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What's the name of the game?

Why choosing the right name for your startup spells longevity

This month celebrates 250 years since the birth of William Wordsworth and 170 years since his death. Here at The Digital Doctor, Poetic Elf took a break from her sonnets and pondered.

How significant is the English (beautiful yet complex) language when embarking on the right name for your startup? 

You probably won't be surprised to learn that coming up with the right name for your brand is key. Do it well and you'll inform your target audience of your product or service, signpost your values and convey more than one meaning for your brand (Poetic Elf will explain as she's goes along).

So if you're starting a new business venture, need a name and are stumped for inspiration, Poetic Elf might just be able to point you in the right direction.

Sound suggestions for your business brand

Poetic Elf is already getting carried away - she'll get to alliteration in a bit. She's looked at various sources on the subject of creating a business name and come up with some top tips.

Ross Kimborovsky, founder and CEO of crowdSPRING writes on What's in a Name? For a Business . . . Oh, Everything. and acknowledges that most startups will struggle to come up with a name - crucially, it's estimated that 77% of consumers make buying choices based on a brand's name. 

So here are some of the handy hints for nailing that name...

  1. Service provision - it's always a good idea for small businesses to state what they do in their title. Unless you've got a huge marketing budget, you need to be clear about the service you provide. So we're talking about "Wally's Window Washing" or "Kitty's Cat Sitting" etc.
  2. Describe - when you're brainstorming, jot down words which describe your company. Which words differentiate your company from your competitors? What's great about your business - can you convey this through your name? Good hint: Ross suggests you look up Greek and Latin translations for words.
  3. Short and concise - above all else, your name should be easy to remember. Small businesses tend to operate more by 'word of mouth' so a name which is obscure is probably best avoided. If you can't say it, you can't sell it!
  4. Growth - don't stunt your company's growth by choosing a restrictive name (i.e. Dolly's Daffs) - ensure your products and services have scope to grow (Dolly might start selling hyacinths).
  5. Don't be dull - although if you're the very first company to sell a product you might just get away with it.
  6. Towns or cities are best avoided - to avoid restricting growth potential. Poetic Elf disputes this tip though - when it comes to ales, ciders and whiskeys you'll find more than a few which name a place. And what about building societies - based on their origins, they're very often geographical.
  7. Following a trend is also a no-no - think of the 1990s when internet startups included .com in the name. Not only does it now date them, but they tend to be associated with the boom and bust phenomenon.

And now...a lesson in English language

Poetic Elf remembers daydreaming during her English lessons at school and never thought she'd see the day that certain themes would be applied to her blog writing! 

But here she goes - this is the technical bit.

Acronyms - can work quite well. Clever application of acronyms will also provide a secondary explanation for your business. 

Poetic Elf warning: Be mindful that the first letter of each word doesn't spell out something more unfortunate. Unless, of course you're Del-Boy and own Trotters Independent Traders and then you can get away with it! 

A great example of acronym application is provided in an article Catchy business name ideas on the Chron website - a business renovating vintage automobiles is called Classic Auto Repairs - CAR abbreviated.  

Poetic Elf felt inspired by this and came up with one of her own for her new business venture:

Poetic Onomatepoeia Will Enhance Resonance Ltd... 

Alliteration - where the same letter is at the start of connected words in a sentence or title - as in 'She sells sea shells on the seashore'. This can work really well when establishing a brand and you'll be able to name a few - Dunkin' Donuts, Costa Coffee, Busy Bees, Rolls Royce - you get the idea.

Onomatopoeia - now, applying the rules of onomatopoeia is clever and effective. A word which sounds as it's spelt can convey more about the product. Think of Schweppes, Zoom and Twitter for example. Get your thinking hat on and start brainstorming!

Metaphors - use a metaphor for your name. Meanings and emotions are endless since they're pertinent to people on different levels. Great examples of brands which have used metaphors include Jaguar, Amazon, Innocent, Virgin and Oracle.

Assonance - repeated use of the same vowel in each successive word of your company name will make the brand memorable. Examples of this are YouTube, DropBox and Bed Head (this one cleverly reminds Poetic Elf that her mop needs fixing as well).

In essence, if you apply one or more of these rules you can communicate more about your product with a couple of well chosen words.

As T.S. Elliot said:

"Genuine poetry can communicate even before it's understood." 

That's what you're looking for in your company name.

Practical advice when you've chosen your name

You have a name and you've literally spent hours and hours coming up with it - but it's always a good idea to get feedback from friends, family and peers who really understand your business objective and what you're trying to impart. 

Obviously you need to 'own' and identify with your company name. Much the same as when you've finally approved your company logo (Read our blog: The laws of the logo), you'll want to personally connect with the name. Do reach out to others for their opinion though and try not to get upset if they differ in their views.

Do say the name out loud and see how it sounds - your employees (and you) will need to say it clearly and with confidence! If it's too bizarre the whole concept will backfire in moments.

Do a thorough search of the internet before a final decision is made. Register your domain name but first check if there's a company out there with a similar name by searching Companies House company name checker.

An article on Forbes12 Tips For Naming Your Startup Business suggests that .com as a domain name conveys a more established business - it's best to avoid .net, .biz, .org and other extensions. Also make sure you've snapped up the name on social media platforms.

Cross reference your name against cultural and language differences. What means one thing in one language could mean something entirely different in another. General Motors thought they were on to a winner with 'Nova' - as in English its definition is a star increasing in brightness. Not so in Spanish - it means 'not going'. 

From Rolex to Ray-Ban, Nike to Naked

Poetic Elf has hopefully given you some ideas for creating a business name - apply various language rules and you'll convey more than one meaning, instil emotion and even signpost your company's ethos. Think of Netflix, Britbox, The North Face, Superdry, Now, Subway. Without knowing the product you already have some information.

Social media platforms have cracked the code - Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok - they have all mastered the rules.

And if you decide to make up a name and avoid any of the protocols Poetic Elf has spoken about? Make sure you've done your research. Read this article: 10 Food Names, Brands, and Slogans That Mean Something Embarrassing in Other LanguagesEven household names can get it wrong - badly.

And a final word from William Wordsworth

Whate'er the theme, the Maiden sang
As if her song could have no ending;
I saw her singing at her work,
And o'er the sickle bending;—
I listened, motionless and still;
And, as I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.

An extract from The Solitary Reaper, William Wordsworth, 1805

Are you starting up a new business?

At The Digital Doctor, we can give you practical advice and give you an online presence. We can also help with your marketing strategy and get you noticed on social media platforms.

Get in touch with us - we'd love to hear from you!


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