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10 Tips for Developing a Creative Company Name

When it comes to developing or finding a company name, few people want to sit down and start reading a dictionary. In fact, the beginning of creating a great brand is to start with research and strategy, and to define what really makes you stand out from your competitors.

But once that’s done and you know what you’d like, how do you actually go about coming up with a name? Here are 10 useful tips (and tons of great resource links) that will help you along your journey.

1. Decide the key name meanings. Write out the key meanings that should come through in the name, e.g. “speed,” “innovation,” and “mobility”, and put them in columns.

2. Look for alternate words. A thesaurus or foreign language dictionary (a latin dictionary is great for this) are easy ways to find other words that mean the same things, but are perhaps more precise and colourful than your generic words. Sort these into your column lists according to meaning.

3. Split and Slice. Separate some of the words into syllables and try combining them with each other in different ways. Note how Tenato’s name was a combination of tenacity and tenuto!

4. Prefixes and Suffixes. Drop or add prefixes and suffixes to give the name have a better flow. Grab an online list of prefixes and suffixes for this — very helpful.

5. Look up baby names. Funny enough, the names that are too weird to name a human often sound great for a company!  Xenex or Zagar? Maybe that’s a high-tech company. We like a resource that can look up the meanings of the names. Band name resources online are also interesting to look at.

6. Try an Acronym. Take the first letter of several words that describe your name, and put them into an online Scrabble Finder. The checker will take the letters and make words from them – very slick. We like how it also includes wild card (blanks) that might give you ideas. Remember, an acronym doesn’t need to be perfectly spelled, so something that sounds like the word you want is close enough.

7. Actually play Scrabble! Funny enough, Scrabble is a great tool for coining new words – you just keep shifting the letters around, and you’ll see things that look like they “should be” words….that almost seem to have a meaning. We like the smartphone app you can get on iTunes for iPhone, but there are also ones for other devices.

8. Consider the Spelling. Edit your name ideas to create the most obvious spelling, or if you prefer, allow yourself to use an unusual spelling, such as an “8” for “ate” or 4 for “for” in a word. 3’s can also be E’s, which look really high-tech.

9. Domain Availability. Once you have the core of the name, check it for domain availability. In Canada, that means CIRA for a .ca, but you will also want to check Network Solutions for global domain names- and here you can enter more than one option at a time. A final note on domain names: If you’ve used a funky spelling, you may want to reserve alternate spellings of your domain, and point them toward your main domain. You will simply need to purchase domain name forwarding. For specific tips on domain names, check guidelines on domain naming.

10. Consider the Descriptive Words Carefully. In addition to your name, you’ll probably have a descriptive word or two. Ours is “Strategy.” Try to make those extra words within your domain relevant good keywords to help your ranking. You can look at good keyword options by entering your ideas into the Google Adwords Tool.

11. Get Opinions. Tip 11? Okay, we like to over-deliver. Ask your friends what your new name makes them think of. If it has nothing to do with what you’re about, consider if you like or dislike the alternate meaning that will be associated with you. Also experiment with the words you tag onto the name, and try to get a nice flow and meaning as a phrase.

And a word of wisdom: it’s always wise to register your name, domain, and any logo or tagline as trademarks. Consider contacting a reputable law firm in your area to have these services properly contracted.

Finally, we also often are asked this question: should you use personal names in the business? Generally not, unless you are marketing yourself as an expert personally, or as a speaker (or if you are a band or artist). Even then, it makes it more difficult to separate the business from the person when you’d like to sell it off someday.

Do you have any questions, ideas or tips you’d like to add? Feel free to drop us a line or leave your comment here. And if this feels like too much work, and you’d like the help of an expert, contact Tenato today.

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About the Author - Jacqueline Drew
Jacqueline M. Drew, BComm, MBA is founder and CEO of Tenato Strategy Inc., a marketing research and strategy firm with bases in Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto. With over 25 years' experience in all facets of marketing strategy, she is a business consultant, trainer and speaker who loves to use her superpowers "to help the good guys win."