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Q: I'm struggling to come up with a strong name for my business. What are your tips?
-Imran Ali Rajput
A: Twenty-two years ago I was hiking in Thailand and we ran out of water. Desperate, we finally arrived at a road where we saw a Coca-Cola sign on the outside of a restaurant about 100 yards away. We instantly started running toward the sign. Coca-Cola is one of the most valuable brands in the world. When you see it -- even thousands miles away from your home country -- you automatically think about quenching your thirst.
That is the power of branding.
Coca-Cola had a position in my mind that represented a solution for thirst. At that time I would have paid anything for it.
Naming your business is one of the most critical decisions you will make in business. It is also a fundamental aspect of your brand strategy. Your name and logo design (including the tag line) is your most direct communication with the market you are trying to reach.
Here are seven tips for picking a name and making it one of your most valuable assets:
1. Be memorable. Find a name that’s catchy and one that people can easily remember as it can be invaluable for gaining mind share with customers.
Related: 5 Trends Entrepreneurs Should Consider When Naming a Startup
2. Get creative. It might be a good idea to have a name that indicates what you do. Microsoft is a great example of a genius selection. It implies software. But then again, Apple is now the world's most valuable company, so nonsensical or incongruous names might work too.
3. Spend time on the overall look and feel. Get your logo right. In the 1970s, Steve Jobs paid $100,000 to the top mind in logo creation. It paid off with one of the most valuable and clearest brand logos in the world. Of course, even Apple made mistakes early on. Check out the company's early logo blunder.
Related: The Logo Mishaps of Giant Brands
4. Take your time. Test many names on your friends and family. If you have a budget, spend it wisely and get the top branding firms involved in your naming and logo development.
5. Don’t forget the slogan. A lot of meaning can be added with your tag line. Think of all that is said by “Just do it,” and the value Nike has created with those three little words.
Related: Tips for Naming Your Business
6. Own it. Bone up on trademarks. See what's taken, and know that there's a reason why you can't own a generic name like “shoes.” Also, names like Kleenex and Popsicle are proprietary, and, unless you want to get a cease-and-desist letter one day, don't use them. In the end, you may want to reach out to an intellectual property attorney, as doing so could save you thousands of dollars in legal costs.
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Steve Mariotti is the founder of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship and he’s dedicated his life to helping low-income children learn how to launch and grow a business. In 1982, Mariotti left his corporate job to become a special education teacher in some of the poorest neighborhoods in New York City. Since the organization’s inception in 1987, NFTE has helped more than 450,000 inner-city youngsters in 21 states learn how to run a business through entrepreneurship training courses and educational programs.