What’s in a name?

Terry Sage of Trades Coaching New Zealand


There are no penguins in the column this month, the reason being the editor called me before the last magazine went to print and asked “why a penguin?”

If you didn’t get it either then watch more TV, or change your insurance company.

Which brings me on to the point of marketing or, more to the point, of what’s in a name?

My most favourite types of clients are brand new businesses or start-ups, and part of this process is the choosing of the company name. It’s sometimes a fun exercise, and sometimes it can be frustrating and stressful.

There are no rules around naming a company — you can call it what you like. And when you look around, sometimes that’s what people actually do.

There are some real weird and whacky names out there, and you have to wonder if these people are just overly creative, have a strange sense of humour, or get excited on non-prescription pills.

Whatever it is, sometimes the name has absolutely no relevance to the business activity. But is that actually a bad thing?

There are some guidelines I give to people trying to come up with a name — think big, think resale, and does it say what you do?

If you use your name then the company is all about you — eg, John Smith Builders. If you use your location — eg Tutukaka Construction — then what will that look like when you become an international company?

If your name does not tell people what you do then you’ll need a tag line, or to spend more on marketing.

Obviously, you need to make sure your choice is available on the companies web site but, just as important, is the name available for a web site and email addresses? Oh yeah, there’s more to it than you first thought.

Now you can understand my comment about being fun or being frustrating. My advice to these frustrated fun seekers is, no names, no places, keep it short, tell people what you do in the name and, although you may well be a limited liability company, you don’t need to advertise that fact on your cards, web site or email addresses.

Now comes the really fun part and what may turn into the major frustration — getting a logo designed that you like.

Do you need one? That comes down to personal choice — you either like them or you don’t. If you want a logo or even a stylised business name then get a professional to look at it.

Honestly, the home-made ones versus the professional can be spotted miles apart. In many cases, the first set of designs won’t float your boat and you go back for change after change, only to return to one of the originals.

So give it time, let it grow on you, and ask lots of people their opinions before you push the final button. If your designer is good, they would have found out exactly what you were after in their pre-design brief, and those first concepts will be spot on.

If you’re thinking your long-established and successful business — whose name resembles something like “Bill From Morrinsville, Your Erection Specialists” — needs a name change, don’t rush into it just yet.

If it works keep it, because some so-called experts out there say a name means nothing. Then there is the ongoing discussion that changing a long-standing name could be good or bad.

Many have reinvented themselves and made a huge success out of it. What about Telecom to Spark? I’ll let you be the judge of that one, but it was done for some very valid reasons.

So what’s in a name? Masses, and to me, the right name for your company, whether it’s a day old or turning 50, is everything.

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