Company Naming

Our extensive company naming experience covers startups to Fortune 500 in every sector: beverages and biotech to food and finance. We have created names for new businesses, mergers, spin-offs, and companies reinventing themselves.

We’ve been asked how product and company naming projects differ. Although there are many similarities, company naming is usually more complex and logistically challenging, with more stakeholders (sometimes all over the world) and greater legal and domain-name requirements.

In addition, the decision to adopt a company name can be emotional and highly personal. Generating consensus is often harder. Company names must work across geographies and languages, survive changing business models, and align with—or even help establish—a company culture. We work closely with our clients to ensure our process responds to their needs as effectively as our name candidates. Take a look: Company Names Portfolio.

5 company naming tips

5 company naming tips (click to expand)

Name like you’re the “Amazon” of your industry

When naming a product it’s oftentimes acceptable and even desirable to key the name on a single feature or customer benefit. For example, a software product that mines customer data and provides insights about purchase habits might appropriately be called “PurchaseIntent” or “InHabit” (to suggest insights and habits). However, you are not a single product. You are a company, and your “features” and the benefits you provide to your customers are broad in scope, and may change considerably over the years.

In general, it’s a good idea to think more expansively about your company name, and avoid pigeonholing yourself with a name that may tie in well to your flagship product or service and your current business focus, but risks becoming restrictive as your portfolio grows and diversifies and your business interests evolve. In addition to Amazon, which is a great metaphor for an expansive portfolio of product offerings that doesn’t limit the direction in which the company can go, here are few recent examples of great company naming from Catchword’s portfolio:

Asana
(read the case study)

Sunbird
(read the case study)

Clover Health
(read the case study)

Avoid common words or word parts in your name

Most markets are saturated with company names that are so similar it’s hard to distinguish between the different brands. Before Catchword opened its doors in 1998, we did a thorough audit of the industry and discovered, not surprisingly, that the vast majority of naming agencies incorporated the words “name” or “brand” in them. We won’t list them all here because, if you’ve done a Google search on naming agencies and landed on this page, you’ve probably already discovered most of them.

We knew that to stand out from this pack, to distinguish ourselves and our brand, we would need to avoid these terms in our name, and think of a more creative, unique way to express the business we’re in and the value we provide to folks like you. The name “Catchword” is a great company name because it’s unlike any other name in our space and still a logical choice for a naming agency. It balances distinctiveness with industry and business focus. On top of that, it implies that the names we create (or catch!) will become popular pieces of language and household names. In other words, catchwords!

Descriptors or taglines can contextualize company names and set you free

During almost every company naming project we reach a point in the name review process when we have to remind folks that names do not exist in a vacuum. They are supported by many other brand communications, including visual identity, marketing and sales copy, website, and, if appropriate, descriptors and taglines. One of the greatest values that a descriptor or tagline provides is freedom. Specifically, freedom to expand the range of name styles you consider for your brand.

In general, a company name that’s more suggestive of a specific message may allow for more aspirational taglines. And a name that’s more abstract may benefit from a descriptor that alludes to the industry in which the company competes or the nature of its business. In either case, it’s important to remember that these complimentary pieces of brand communication are available to you, and should free you up to consider a much broader range of brand names for your company.

Your name is a reflection of you, your creativity, and how thoughtful you are

It’s not something that everyone thinks about, but your company name is not just a reflection of your positioning or corporate mission or industry focus, it’s a reflection of your thoughtfulness and business intelligence. The name you adopt for your company says oodles about you, your personnel, and the way you conduct your business. Are you a company of creative and innovative thinkers? If so, your name should reflect those qualities, and an uncreative or unoriginal name will fall short. Do you consider yourselves diligent, dedicated and hardworking? If the answer is “yes,” then a name that seems it took no time to imagine will quickly betray those attributes.

At Catchword, we put a lot of careful thought and creativity into our names because we appreciate that a name is not just a mirror for your positioning or mission, it’s a mirror for you, and more than any other brand element, it provides insight into who you are as individuals, including how smart and creative you are.

Choose wisely because name changes are quite the bother

This may be less of a tip and more of a reminder for most: you don’t want to have to change your name, so choose wisely now. Changing a company name is an enormous inconvenience and has tremendous business implications, including, and most importantly, the loss of valuable brand equity. There are various reasons why you might have to change your name, and the most common are:

  • your company name infringes on a preexisting trademark (note that a good naming agency should guide you toward names that stand the greatest chance of legal clearance and trademark protectability)
  • you’ve outgrown your name–i.e., the nature of your business has significantly shifted and your name is no longer consistent with the new business direction
  • you’ve merged with another company and need a new name that reflects the cultures and business objectives of both organizations
  • you’ve been acquired by another company and for legal reasons or for purposes of portfolio fit you have to change your name
  • umpteenth other reasons why you might be in a position to have to change your name!

How to Create Great Company Brand Names

10 Criteria for Great Names

MAGNETISM
Does it engage you and spark your imagination? (Crazy 8, Method, and Häagen Dazs all do, in wildly different ways.)

DISTINCTIVENESS
Will it pop in your space, or blend in without a trace? (There’s Alaska, American, United, Delta…and then there’s JetBlue.)

BRAND FIT
Does it capture the essence and spirit of the brand? (Think Timberland, FedEx, Orange.) ...

View and download all the criteria