Total Recall

What's in a name? Plenty, so here's how to choose one that stands out.
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This story appears in the February 2007 issue of Startups. Subscribe »

How can you create a memorable business name? We asked marketing expert and creativity consultant Sam Horn, whose newest book--POP!: Stand Out in Any Crowd--explains how to be memorable.

Entrepreneur: Where do you start when coming up with a business name?
Sam Horn: If [you] want to go from "generic" to "genius," write down [your] core words. Describe what [you're] offering. What are its functions? What are its attributes? What are its strengths? How would you explain to someone what the product or service does for them? [Take] two of its benefits, two of its functions or two aspects of its appearance, and put them together in a trademarkable term that can become your business [name].

Those are the core words. Then you can run those core words through different exercises. For example, you can make it alliterative, like the product name Java Jacket.

Entrepreneur: What's your favorite tip for brainstorming business names?
Horn: My favorite tip is alphabetizing, because it came up with Tongue Fu!, [the title of Horn's previous book]. If you run "Tongue Fu" through the alphabetizing process [by replacing the first letter with each letter of the alphabet], you get "fun fu," "run fu," "young fu." All those are offshoots.

Entrepreneur: How would an entrepreneur know he or she has found a standout name?
Horn: One quick way is to tell someone [your business name idea and] ask them to repeat it. If they can't repeat it, they didn't get it. And if they didn't get it, you won't get their business, because if they can't remember it five seconds later, [they won't remember it] a week later. It's got to be repeatable.

Edition: July 2017

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