How to avoid giving your company a lame name
Kristina Tsvetanova, cofounder of the Austria-based startup Blitab Technology, has a story to tell about how difficult it can be to name a company. Blitab’s product is a tablet-computer for blind and visually impaired people. It uses a display of small physical bubbles forming braille alphabet. The Blitab, which is currently in the prototyping phase and has won an impressive number of awards and has already borne a couple of names despite its short life.
“In the beginning, we did not worry about forming a company or finding a brand name for our product. We only started to think about a proper name when we needed one for marketing purposes in order to acquire financing through grants,” Tsvetanova remembers.
Good idea under a not-so-good name
The Blitab-team; Photo credit: Claudia GannonAt first, Tsvetanova and her partners operated under the working title Vision. Their aha-experience came when they tried to register an online domain. “Of course, every possible URL was already taken. It became clear that our chance to stand out was zero if we stuck with the name.”
As time was of the essence and they still did not want to waste a lot of resources on naming, they simply entered award contests as Green Vision – and they won several times. But despite award-success and enthusiastic reviews for their idea, feedback on the name was discouraging. “Green stands for environmental topics like recycling or renewable energy. Everyone kept asking: Why green?”
Only at that point the founders started paying proper attention to their naming-problem. If she were to start over, Tsvetanova says she would think about the naming very early in the process. “We quickly agreed that a good name has to be easy to remember, unique, and it was important to us that it was in some way connected to the product. Once we focusedon the naming, we soon came up with the name Blitab – and we are very happy with it.”
The experts’ take
Stefan Bauer and Brandon Walder are experts in the field of corporate identity and branding. Their company, Ferras, is a Vienna-based agency for corporate identity, brand and design. Among their customers are not only big players like Bosch or the Austrian Ministry of Defence, but also startups like the web-company Malooku.
“First step in the naming-process is to make a clear distinction between registering your company-name, your brand or trademark, and securing online domains, facebook-pages, etc. Registration in the Austrian commerce register does not protect your trademark, but only makes sure that no one else can use your company name,” explains Bauer, CEO of Ferras. The name has to include your type of company, and often also information about your area of business. “Entries in the commerce register are hardly ever very sexy,” jokes Walder, who is the expert on branding and strategy in the company.
You need to be the fire-breather who catches everyones attention within a split-second. Brandon Walder, Ferras
If you want to register a trademark, Ferras strongly advise to get legal counsel. If you do not want or cannot afford to do that, a good first step is to look up brand registers on the internet or, to begin with, start a simple google search. Tsvetanova and her partners luckily won a legal package with an award, so when they had finally agreed on Blitab, they had that covered. “The process of registering the company and the brand only took a couple of weeks, after a long search for the name.”
Changing the name has taken resources and effort, Tsvetanova admits. „When we talk about Blitab, we often add: former Green Vision. But all in all, we found the name we are happy with just in time, before we legally founded our company. Changing an already registered name would have been more difficult.“
Be the fire-breather
Brandon Walder of Ferras states: “It is a common mistake to look for online-availability first, and for a powerful name second. From our point of view, not a very good strategy. You can always circumvent a non-available URL – for example, using a .net-domain instead of .com, or using a short phrase instead of the name. The same goes for your facebook-page and other social media-sites.”
Stefan Bauer and Brandon Walder; Photo credit: Ferras
Walder’s top priority with a company or brand-name is that it has to stick out: „Picture the market as a circus ring. When you enter that arena as a company, do not be the sad clown. You need to be the fire-breather who catches everyones attention within a split-second. Do not to try to make it all clear in one word, or explain what you do, in your name or brand. It is much more important that the name sounds interesting and unique.”
Ferras warn their customers of showing fear to embarrass themselves or being unclear. “The biggest risk when choosing a name comes from the fear of taking risks. A good name has people guessing for a minute. As psychological studies have shown, this does not only create attention, but also enhances memorability. Take the taxi-service Uber, for example – it signifies superiority, but only after a little thinking.”
What’s in a lame name?
Asked for examples of good and bad names, Stefan Bauer and Brandon Walder say they like Tesla and Apple, but dislike Euro, which to them is “a classic example for a name too many people had to agree on. A name everybody can agree on is most certainly a bad one“, says Walder. “From our point of view, the alternative ecu would have made a much more interesting name.”
So, some creative consulting in the naming process can be money well spent. If you do not pay enough attention to the naming of your company or brand, you could easily come up with a bad name – as the Ferras people call it: a bame. And if it were also a boring one, this would be the worst case for any company or brand: A lame name!