal opinion on the name you have chosen.


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