Naming a Corporation

Phil Davis

Branding & Naming Expert President of Tungsten Branding

Naming a Corporation – 4 Strategies for Success

Naming a corporation sets the mood, tone and personality of the organization. Corporate names form the cornerstone of a company’s brand strategy. Typically the corporate name serves a more background, or supportive role than a consumer-facing service or product name. For example, Apple serves as the umbrella corporate name while Mac (Macintosh) and the “i” names have served as the leading product names. This type of corporate naming strategy allows future brand extensions and an overall brand “architecture.”

Typically the corporate name serves a more background, or supportive role than a consumer-facing service or product name.

In other cases, naming a corporation and naming its main product/service are so closely intertwined, that they become one, as with the recent combining of Research In Motion with its primary product… Blackberry.

Whether the corporate name serves a more foreground or background role, it’s important to keep in mind that the main goal is to create a name that reflects the organization’s overall mission, purpose and message. We refer to this centralized thread as the company’s “pivot point.” The best corporation names are tied to core attributes or enduring principles – brand names that will remain timeless and relevant no matter the change in product and service offerings — ones that can work actively or passively.

To that end, here are four specific company naming strategies for branding a corporation. Each one provides a unique set of advantages in capturing and conveying the brand mission.

1. Key Attribute Names

These names underscore a central feature or core value of the organization that never changes. An example is a global data platform we named Trubiquity – based on their genuine ability to serve an international customer base. An ERP/business intelligence firm, we named Claricent, due to their ability to provide clarity, insight and direction.

2. Coined/Invented Names

The trick with these types of corporate names is to keep them relevant. Kodak and Xerox are truly invented names with no inherent meaning, but they’ve had the benefit of years in business and massive ad dollars to build the brand recognition. It’s best to build an invented name of a morpheme, or word part, that relates to the company’s core competencies. A good example is Verizon, which contains the suffix of “horizon,” a nod to the future. Pixar contains the “pix” sound of “picture.”

3. Positive Connotation Names

These type of corporate names are often two-word constructions, and borrow from the existing positive equity in the language to communicate the brand’s message. SunTrust and BrightHouse are two corporate names based on this brand strategy. They evoke the attributes of brilliance, innovation and optimism by combining words with those qualities. In working with one wealth management firm, we created the name Parkworth, built on two familiar, positive words combined in a unique way.

4. Metaphor/Analogy Names

These names are a bit trickier to clear trademark, since they are often one word and nearly any industry can use the same metaphors. Companies such as Apple, Amazon, and Caterpillar employ metaphors as the basis of their corporate identity. In our work with an investment banking firm, we created the metaphor of FourBridges to convey the company’s ability to “bridge the middle market” when it comes to financing mergers and acquisitions. They also had four partners at the time and were headquartered in a city with four major bridges (Chattanooga, TN.)

In addition to the determining the best corporate naming strategy, there are several other key considerations when naming a corporation. Here are just a few essential items on the branding checklist.

Naming a Corporation – Naming Criteria

  • Is the name unique in your industry space?
  • Is it available for trademark?
  • Is the matching .com domain name available?
  • Is the name easy to say and spell? (linguistic appeal)
  • Does the name have any negative meanings? (invented words can have unintentional meanings)
  • Is there a clear process in place for determining the branding objectives, key decision makers and timelines?

Creating a powerful and meaningful corporate name requires a solid naming strategy and a proven process. By utilizing professional brand expertise, you can avoid potential missteps and pitfalls while moving your corporate brand forward in a positive direction.

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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