“Is this your company? Wild Creations, eh? Your name sucks.”
This was how my first day at the show started. It was our first year attending the Toy Industry Association annual New York Toy Fair, the largest trade show of its kind in the western hemisphere. We were a new company trying to make name for ourselves in the toy industry, so needless to say, I was nervous with both optimistic excitement and novice insecurity.
When I noticed the much older gentleman in a very nice suit staring at our modest Wild Creations banner hanging above our more modest booth, he was squinting and clearly contemplating something. I approached him and introduced myself.
So much for pleasantries.
He turned out to be a patent and copyright attorney from Brooklyn, and he proudly embodied every stereotype that came with his title. He went on to criticize our name as too long and too difficult to remember. I could not have disagreed more, especially after I had applied my fine (albeit new) MBA training to develop a detailed branding strategy with my co-founder. We thought we had a great name, so his curt words stung at our young pride.
Over the years, I have never forgotten that conversation, and his advice has become even more profound in a business environment that has forced companies to adopt new and unchartered branding strategies that consider social-media and mobile-content consumption. These days, when I consult startups and other aspiring entrepreneurs, I integrate his advice into a number of tips I have developed through my experience.
While there are numerous great resources to help you develop an effective company or product name, here are three tips to consider before you even get started.
1. The 5-10 rule. My attorney friend explained that great companies throughout history had five to 10 letters in their name, had at least one hard consonant, and many had a repeating letter.
Interestingly, after this enlightenment, I noticed this convention everywhere -- Mattel, Hasbro, Google, Yahoo, CitiBank, Starbucks, Ford, Honda, Apple, Exxon, Mobil, Cisco, Verizon -- the list goes on. Of course, there are exceptions, but the point was that short, simple and recognizable names were keys to success.
These days, consider that your name needs to be easily recognizable in an email subject line and fit in a 144-character tweet.
2. The icon rule. Today, more than ever, customers consume content and make purchase decisions through their mobile smart devices. It is through these small screens that business branding is happening, so your company name and logo has to fit in this space.
While you may never actually have a mobile app that requires a small square icon, consider how your company name and logo would look on one. We have become accustomed to seeing icons anyway, so this is a good place to start when developing your logo.
3. The social-media rule. In the past, the most significant barrier to establishing a name was if it was copyrighted or already registered as a business in your state. Today, your business needs to secure website domains and accounts with sites around the web, such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, StumbleUpon, Reddit, etc. (there are hundreds).
This not only improves search engine optimization (SEO) organically, it also helps protect your business's online reputation. You may not use most of these accounts, but at the very least, you will own the account name before someone else does. If you have a common business name that is already taken on many sites, consider a pseudonym for your account across these secondary websites.
For instance, if your name happens to be Wild Creations, then consider a strategy to use “WildCreationsGifts,” “TheWildCreations,” or “WCGifts” as your account name. The consistent naming convention across sites will allow your customers to more easily find you.
As for us, we have stuck with the name Wild Creations, although we did rebrand and develop a new logo a year ago that emphasizes “Wild” and is more iconic. Deep inside, I would enjoy another serendipitous meeting with my New York attorney friend and get his approval.
At the very least, maybe he won’t think it sucks as bad.
Do you have a unique experience naming your company in today’s digital age? Please share with others below.