What’s in a name?

We all know the a rose by any other name would smell as sweet saying, but whether you are looking for a name for your business or your new offering, finding a name is one of the hardest things that you will need to do.

What should you look out for?

Easy to remember – the best names are easy to remember. It shouldn’t be too long or too complex.

Easy to say – no one wants a tongue twister think about the person answering the phone if you specialise in products made from shells and you decide to name the company She sells sea shells Ltd and the receptionist has to say “Good morning she sells sea shells how may I help you?” OK, I am being a bit silly with that one, but you take the point. Other new names have meant educating the audience on how to say it Accenture was one example, especially with its > sign above the t.

Available at Companies House – if it is for a company name then you can go down the trading as route if the company name isn’t available at Companies House, but it can be easier if the name is available there too.

Domain availability – for company websites you want to be sure that you have a domain that is available. Most companies use their name as the domain, it is only a very few that do not. B&Q are the most well known of having a domain that differs from the company name as they have www.diy.com but it works very well as it owns that DIY space unlike www.homebase.co.uk.

Social media available – you need to be able to own the social media handles and pages on the platforms that are applicable for you to use.

Doesn’t clash with any competitors – it may be attractive at first glance to have a name which is very similar to one of your competitors, but that way madness lies. If your marketing is successful and the prospect misremembers it you are providing leads to your competitor. More concerning is that there may well be a legal challenge around the corner. Whether it is for passing off or trademark infringement then expect a cease-and-desist letter. That means that you have to rebrand or look at legal action. Some think that this would give them valuable publicity but not all publicity is good publicity.

Trademarking check that it won’t be an issue, even if you decide not to do it right now. It may uncover that a competitor already has trademarked a name but is not using it right now. When looking at trademarks you need to look at which trademark classes your offerings fall into and then check those. Note that soundalikes as well as lookalikes should be checked, for example Reed, Reid, Read, Rhead would all need to be examined. Also take care of partial matches, so Bridgestone successful won against tyre manufacturer Gemstone. To register a trademark takes 4 months if there are no objections. It can either be done with the help of a trademark lawyer or through the gov.uk website for £130 per name per class if you are looking at just the UK.

Other languages: consider how the name will be received in other languages for countries that you cover. Shit Lemonade in France tried unsuccessfully to launch in the UK, Rolls Royce ran into trouble with their Silver Mist car in Germany as Mist means manure (to put it politely) so they renamed it Silver Shadow, the car Opal / Vauxhall Nova had to be renamed for the Spanish speaking world as No va means doesn’t go – not what you want for a car really is it? So was renamed Corsa in Spain (and gradually across Europe).

Searching out the right name for a company is not a 2-minute job to do it correctly. Get it wrong and it can be expensive – the brief move to Consignia cost Royal Mail at least £2.5million back in 2000. So, invest some time, some research into the potential names short list. Ask your potential clients what they think, and do not rush it!

Here at Cut Through Marketing we feel as though we are the bad cops when we tell a client that the name that they are so attached to won’t work for trademark reasons, for example. But when we find a name that everyone likes and does not have issues then that is a very good feeling. If you need advice and help on the naming process then drop us a line.

[Originally posted 28/1/21; edited 15/3/24]