Naming a New Business? Itemize and Prioritize!

Phil Davis

Branding & Naming Expert President of Tungsten Branding

One of the most common refrains I hear when naming a new business is “I’ll know the right company name when I hear it.” That may or may not be true. It also may or may not be wise!

Why is that?

Because it makes the assumption that you know exactly what you want. In reality, most aspiring business owners have only a vague notion of what they want in a brand name. These notions are unarticulated, not written down anywhere, and it’s in no certain order. If you were to ask, it would sound like a free flow of consciousness …

• Something creative
• Fits with my industry
• Has a matching .com available
• Describes what we do
• Sets us apart
• Not too long
• Start high in the alphabet
• Sounds cool when you say it
• Says what it is

In reality, these are both branding criteria and branding considerations. Must-haves and want-to-haves. And they are all mixed in together. It’s like trying to hit a moving target. One company name idea might accomplish two of the things you want it to do but then miss on three other counts. Another business name might sound cool but is a dead end in regards to building the brand message. The issue comes down to itemizing your wants and needs into two lists, and then prioritizing them in order of importance.

1. Branding Criteria

These are the things that are vital to your brand. Ask yourself, “if my new business name could only communicate one thing, what would it be?” Make this your top priority. Then go on from there in rank order of what’s next in terms of importance. Here are some good examples…

• Must convey our core strength of (fill in the blank)
• Must be memorable and engaging
• Must provide a platform to tell our story
• Must have a matching, or closely matching, .com domain name

2. Branding Considerations

These are things that find themselves on the list of criteria that don’t really belong there. For instance, having alliteration in the words (i.e. Coca Cola, Pay Pal, Best Buy) or having a name that rhymes or having the name start high in the alphabet. These are linguistic pluses, nice perks and possible tie-breakers if all things are equal, but they shouldn’t drive the process unless it’s determined that they are truly vital to the outcome.

Once you have both your branding criteria and branding considerations, then make sure you prioritize them. You may not get all your wants and needs, so determine which ones are most important. Our company name of Tungsten Branding is a metaphor for brilliance, clarity and insight associated with the light bulb. It works on the level of conveying our core attributes and providing a story to tell. It doesn’t do well in terms of spelling (Tungsten, Tungston, Tungstin, ect.) But we were willing to live with that. Because we are not a high volume, mass merchant business, the occasional misspell was not a big issue — clients find us if they type anything close. For our purposes, it was more important to demonstrate what qualities we bring to the table when naming a new business or developing a brand identity. The point is, don’t let a minor issue rule out a potentially strong naming candidate. If a potential company name accomplishes 85% of what you want it to do, and the remaining 15% is something not all that vital, (i.e. can’t get the matching 1-800 number with the name) then you have a viable candidate.

Bottom line? If you are struggling with a business naming decision, it might be time to itemize, prioritize and then capitalize on a company name that’s the bright choice for you.

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,, Businessweek, Entrepreneur, and Newsday.

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