What's in a Name?

Is a risqu� business name right for your business?
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This story appears in the January 2007 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

When James Carey Smith's customers see his company's 8 to 24-foot ceiling fans, they usually say the same thing: "Gee, that's one big-ass fan." But the company's name, HVLS, didn't bring his product to mind. So Smith took a cue from his customers and renamed the company Big Ass Fans.

"Our customers, who really named the company, generally have a terrific sense of humor and have given us very positive feedback," says Smith, 54. "Potential customers remember our name and ultimately buy our products--to the tune of double-digit sales growth per year."

But is a risqu� business or product name a good idea? James Dettore, president and CEO of Brand Institute, a Miami branding company, says Smith did the right thing by following his customers' lead.

However, Dettore warns companies to tread carefully in this area because risqu� names can easily backfire with more conservative customers. To avoid offending your customers, test-market the name with focus groups or introduce a product line solely under the brand name, without including the parent company's name on packaging or in advertising. "That way, it's easier to disassociate your company if there is customer backlash," says Dettore. "But the key is to really know your customers and whether this type of humor is going to work."

Edition: July 2017

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