Company names and product names can be a very expensive and time consuming process. It shouldn't be because company names and URLs don't matter. One of the first things you do when starting a company is come up with a name. Most times the name you come up with is already taken for the .com URL. Much angst and frustration follows. Don't sweat it. Be more creative in your name selection process. Lets look at some very successful companies and their names.
Cisco is the most successful networking company in the world. Is Cisco a word? Does it have anything to do with network gear? No. Cisco is the last few letters in San FranCISCO. The founders are from the San Francisco bay area and thought Cisco was a short and memorable name that was easy to spell. They use the Golden Gate Bridge as their logo because that goes along nicely with the name. Neither the name or logo has anything to do with network communication gear. But, their branding and marketing made the name Cisco synonomous with networks.
Zappos is the most successful online retailer of shoes. Is Zappos a word? Does it convey any meaning about online shoes? No. Zappos is a mis-spelled derivation of the Spanish word zapatos, which means shoes. Zappos was a great name because it had no pre-existing meaning in consumers minds. No one had the trademark or domain name for Zappos, so it was easy and cheap to obtain. Tony Hsieh made Zappos stand for quality products and outstanding customer service.
Shoes.com vs Zappos.com - Should the Zappos founders have named their company Shoes.com? Would that have made a big difference in their success? I doubt it. Amazon acquired Zappos for over $1.2 billion. Shoes.com is part of a 130 year old shoe company. Which one do you think sells more shoes? Which company created more enterprise value? Regardless of the answers...the name had absolutely nothing to do with it. The branding, marketing, and customer service had everything to do with it.
Amazon.com and Apple are counter examples. Amazon had a pre-existing meaning that had absolutely nothing to do with online retailing of books. There is nothing about the word Apple that says computers, phones, or music players. In fact, the words Amazon and Apple meant something completely different before those two companies took the words as their names decades ago. Today such common words would not be available as names anyway.
Jeff Bezos chose the name Amazon because it represented something big. When Amazon started online web stores were virtually unknown. There were very few web sites, so they probably got the domain name pretty cheap. When Bezos started Amazon it was only focused on selling books online. Should he have chosen Books.com instead? No. The name probably wasn't available, and it would have limited his reach to just books. It would be tough to branch out into movies, music, clothes, and a million other things if the company name was Books.com. BTW, I just checked and Books.com resolves to BarnesandNoble.com. They probably acquired the name for big bucks at some point, but don't even use it as their company name...because it isn't really a brand name.
Google, Yahoo, Napster, AltaVista, Zynga, and hundreds more company names meant absolutely nothing to anyone before they started using them. Of course there is a story behind how they came up with the name. But, the name itself meant nothing to the public or potential users of the service.
Google is easy to remember, easy to spell, and just 6 letters short. All good things for a name. Google is actually a mis-spelling of the mathematical term googol which is a 1 followed by 100 zeros. Does the meaning of the word googol have anything to do with search? Does the general public know what the term means? No. Google is a great name because it is short, easy to remember, and easy to spell. The Google logo with its primary colors (blue, red, yellow, green) is memorable and playful. Everything about Google incorporates the playful primary colors. That is how branding works.
Napster was Shawn Fanning's nickname. He got the name because his hair was very curly and nappy. He played basketball a lot and the other players would make fun of his nappy hair and call him nappy, or The Napster. That is where the name for Napster came from. Again, the name is short, easy to remember, and easy to spell. The name is not a word that meant anything. The Napster logo of the kitty with headphones became one of the most well known names and logos in the world. That is good branding and marketing.
Zynga was the name of Mark Pincus's dog. Zynga of course is the largest social gaming company worth several billion dollars. Another friend, Shervin Pishevar, named his company Social Gaming Network or SGN. The name accurately describes what the company does, but which company was more successful? Did the name matter? Nope.
There are many other examples. The key is to be open and creative when coming up with a company or product name. Don't worry about the name meaning something. In fact, in most cases you want the company name to NOT mean something. You make it mean something later with good branding and marketing.
Great logos are important, and part of the branding program. The company name and logo are how the general public remembers your company. The Napster kitty is a great example. Today with the explosion of mobile apps, a tiny little icon represents your company on the mobile screen. The tiny blue box with a stylized T is instantly recognizable as the Twitter logo. A different shade of blue with a stylized F is obviously Facebook. The red box with the stylized P is the logo for Path. Choosing a color and an icon is just as important as the company name and logo. They all must work together in the branding.
Company names should follow a few basic rules;
- Memorable - the name should be easy to remember, and not confused with anything else.
- Easy to spell - removing vowels or doubling letters is not usually a good idea
- Short - Try to keep it to 10 letters or less.
- Non generic - calendar management is way too generic
OK, so think outside the box when coming up with your company name. Choose a logo and icon that is distinctive. Don't pay crazy amounts of money for a domain name. Make your name mean something with good branding and marketing. Always dispaly the company name and colors together with the logo or icon. Once the connection is made in the consumers mind they will work together or alone.
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