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.
To ensure our clients clear these myriad hurdles, Catchword has developed a naming process of best practices at every step:
- Immersion: Our upfront meetings ensure immersive understanding of business objectives and elicit hard-to-articulate name preferences.
- Creative: During name development, we create a staggering number of candidates, covering every viable name message, construction, and tonality (because sometimes you don’t know what you want until you see it).
- Screening: Our trademark and linguistic screening phases are equally comprehensive.
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.
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Developing a fantastic brand name is not easy, and not something most people—even seasoned marketing professionals—do very often. We’ve got you! Our two decades working and thinking about branding have yielded some wisdom, which we share below and in our Insights & Resources. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, reach out. We’re happy to chat.
In short, if you plan to use the company name in a way that customers will see it as an indicator of the source for the goods or services you are offering (keeping in mind that the name you register as a trademark must match the name you use on the goods or services), it’s recommended that you register your company name as a trademark. While business owners are not required to register their company names as trademarks, registering a business name, like registering any trademark, provides a range of benefits, including broader trademark protection and official recognition that the name serves as a mark. Trademark registration is especially important in “first-to-file” jurisdictions where business owners can only obtain rights to their names by being the first to register them as trademarks. However, even in “first-to-use” jurisdictions such as the United States, Canada, and Australia, in which business owners obtain rights to their names by virtue of their use of the names in commerce, trademark registration can be very helpful—particularly, by establishing a concrete, definitive date when a trademark right is claimed. Please consult a trademark attorney for more information.
There are many qualities that characterize a good company name. In general, a good company name is one that is flexible enough to allow for expansion into other business spaces and shifts in product focus, and that doesn’t pigeonhole a business or impede its ability to grow (e.g. Google, Apple, Amazon). In addition, a good company name often provides a springboard for storytelling about the company, how it positions itself in the market, and why it’s unique (e.g., Red Bull, ASUS, Pandora). A good company name should also be easily pronounceable by speakers of different languages, particularly if the company does business in different international markets (e.g., Asana, Dell, Honda). And, while there are many extremely successful company names over 10 letters in length, it’s generally better to strive for brevity (e.g., Tesla, Zola, Stripe, Gap, Uber).
For more on what makes a name fantastic, check out Catchword’s 10 Qualities of Great Brand Names.
While naming a company is similar to naming a product, there are some important differences to keep in mind. To begin with, when naming a company, it’s essential to ensure that the name be broad enough to allow for expansion into other business spaces and shifts in product focus. Avoiding overly specific names will ensure your Radio Shack doesn’t need to become just a Shack and your Kentucky Fried Chicken a KFC. In addition, while product names typically need to appeal to one or two customer groups, company names often need to resonate with a larger number of target audiences, including not just customers, but corporate boards, shareholders, business partners, investment firms and the media. Also, while product names can be localized to suit different markets and cultures, company names typically need to “travel” internationally and resonate in all the markets in which they will exist. Lastly, while most product names don’t require a corresponding exact .com domain, company names often do.
Your company name and your domain name are different business assets, and they don’t have to be the same. If you discover that the corresponding .com domain for your business name is in use or unavailable for purchase, you can 1) choose a different domain name; 2) choose to add a descriptive term (e.g., www.CatchwordBranding.com if www.Catchword.com is not available); 3) choose a creative domain name or expression that ties into your company name (e.g., www.HiOscar.com if www.Oscar.com is not available); or 4) choose another top-level domain extension (TLD), such as .net, .co, .io.
A typical company name development project requires 6–8 weeks to complete. Timelines can be longer if the name must operate in many countries and/or if additional services are needed. These might include tagline development, linguistic and cultural research, name validation research, domain name negotiation, and full trademark evaluation.
Company naming services vary in cost, ranging from $5,000 for a limited engagement with a freelance naming consultant to $75,000 or more for a complete name development project with an established and fully resourced naming agency.