When is it Time to Hire a Company Naming Firm?

Phil Davis

Branding & Naming Expert President of Tungsten Branding

Brainstorm vs. Brain Trust: 5 Sure Signs It’s Time to Get Help

It’s a growing dilemma, one that business owners and marketing directors are encountering more frequently each year — the growing shortage of good company and product names. It used to be quite simple. You simply gathered the key decision makers, (e.g. product managers, the marketing staff, and a handful of “creative” types that work for the company.) Then you brainstormed some names on the white board and voted on a winner. Voila!

Back then there was no need for an available domain name. There were also fewer trademarks. In addition the need to differentiate your product and service was not as critical. But now, as more and more businesses enter the market, and as the internet increases in importance, it’s vital to have a unique and compelling company name with a matching.com domain name. It’s no longer advisable to label your business with common descriptor words such as “Superior” or “General” or “Advanced.”etc. These adjectives not only get lost in a sea of sound-alike names, but they are harder to get ranked in a Google search, competing with every other company using similar language.

In this new quest for a creative company name, many entrepreneurs, CEOs and marketing directors are at a loss for what to do. They feel it’s something they are more than capable of handling internally, but with each new suggested name there’s a trademark conflict, no matching domain name, lack of coherent message, etc. It might just be time to call in professional naming consultants. Here are a few of the warning signs–

1. You’ve invested hundreds of hours of valuable management time and gotten nowhere

This is probably the top reason to look for outside professional assistance. I’ve spoken to hundreds of clients who have spent weeks, if not months, of their time in staff meetings generating countless names. Wouldn’t it be better if the CEO, marketing director and product managers could focus their time and attention on their own areas of expertise, rather than doing word associations, domain name look ups, and trademark searches? By the time many of these clients contact me, they have what I call a “naming toothache.” The pain has gotten so bad, they simply want a solution–any solution.

2. You’ve resorted to an employee suggestion box

Go ahead, you can admit it. You circulated the email or put up a suggestion box. Now you’ve opened the naming equivalent of Pandora’s box. Everyone in the organization feels they now have input. Even if this strategy were to work, you would have one happy employee and the rest who feel snubbed. It also assumes that your employees understand your brand message, your future brand architecture, and how the whole identity piece will come together. In addition, as in warning sign number one, you’ve turned productive employees into part time linguists.

3. Bad names have started sounding good

At this stage numbness starts to set in, and with it your judgment gets clouded. Names you were never would have considered initially, you begin to justify. You find yourself saying the company name, followed by “Get it?” When the puzzled listener furrows his brow, you impatiently explain the bad pun, play on words or forced construction (i.e. Qwalitronixs! Get it? Quality and Electronics! Yeah?) Unless you can be present when each potential customer hears your name, they will all have the same bewildered reaction.

4. You start rationalizing that the .com domain name isn’t important

In a continuing downward spiral from mistake three, you find yourself justifying that the domain name really isn’t all that important. You have a name you like but there’s someone using the name, and using it with the word “Group” and “Associates” and “Partners,” etc. So you find yourself thinking the.net version might be fine, or that a hyphen in the middle of the name really isn’t that big of a deal. That works until you discover that important emails and proposals are being sent to the wrong email address. Or a competitor has set up shop on the main.com domain name. Sure, customers might be able to find you doing an internet search, but wouldn’t it make more sense if they could simply type in your name?

5. You’ve begun to question whether a good company name is really all that important

In the final throes of a belabored internal naming project, it comes down to this–“Is that name really even important?” This is where we really enter the danger zone. Like a tired Marlin, you’ve lost all your fight and you’re ready to just give in and take whatever is available. You rationalize it by thinking of all the companies that have bad names, as if you want to join their ranks. You wonder if maybe there just isn’t a good name out there and that they are truly all taken.

It’s at this stage that some companies decide to cut their losses and just slap on a label and move forward. Unfortunately, they often come back to revisit the decision again and again, in the form of spelling out their names each time on the phone, trying to explain a name with no meaning, or spending marketing dollars on a forgettable name in order to make it stick. The long-term cost of promoting a poor company name is far greater than the initial investment in a good brand name — one with a matching.com, and a solid marketing message behind it.

In a rush to go to market, it’s easy to overlook the importance of a great product or company name. Lack of time and/or budget are often cited as the main reasons to go it alone. In the long haul, a great brand name can help better define your niche in the market, establish a unique presence, increase customer recall and improve gross margins. Fortunately, with the growing need for great company names has come a growing supply of company naming specialists — each with their own area of expertise. There are now between 50 to 100 company naming consultants worldwide, focused solely on crafting unique and compelling brand  identities–ones that will compliment your brand strategy. By conferring with these naming experts, you can outsource your naming projects, improve your results, regain valuable staff time, and best of all, reclaim your sanity.


About the author: With over twenty five years of company naming and branding expertise, Tungsten founder Phil Davis is a marketing and advertising veteran, having personally named over 250 companies, products and services worldwide. As a sought after branding expert, Phil has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Inc.com, Businessweek, Entrepreneur, and Newsday.

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