How to Name Your Business : The Right Way

How to Name Your Business

As a startup knowing how to name your business is critically important to it’s future success and it’s something that’s often overlooked or treated with indifference.  Before you learn how to name your business you should learn why it’s so important.

The Cost of a Bad Business Name

Once you’ve named your business there’s no going back and getting it wrong is a very common mistake because most startups are focused on “their big idea” and “the money” and most startups have absolutely no clue about branding, marketing and advertising.

When you first launch your business you should use News and PR strategies, but eventually you’ll need to start advertising to grow and defend your position in the marketplace and that’s when a poorly named business will hurt you the most.

The formula is simple, the worse your name is the more you’ll have to spend on advertising.  Think of the cost of advertising as the tax you pay for a poor name, bad name = more tax, good name = less tax.

Why?  Because a good name isn’t just memorable it’s unforgettable and that’s incredibly important for the first stages of promoting your business via News, PR and word of mouth.  The goal isn’t to have a memorable name, the goal is to have an unforgettable name.

How to Name Your Business : The Unforgettable Way

In 1974 Alan Baddeley and Graham Hitch came up with a working memory model comprised of three parts and later expanded it to four.  The three main components are:

  • The Central Executive – Control and regulation of cognitive processes.
  • The Phonological Loop – Short-term sound store for memory revival.
  • The Visuo-spatial Working Memory – Visual working memory store.

The component of human memory we’re going to hack and exploit to make your business name unforgettable is “the phonological loop” and I can tell you with absolute certainty that if you follow my instructions below you’ll end up with an unforgettable name.

Auditory verbal information enters the phonological store automatically and visual language can be converted into phonological code.   The phonological store acts as an “inner ear”, remembering speech sounds in their temporal order, while the articulatory process acts as an “inner voice” and “repeats” the series of words (or other speech elements) on a loop to prevent them decaying.

The phonological loop gets very excited by short repetitive sounds because the phonological loop itself uses a process of repetition to do it’s thing, so by stacking short repetitive sounds you’re much more likely to get the loop to pass your business name to long-term memory and keep it there.

To exploit the phonological loop as much as possible your business name must ideally have one or more of the following characteristics:

  1. Be short and repetitive sounding
  2. Be alliterative
  3. Be rhyming
  4. Be poetic

Business names that have the above characteristics excite the phonological loop and are the most unforgettable type of name, here are some examples.

Coca-Cola = Short, repetitive, alliterative, rhyming, poetic

Coca-Cola is probably the most perfect, powerful and unforgettable name of a product that has ever been conceived, this is not a name you can forget..

Walt Disney exploited the phonological loop with its cartoon characters:

Mickey Mouse
Donald Duck
Jaq Jaq
Gus Gus
Daffy Duck
Road Runner

Many cartoon characters have alliterative names and exploit the phonological loop of young children.  When children hear these alliterative, repetitive names they never forget them.

And of course many businesses have followed the same naming principles, creating powerful names that their customers find unforgettable.

It’s important to note that what matters most is “the sound” of the name and not how the name looks in written form, this is where a lot of people go wrong by focusing on how pretty their logo design is and how it looks visually as part of a domain name.

Don’t make this silly mistake, completely forget how your business name looks in written form and totally focus on how your business name “sounds”, it’s the sound that makes it unforgettable and that’s why the phonological loop hack works.

Here’s proof, read these brand and product names out loud:

American Apparel
Bed, Bath & Beyond
Best Buy
Burt’s Bees
Chuckee Cheese
Dunkin Donuts
Krispy Kreme
Lulu Lemon
Ted Talks
Tonka Toys
Weight Watchers

These names are the best of the best, let’s recap:

Your business name must have one or more of the following characteristics:

  1. Be short and repetitive sounding
  2. Be alliterative
  3. Be rhyming
  4. Be poetic

Remember, it’s how your business name sounds that matters most, not how it looks and if there’s one naming characteristic to rule them all it’s alliterative sounding names.

One More Thing About Names : Positioning

The greatest of great names position a brand or product in the marketplace, and the narrower your focus the more powerful the name will be.

Here are some of the best sounding, best positioning unforgettable names:

Bed, Bath & Beyond
Chuckee Cheese
Cisco Systems (Notice first letters are different but sound the same, sound wins!)
Dunkin Donuts
Firefox Browser
Tonka Toys
Qualcomm (Again, alliterative sound not spelling!)
Weight Watchers

I also recommend picking up this
branding book by Al and Laura Ries:

The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding

I hope you found this article useful, I’ve spent a lot of time helping people name and brand their businesses and this is one area of business I get really excited about so if you need help outsmarting your competition through brand strength and positioning then get in touch!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here