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What to consider when choosing a business name

Updated: Nov 24, 2023

What’s in a name? Plenty. Naming your business is one of the first decisions you'll make and can impact brand perception, investment and appeal. This article guides you through the dos and don'ts.

This is a timely topic as I recently had a week of networking events and new client meetings and was asked to explain "Why the name Pink Mingo?" 5 times in as many days. (Answer at the end of the blog for those who don’t already know!)

Enter ‘business names’ on Google and a list of AI-powered business name generators appears in the search results. This makes naming a business sound easy. But should there be more thought behind it? I believe so! This blog focuses on what to consider when developing your brand name.

What's in a name? The Science of naming

Coming up with a business name can be challenging. Do you go with a name that ‘says what it does on the tin’ or one that captures what you do in a more creative way? Either way, it’s hard to find something distinctive that hasn’t already been taken.

When working with clients to land the right business name, I take them through the five types of brand names:

  1. Descriptive Names: Indicates what the company, product, or service is or does e.g. PayPal and Salesforce

  2. Acronyms: An abbreviation of a descriptive name e.g. IBM and hp

  3. Invented Names: A made-up word e.g. Kodak and Xerox

  4. Experiential Names: Build upon the feeling or experience the brand delivers e.g. Uber, Pampers and Oracle

  5. Founder Names: leverage the real or imagined heritage of the brand origins, e.g. Tommy Hilfiger, Jack Daniels and Aunt Bessie's

Think of some well-known companies or small businesses that you love. Which category do they fall into?

Some of the stories behind business names

Businesses can settle on a name because it has a sentimental meaning, others take a process driven approach to deriving a name, some go for jovial names that clients will remember, and others use a placeholder name that somehow sticks!

Who can resist a play on words, such as Floral & Hardy (Florist), A Fish Called Rhondda (fish and chip shop in the Rhondda Valley, Wales) and Planet of the Grapes (wine bar) ?

Other brand names evolve through gradual osmosis. In 1998 the brand innocent drinks needed a name and it took nine months to come up with one. Their naming journey was Fast Tractor. Then Hungry Aphid. Then Nude. Then Naked. Then innocent. Read more about innocent’s story here

FinTech Life insurance Company DeadHappy really stands out in the sector - and attracted significant investment - thanks to their bold brand name, tone of voice and marketing.

One of the most famous examples of business naming comes from Gwyneth Paltrow’s goop. Paltrow was told that successful internet companies have double o’s in their names (think Zoom, Google, Noom, Moo), and she “wanted it to be a word that means nothing and could mean anything.” So she book ended the ‘oo’ with her initials and goop was born.

And finally, take the accounting software business Sage. You might think the name derives from the word wisdom. You’d be wrong. The name came from a list of herbs on a poster on the wall of a pub.

Every naming story is unique!

The dos and don'ts

An ideal name is memorable and feels aligned with your broader brand strategy. At the other end of the spectrum, a poor name feels very misaligned. For example, picking a name that doesn’t work internationally if your goal is to expand, or deciding on a jokey name that is totally at odds with your serious brand personality.

The right name will:

· Align with your product or service's vision, mission, and strategy

· Have the right meaning or connotation

· Look good and be easy to remember and spell

· Be unique and available

· Work in current, and new markets

The wrong name:

· Doesn’t fit

· Isn’t international

· Is forgettable

· Is cheesy or misjudged

What else to consider when coming up with a name for your business

  1. Look for a name that represents your values, vision and mission

  2. Will the name resonate with your ideal customer? In marketing everything comes back to the customer and it’s vital that yours gets your brand name. Your name is the first impression a potential customer has of your business. If you’re rebranding, it’s essential that you don’t alienate your existing customer base. Test your name with your target audience.

  3. Do you want to go obvious or abstract?

  4. How does the name play into your growth, geographic expansion or diversification goals? If you’re planning to enter international markets, check the name isn’t lost in translation and doesn’t mean something unappealing or offensive in the language.

  5. Does the name have longevity? Will it still work in ten years?

  6. It’s easy to get carried away with the creative. But don’t forget the practicalities. Is the name easy to say and easy to spell? Will it work as a social media handle? Is the website domain available? Is the brand name already trademarked?

  7. Bringing strategy into the naming process means you’ll get the right brand name.

How I can help

I’ve helped many founders name new ventures and guided established businesses to name new products, functions or services. As one client put it, my process is “robust, interactive and fun!”

I’ll take you through the all-important theory and then lead you and your team through a series of guided brainstorms. We leave the box behind, no idea is too off-the-wall and then I do further research and come back with a shortlist of brilliant brand names that fit just right

Contact me to learn more.

Your business is more than a name

A word of caution, your business name is important but it’s not everything. Your brand is more than just a name. The way you live your business values, the quality of your products and services, and how you communicate with your customers gives your business depth and establishes the brand.

Afterall, BMW didn’t mean quality before BMW made it mean quality.

Why Pink Mingo?

“What’s the story behind Pink Mingo?

Given the number of times I’ve been asked, you’d think I’d have a pithy one-line response but a business naming journey is rarely straightforward.

When I set up Pink Mingo in 2017, I decided I wanted to have a bird-type-name. I considered full flight but who wants a flighty consultant? I also considered nested but who wants all their eggs in one basket?

Pink Mingo was what I called flamingos as a child and it was something, years later – while I was grappling with my business name and he was suffering with advanced Alzheimer’s - my father reminded me of. It was a special moment, a bright spot in the dark and so I went with it.

Aside from the sentimentality, flamingos, or Pink Mingos, felt like a good fit as they stand out against the grey (stand out brands), have broad wings (breadth of experience) and can do it all while standing on one leg! (competence, good at balancing things).

Key takeaways

So, what is in a name? The answer is quite a lot. A name can impact how your brand is perceived, attract potential customers and investors and is a core part of your brand strategy. However, your name isn’t everything. You give your brand true meaning and validation through everything you do as a business.


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