You Name It

The Elements of a Great Name

What characterizes a truly great name? According to Brad Shaver, president of Ashton Brand Group in Charlotte, North Carolina, "it's emotional hang-time"-which is just a punting metaphor to describe a name that stays high and long in your mind. Shaver's company developed the moniker for Pontiac's latest SUV, Vibe. The brand is intended to resonate with the younger demographic group the car company was newly targeting. Shaver also believes strongly in the power of subliminals, pointing out that in the FedEx logo, the space between the capital "E" and the "x" forms an arrow, signifying speedy delivery to consumers.

Finally, if you've been calmly waiting to learn what the aforementioned "plosives" technique is all about, your patience is rewarded. According to Jim Singer, president of Namebase, a naming consulting firm in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California, plosives occur when a speaker builds up air in his or her mouth and forcefully expels it, as in "ex-plosives." "It gives names extra power when you say them," Singer explains. He may be on to something. Put your hand in front of your mouth when you say "Priceline" or "Kool-Aid" vs. the newfangled "Accenture." Is the force with you? Namebase demystifies plosives and other naming techniques-including how to run an employee naming contest-in a toolkit available through its Web site for entrepreneurial naming efforts.

While it would definitely be desirable to come up with the perfect name-both catchy and forceful-for your business, it won't necessarily be the death knell if you don't. Consider the word parts for one of the most powerful companies in the world, Microsoft. "Micro" means small, and "soft" could be considered weak. Clearly, those minor details didn't stop Bill Gates.


1. Begin with great materials. Design your cards, letterhead, brochures, sell sheets and presentation tools with a unified look so they function as a family. Choose coordinating colors, typefaces and paper stocks, and use your logo consistently throughout to create a high-quality image.

2. Network smart. Join organizations where you can meet prospects and build relationships with them. Always attend with a goal in mind, and come prepared with a memorable introduction that makes what you do easy to understand.

3. Master telephone techniques. Cold and warm calls are a vital part of launching a new company. For B2B sales, create your own prospect list and make cold calls to initiate contact. When marketing to consumers, use advertising, PR or direct mail to generate leads and follow up by phone. Build a prospect database using contact management software, and keep in touch via sales and marketing.

4. Tell your story. Develop a press list and tailor your stories to the readers, viewers or listeners of each media outlet. Get involved in community-related causes or activities that offer higher visibility for your company. If you're an expert at something, try your hand at writing columns or articles that will position you in your field.

-Kim T. Gordon

Jerry Fisher is a freelance advertising copywriter and the author of Creating Successful Small Business Advertising.

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This article was originally published in the December 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: You Name It.

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