4 Biggest Blunders When Naming a New Business

July 01, 2016
Posted by Russ Waddill on Jul 1, 2016 11:45:53 AM

The name of your business is the most important aspect of your company's brand identity. While your business model and your company's execution is critical to your ultimate success, fighting the wrong name can be an unnecessary obstacle that is difficult to overcome. 

There are many steps that go into the process of naming a business. This is a checklist of things you should never do that will serve as a handy guide as you move through those steps. 

Here are the 4 biggest naming blunders we see most often when working with clients on their marketing strategy and branding. 

  • Domain not available
  • Using initials as the name
  • Including cliche words in the name
  • No relevance to the business or brand

Mistake #1 - Web domain is not available

The reality today is that a website is one of the most important aspects of any business. It is the single, most important place that prospects and customers go to learn about a business. A domain name that closely parallels or is the business name is critical. It is one thing if you are taking a decades old brand online and need to be creative about the domain. Far too often, however, we see companies fall in love with a brand new name like Limestone Consulting Group only to find out that the domain is taken. Instead of reassessing the name, the company settles for Limestone-CG or LimestoneConsGrp, which makes it confusing for people trying to find you, as well as difficult to win your brand in search engine optimization (SEO).  In addition, make sure you own the .com, the .net, and any other relevant extensions for your domain. There are an increasing number of other extensions becoming available, but the .com is the most valuable and popular. You don't want some other entity that owns your name with the .com to publish that domain and confuse or erode your company name and brand.

The fix: Choose a name where the .com domain is precisely available.

Mistake #2 - Using initials for the name

All too often we've seen large, well-known companies shorten their name. Think IBM, KFC, GE. In nearly every case this happens, the company is trying to hide some aspect of their name. When Kentucky Fried Chicken faced push back in a more health-conscious culture, they shortened to KFC in order to de-emphasize the word 'fried' in their name. We didn't forget, though. IBM, formerly known as International Business Machines, wanted to shorten the name and de-emphasize 'machines', which conjures hardware. They began selling computers, and now their business is 60% services. General Electric is one of the largest conglomerates in the world, moving far past electric only products. The thing that all these companies have in common, though, is pretty massive marketing and advertising budgets. They can throw so much money at their initialed name to insure people recognize it. The vast majority of businesses (like yours) cannot do that! In addition, all three of these companies had decades of branding behind their original names so they were already in the public consciousness. The initials came after many were already naturally shortening the name.

The fix: Avoid initials in your business name - they are hard to remember and don't support your branding.

Mistake #3 - Including overused cliches

It is so easy for business owners to fall into the trap of using words like 'Affordable' or 'Specialty' when describing their business or service in the company name. Resist the temptation. Descriptive words are good, particularly if your company name is 2 or 3 words but boring or overused terms will not help you stand out from your competitors. You are much better off using a desriptor that is 'sticky' - one that will stick in people's minds. Pairing unrelated words can sometimes work if you can build a story around why you are using it. We helped a logistics client change their freight brokerage name from initials that did not stand for anything to their new name 'Freight Cowboy'. Not only were we able to secure the precise web domain, we were able to create a brand identity that reinforced pairing these two words, and made the name memorable in prospects minds. Their location in Texas, combined with the story of the founder's actual name, provided an excellent opportunity to create something sticky with a customer base spread out all across North America.

The fix: Use a descriptor that is unique and memorable rather than one overused and cliche.

Mistake #4 - Not relevant to the business

If your name is a simple combination of words or two to three words, make sure one of the words is relevant to your industry, your prospects or the market you will serve. A great example of a name that is simple but conjures the right perceptions is Whole Foods Market. Not only is the descriptor simple but complimentary to their mission of being organic and healthy, but 'foods' and 'market' leave little doubt that his business is in the food and grocery industry. Another company with a simple but industry relevant name that has been admired for decades is 'Home Depot'. The company has been instrumental in creating the retail home improvement sector. What better name could they have chosen than one that is synonymous with a destination selling anything for your home. Following this advice will also help your team become relevant online when you begin investing in branding, marketing strategy, and particularly SEO.

The fix: Include a recognizable word that is synonymous with your industry


Naming your business is serious business. It is the most influential decision you will make relative to your branding. Picking the right name won't guarantee your success. Picking the wrong name, however, is basically like putting an eye patch on and tying one hand behind your back!

Building a business and brand is hard enough. Don't make it harder.

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