Naming your company

What to name a new product or company? There is no right or easy answer otherwise consultants would not be making millions coming up with gems like Prevnar and Neupogen and Consilient.

Your name is most likely the first thing about your company that someone will hear – it’s your first chance to be different and stand out. So it should be based on a clear decision as to what you want people to think about you. You can have it do some of the marketing work for you. Or you can spend a whole bunch of extra time and money to do what your name could be doing for you.

It might tell simply who you are: you as a brand: like Sagmeister.
Or it might say exactly what you do like Cartoon Network or 2000 Flushes. Or where you are like 89 Greene. Or what you want to be like, say Apple or Homestead. Or what kind of people you are like Mad Dogs and Englishmen.
Understand your positioning before you pick a name. It is pretty unlikely that the same positioning would have led to Apple as led to IBM.
But there is much else that adds to the image of the company and over time a name gathers all sorts of other meaning and association. When I first heard the name Pixar I thought it was a drug – but now (after a lot of their time and money) I know better.
Make a list of names, don’t reject anything the first couple of times, write them all down – here’s a few more ways to start you thinking:
What you want to do. What kind of people you are. Combine some relevant words. Acronyms. Do-it names. Ironic. The mythical person. Things that ought not to be together: like Industrial Light and Magic.
Look at your competitors’ names. Be different from them.

Look at the names on your short list. Get someone negative to be critical. If a name can be turned against you, you can figure that someone will do it. Mock up an ad. A mailing label. Whatever. Ask strangers what kind of company this might be and what they think it must be like.

When you are stuck, or need a laugh, you can try out the parody “Nametron 3000” and have it autogenerate a name – check it out at