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Source: maorix

Which of These 8 Companies Wins the Business Name Showdown?

So you’ve come up with a fantastic idea, done a ton of research to see what your competition looks like, and reigned in just enough cash to start your dream business. The only thing is, you can’t exactly refer to it as “your dream business” forever. It’s time to call a spade a spade and give it a name!

This can be a stressful, painstaking process for some entrepreneurs, more painful than being called on your bluff. After all, many people strongly believe that the name of your business can make or break you.

As someone with a relatively rare name, I know how big a part it can play in your personal identity. I also know that it doesn’t have to define you. Take Ben & Jerry’s for example. Not one thing about their name has to do with ice cream, but because of word of mouth marketing and a product that never failed to deliver, the name has become notorious.

This idea interested me: how much do names really matter when it comes to the success of your business?

I took some business names from a few select industries and entered them into my Business Name Showdown, then graded them based on their pros and cons. Of course, these grades are just my opinion, so feel free to let me know if you disagree.

Coffee Shops

Company Name: Starbucks

Reason behind it: Named after a character from Moby Dick.

Pros Cons
Unique Has nothing to do with its industry
Easy to pronounce Not a real word, hard to remember
  “Bucks” connotes spending money

Conclusion: This company’s name clearly does not dictate its success. Rather, its marketing and quality of product, consistency in branding and atmosphere are what makes a Starbucks a Starbucks. Although it’s a unique name, it’s not particularly pleasing to the ear, nor is it easy to remember if you hear it in passing.

Rating: C +

Company Name: Cafénation

Reason behind it: A play on words about coffee and caffeine.

Pros Cons
Very clever play on words Adding an accent onto the “e” makes it harder to standardize
Relates directly to its industry  
Brief and concise  

Conclusion: I’m a sucker for wordplay, so this one really got me. It’s charming, short, and unique. The name contains the company’s main product, its playful nature evokes positivity and it will inherently attract its target customers. Although I don’t know how profitable Cafénation is, its Yelp review (4 stars) and UrbanSpoon rating (93% like it) suggest it’s not going anywhere (but up!) any time soon.

Rating: A

Athletic and Lifestyle Companies

Company Name: Nike

Reason behind it: Named after the Greek goddess of victory.

Pros Cons
Association with victory appeals to the customers the company wants to attract Hard to pronounce if you’ve never seen the word before
Unique and clever  
Brief and concise  

Conclusion: This is a very strong name, and I believe it has played a big role in the company’s success. The genius lies in the name’s simplicity; what other connotation would a sports brand want or need besides winning? In providing that implication from the get-go, Nike is conjuring an aura of achievement for its customers. Nike isn’t just a name: it’s an experience.

Rating: A

Company Name: Instant Replay Sports

Reason behind it: It is a new and used sporting goods and clothing store.

Pros Cons
Has a clever and recognizable double meaning Not very unique
Simple, easy to remember  
Relates directly to its industry  

Conclusion: I like this name. It’s simple but clever, and it immediately engages the company’s ideal consumer. Straightforward and to the point, this name does exactly what it is supposed to do: make a great first impression with no conceptual obstacles.

Rating: A –

Office Supplies and Consumer Electronics

Company Name: Staples

Reason behind it: It’s an office supply chain, and staples are a, ahem, staple item within that market.

Pros Cons
Has to do with the company’s products and industry A little boring
A simple, strong word that’s easy to remember  
The word itself has visual appeal because of its symmetry, which makes for a great  

Conclusion: So it’s not the most creative name in the book, but it gets the job done. Not only does it connect the company with its industry immediately, but it’s uncomplicated and stable. When searching for the perfect name, don’t discount something because it seems too transparent or elementary…it could end up being your Staples!

Rating: A –

Company Name: CompUSA

Reason behind it: It sold consumer electronics, computer services and technology products in the United States.

Pros Cons
Relates directly to its products Boring, unoriginal
Simple, easy to remember It’s unpolished, unpleasant on the ears 

Conclusion: While CompUSA is a blend name which can be a great way to go (Microsoft, Netscape), it combines two very generic words that aren’t particularly descriptive of the range of products the company offers, or where they offer it. This inherently weakens it, as does its awkward juxtaposition. I’m not too surprised business didn’t last for these guys, who suffered continually low profit margins due to the high competition level of stores like Best Buy.

Rating: C –

Real Estate Agencies

Company name: Sotheby’s Realty

Reason behind it: Named after one of its founders, James Sotheby.

Pros Cons
Distinctive and unique Has nothing to do with the industry
Has a regal  air, capturing the spirit of luxury home buyers  Not that easy to remember
Doesn’t limit potential growth by being overly specific  Hard to pronounce

Conclusion: There are obvious risks associated with naming a company after yourself or a person you know. Customers may favor a company whose name promises some kind of solution to their problem, such as Market Basket vs. Wegman’s. A good product will help your name literally become a brand, which can open up lots of opportunities for your business. It can also tarnish you directly; if your business goes under, a part of your personal identity does as well. Sotheby’s is an example of a brand that has stood the test of time, and it remains an industry mogul despite being named after a person.

Rating: B +

Company name: Redfin

Reason behind it: It’s an anagram. If you mix up the letters, you can make “finder” and “friend” which emphasize what the founders would like you to see their company as: a friend who will help you find what you’re looking for.

Pros Cons
Unique, interesting The anagram only works if you know about it
If you know about the anagram, the name has a positive association  
Easy to pronounce  

Conclusion: Having a name that can also be rearranged into something related and meaningful is a cool idea, but it’s more of a conversation starter than a good company title. Consider how many people the anagram is lost on; the only reason I knew about it was by accident. If you’re going to use a name that’s also a pun or a play on words, you need to make sure that it’s obvious. Otherwise, most of your customers will miss it and you will be left at a disadvantage.

Rating: B –

And The Winner is…

…Cafénation! I just love this name. It’s light, funky and it definitely makes me want to stop in for a cup o’ joe.

Although this list is by no means conclusive, I think it’s safe to say that a name can indeed play a large role in the success of your business. It can also play a medium role, or no role at all. The most important thing is that you provide your customers with premium products, use great marketing strategies and keep your brand and company values consistent.

That way, whether your business name is a cool word you stumbled upon in the dictionary, a term you made up, or something pulled from Greek mythology, people will have no choice but to associate it with success.

Your Turn: What do you think makes a good name? Do you agree with my ratings? Let me know what you think. If you want, I’ll even rate your company name!