What’s in a Name?

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What’s so special about naming?

Shakespeare famously wrote, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” in his iconic play, Romeo and Juliet. But does that quote stand up under scrutiny?

In this post, we’re examining the question, “What’s in a name?” We’re discussing business and brand names and asking questions like, “How do I come up with a business name?” and “What brand name will resonate in my market?”

By the time you’ve finished this post, you’ll walk away with two things: A solid understanding of how to create your business name and tips to effectively name your brand.

What’s in a Business or Brand Name?

Does your business name really matter?

There are two arguments to answer that question:

  1. No, it doesn’t. So long as you provide exceptional service and meet your customer’s needs, then your business name doesn’t matter.
  2. Yes, it does! Your name affects how people think of you and therefore, how they’ll interact and engage with you.

Which do you think has more merit? We’re in support of position #2. We’ll explore why that is, but first, let’s talk about the power of names.

Names hold deep personal, cultural, and sometimes historical connections. They are a distilled representation of a thing. For example, instead of yelling, “Short lady with long brown hair, average build, and propensity for discourse” all someone has to do is call out, “Natalie!” and my attention is theirs. That’s a pretty powerful thing, is it not? To give someone your name is to provide them with the power to call you to attention at any point in time.

Inversely, a good name will also capture the attention and mind space of the person saying or thinking it.

What’s important to note about that last point is that people across all cultures and languages have preconceptions about certain names. Or rather, the sounds that comprise names. That means that they’ll have made up certain ideas about you by the sound of your name alone, even if they haven’t met you or had exposure to your brand yet.

Naming and Sound Symbolism

Have you heard of the Bouba-Kiki effect? It’s also been called the Maluma-Takete effect.

Think of two shapes, one round and the other made up of sharp angles. If you had to name one of them “Bouba” or “Maluma” and the other “Kiki” or “Takete” — which would be which?

Did you name the round shape Bouba and the sharp-angled shape Kiki? If so, you’re in good company.

Across a variety of cultures, people think of Bouba as the softer of the two names and Kiki as the spikier one. This assessment could be due to the mouthfeel of the names, with Bouba rolling off the lips while Kiki remains a staccato sound originating further back in the mouth.

Additionally, people can ascribe sharper qualities to Kiki-type names and softer qualities to Bouba-type names. Psycholinguist Penny Pexman of the University of Calgary says, “There’s something about how humans are fundamentally associative,” she continues, “We want to see patterns in things, we want to find connections between things, and we’ll find them even between sounds, and the things those sounds stand for in the world.”

How Should Sound Symbolism Influence Your Name?

As you decide on a name for your business and brand, keep these two factors at the front of your decision-making.

  • Your industry.
  • How you want your audience, customers, and clients to feel about you.

Let’s use the examples of Joan and Steven. Joan is a family therapist who’s venturing out on her own and starting her own business. Steven has worked in construction for years and is about to build his own steel manufacturing plant. They both need names for their new businesses to draw in clientele.

Joan wants a name that conveys trust and warmth while Steven wants to name his business something that conveys strength and energy.

Knowing that people associate softer, rolling sounds with the qualities her counseling services represent, Joan opts for a Bouba-type name. Steven, on the other hand, chooses a Kiki-type name as it represents the qualities of his business. Not just that, but anyone hearing their business names will associate those qualities with them whether or not they’ve done business together yet.

As you decide on your business name, think about the qualities you want it to represent and allow that to influence your decision.

How to Create a Business or Brand Name

At Domain.com, we’re dedicated to the business of names and naming. We’re often asked, “What makes for a good domain name?” For starters, it should match your brand name.

When it comes to a good name, here’s the basic advice you’ll find just about anywhere:

  • Make it short and memorable.
  • Avoid unique spelling, hyphens, and an excess of numbers.
  • Make sure it passes the radio test.
    • If someone were only to hear your name, could they type it out and make it to your website? Probably not if you’re using “Qu” instead of the letter “K” and have two hyphens in your domain.

Now, while helpful and true, that advice is more suited to evaluating a name you’ve already come up with, not for creating a new name. So, how do you create a name from scratch?

Tips for Creating Names

There are a variety of types of business and brand names. As you come up with yours, think about the following types:

  • Descriptive names.
    • These names give a good idea as to what the business is all about.
    • Examples: Cars.com, Domain.com.
  • Abstract names.
    • Imaginary or “made-up” names. Not made up of dictionary words.
    • Examples: Venmo, Google.
  • Acronymic names.
    • Short names that are made up of letters that symbolize larger names.
    • Examples: IBM, BMW.
  • Geographical names.
    • Names that speak to a geographical location.
    • Eastern Mountain Sports, West Coast Choppers.
  • Compound names.
    • Names are made up of a combination of two or more names.
    • Examples: Netflix, YouTube.
  • Personal/Founder names.
    • Business names are created using their founders’ names.
    • Examples: Cadbury, Ferrari.  

Not sure which type of business name you ought to use? Here’s something else to consider: How will you market your business?

You see, business names (and domain names) can be broken down into two categories: Brandable or Discoverable.

A discoverable name is a name made up of real dictionary words, like “Family Financial Advisors.” A brandable name isn’t composed of dictionary words, instead, it’s made up, like “Optimizely.”

The former name can count on type-in traffic for website visits. That means that people typing those keywords into their browser will likely find that business as a top result. However, it’s going to cost more for their domain name as it’s likely already been registered and is a premium domain. The latter is made up, so there’s a better chance the domain is unregistered and available. However, you’ll need to create a strong content marketing strategy to support your name so it appears higher in search results.

Ready to Name Your Business and Brand?

Before settling on a final business or brand name, make sure it’s available as a domain name and across social media platforms, too.

Register your domain name today!

Once you’ve decided on a name, share it with us below! We’d love to hear about how you decided on your brand name.

Natalie Brownell
Natalie Brownell

Domain.com Marketing Manager. She believes in the power of words and loves a good story. She resides in MA and spends her days behind the keyboard with her two feline coworkers. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Natalie Brownell
Natalie Brownell

Domain.com Marketing Manager. She believes in the power of words and loves a good story. She resides in MA and spends her days behind the keyboard with her two feline coworkers. Connect with her on LinkedIn.