Cadabra. It’s not a household name. But it could have been. Jeff Bezos originally wanted to name his company Cadabra, as in abracadabra. But his lawyer thought he was saying “Cadaver” over the phone. That was the end of that name.
For Bezos, “Relentless” was also in the running as a name for his company, even though friends thought it sounded sinister. But Bezos registered it. Type relentless.com into your browser today and it takes you to Amazon.
Naming is never a straightforward process—but it’s always an emotional one. When art and science meet, strong feelings do too. That’s why it can sometimes be hard to evaluate potential business names on anything other than emotion. But from experience, we know there are rational ways to determine if the name will be a successful one. Here’s a list of five questions to ask as you discuss potential company names.
Is the name market-distinctive both online and offline?
Distinctive brands need distinctive names. Since we live in an online world, it’s imperative that the URL for your name is available, and if not, that an obvious alternative is. The name should also be original enough to minimize costs for search engine marketing. If you do find available URLs for the names you are considering, you may want to purchase them so they do not get taken while you are still making a final naming decision.
Is the name legally available across current and expected geographic markets?
No name is completely risk-free, trademark or otherwise. If you’re a U.S.-based company or targeting American customers, make sure to do an initial check of the TESS database to determine potential naming overlap. Even if you find no red flags, it’s still important to have a list of at least 3-5 potential names that you eventually give to your legal department to thoroughly check.
Is the name clearly pronounceable and spellable?
If people can’t pronounce or spell your name, they probably aren’t going to repeat it. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider evocative cioined names—in other words, made-up names, since they can be the most distinctive. Companies like Alliant, Aquent, Snapple, and Oreo have all had success with these kinds of names by keeping them simple.
Will the name resonate with all stakeholders?
Some names are an easier sell than others. These names are usually descriptive names (think Toys R Us, E-Trade, and Digital Equipment) as they are simpler to embrace quickly. But no matter the kind of name, it’s important that a majority of stakeholders buy into it. Explain to them where the name came from, what it means, and how it relates to the brand.
Will the name be a powerful part of the overall brand strategy?
A name isn’t just a name—it’s a marketing asset too. Does your name hint at the reputation you want to earn? Hopefully it was created and inspired from attributes and traits that are ownable for your company. If not, how can you package your name so it helps uphold your overall brand strategy? Names don’t exist in a vacuum, so make sure your logo, typeface, and tagline play a role in making your name a strong part of your brand so it is positioned for growth.