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5 Trends Entrepreneurs Should Consider When Naming a Startup

August 13, 2012
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/228812

What's in a name? Plenty, judging from the long list of businesses a simple Google search yields when you query "naming your company."

While there are many technical strategies that can be used when picking a name for your startup, you can just as easily flip through the business section of any newspaper to get an idea of how other entrepreneurs are doing it.

However, don't take this decision lightly. Not only is your company name a critical part of your overall identity, reflecting who you are, but will also be used on all marketing collateral, PR, blogs, promotional materials, websites and in print.

This is a BIG decision.

Below are five naming trends and the businesses that found success following them.

1. Real words
When you consider Yahoo, Apple, indeed, Amazon and Twitter, they mean something but often have little immediate relation to your business.

Reasons to try this approach: It's fun, easy and can be quite effective for generating buzz. After all, the guys who started Yahoo (previously called Jerry's Guide to the World Wide Web) not only found a name that is fun to say, but a word they were able to build a unique advertising campaign around that had America yodeling: Yahoo

Reasons not to: Go too abstract and it can be confusing. The wrong ‘random' word can set your business back in terms of awareness. It's also difficult to find a real word URL that isn't already taken. Don't believe us? Try it.

Related: The Logo Mishaps of Giant Brands

2. Misspelled words
Of course you know how to spell, but using phonetics rather than grammar may give your company a cool edge. Consider the following examples: Tumblr (Tumbler), del.icio.us (delicious), Digg (dig), flickr (flicker) and Google (Gogol).

Reasons to try this approach: Not only does a misspelled word stand out in a crowd (ask any grade school teacher) but it can help you overcome those pesky URL registration issues.

Reasons not to: Using misspelled word could be confusing and is often hard to remember which could cause difficulties for those trying to locate your business online.

3. Two syllable, compound words
Lots of the newest companies are moving in this direction. Among others, there's Birchbox, Skillshare, Crowdtilt and JackThreads. Maybe Facebook's success has something to do with this?

Reasons to try this approach: There are seemingly limitless ways to get creative by putting two words together to represent your business. And, once again, with the number of URL's available dwindling this strategy can help you overcome that challenge.

Reasons not to: It's hard to imagine too many drawbacks here. However, the compound approach can be overdone. Make sure you aren't just mashing words together for the fun of it.

Related: How to Recover from a Branding Mistake? Apply Social Media, Stat

4. Initials and acronyms
Thinking of going old school ala IBM (International Business Machines), AOL (America Online) and TBS (Turner Broadcast System)? You're not alone. Reportedly, Rupert Murdoch is considering doing away with The Wall Street Journal's rather longish moniker and switching to the acronym "WSJ."

Reasons to try this approach: If a long, multiword phrase best describes your business, using an acronym can be a logical answer to help make it easier for business partners and potential clients to say and remember.

Reasons not to: B.O.R.I.N.G. Also, most businesses identified by an acronym use three letters. There are no three letter dot com URL's left available on the Internet. Zero. So you might be paying big bucks to buy one.

5. Made-up words
Skype, Hulu, Zynga... Nonsense can be fun, too. And if you're successful, you likely won't find yourself in any trademark grudge-matches down the road.

Reasons to try this approach: Creating your own name from thin air allows for a lot of creativity. A made up name can be catchy and extremely memorable when done properly.

Reasons not to: Making up a name can have several drawbacks including a lack of meaning that often leads to a misunderstandings and confusion. If the name is too abstract, it's likely to be forgotten, or worse, dismissed as silly.