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What’s in a name?

When launching a company, it can be a painful ordeal determining the name of your business.

Your brand name is importan. Wood NAME on blue background

You could opt for a name that has no direct link to what you do (e.g. Amazon, Google), one that tells people exactly what you offer (Cashpoint, Home Depot), or one that incorporates your name (Adidas, Marks and Spencer).

According to a recent survey by Simply Business, a third of respondents said they would be drawn to companies with witty names. For example:

  • Sam and Ella’s restaurant (not sure naming your enterprise after a painful condition is the right idea, but it is memorable)

  • Stubbs’ Prosthetics (not for the easily offended)

  • Spruce Springclean (genius!)

  • Thai Tanic (another unforgettable restaurant)

  • Life of Pie (an eatery specialising in…pies)

  • Jack the Clipper (barber)

  • Back to the Fuschia (florist)

  • The Codfather (fish and chip shop)

  • Site for Sore Eyes (opticians)

It’s certainly beneficial to keep your company name in people’s minds, and this is easily done if it’s associated with a popular film or person. The survey also showed that people would be more inclined to spend money within a wittily-named enterprise, in appreciation of the humour and creativity involved.

If you’re launching a business, there’s the challenge that a lot of good names have already been snapped up; as time passes, it gets harder and harder to come up with something unique. Then again, we’ve seen many different eateries called ‘The Codfather’, many hairdressers called ‘Curl Up and Dye’ and many ‘Iron Maiden’ laundry service companies. As long as your nearest namesake is far enough away that you don’t encroach on each other’s customer base, and you’re both able to differentiate and become memorable in your own right, you should be fine to rehash a punny moniker.

The assumption customers may have if you go with a funny name is that your brand will have personality and a sense of humour, which can be in short supply in some companies (if you’re a funeral director, this is understandable). Standing out against rival businesses, offline or online, is easier if your name is memorable, and a funny name gives your brand a head start.

Nowadays, people have to also contend with the availability of their domain name when choosing what to call their company. If you’re in the UK and you can’t secure the .com or address for your proposed name, because they’re already taken, you may find yourself on the back foot before you start. This is where originality is needed.

Another consideration is whether you like the name. For example, you may think your proposed moniker is hilarious the first time you hear it, but after a few years, it may grate on you. This is probably a hard thing to determine, as you can’t know how you’re going to feel about a name in the future, but if you’re not 100% into it at the beginning, it’s probably a sign to consider some more alternatives before making your final decision.

Ask for feedback from other people; no man or woman is an island when it comes to something so important. Also look for connotations you may not be aware of, to do with your proposed name—this could be how it translates/what it means in other languages.

Lastly, look at how the name reads when it’s written as a URL or as a hashtag. The following examples all fell foul of this:

  • A party to mark the launch of Susan Boyle’s new release became: susanalbumparty

  • Officials in Switzerland wanted to promote the release of The Hobbit in their neck of the woods (their country code is CH), and subsequently created the hashtag: #hobbitch

  • An initiative promoting the recycling of computer equipment became: itscrap

  • A seemingly innocent website that gives visitors the details of different actors’ agents had the following URL:

  • Pen Island doesn’t even need an explanation:

  • A website that allowed the top people in their respective fields to swap notes became:

You get the idea.

That’s a lot for a name to live up to: originality, humour, no negative associations, something you can stand to repeat for the next few decades, and with an available domain.

Good luck.


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