Choosing a Business Name
Does it matter what you call your business? Many well-known brands have names which are not exactly catchy/memorable at first (e.g. Microsoft, Sony, Adidas, Porsche, Coca-Cola). With enough money spent on marketing, almost any business name can be made to work, but most fledgling businesses don’t have that sort of money and, besides, why would you spend it trying to make a non-memorable name memorable when you could have a better name in the first place???
First of all, the don’ts. Don’t name your business the same as another (especially if you are in the same trade/geographic area). You might be pursued for a breach of trademark (if it is trademarked) or “passing off” as another business. You don’t want to waste time (or money) on an unnecessary legal fight and you don’t want to confuse customers. There are also certain words which, by law, can’t be used without relevant permission. These include architect, bank, Britain, British, charity, chemist, dentist, King, Queen or Royal (although a pub which has this in its name should get permission), etc. A full list can be found at www.gov.uk. Business names should not be offensive either.
Naming your business is a bit like naming your children – everyone has a different view on the best kind of name. Importantly, the name should be easy to remember (and spell) and “personify” your brand.
Think about what you want to be known for. What are you going to be doing? Who are you targetting? What image do you want to portray? Who or what has inspired you? What is the story behind your business start up? What are your values? Don’t call yourself “cheap jewellery” if you are aiming for a luxury jewellery brand.
If you are your brand, you could name it after yourself or include your name in the business name. Similarly, if you are targeting a particular geographical area think about using this in the name. Sometimes a local place name can be used to good effect (if it is somewhere people with a positive/complementary connotation – eg Edinburgh rock, Newcastle Brown Ale). Beware though of limiting the expansion of your business (there are always exceptions – Sevenoaks Sound & Vision is nationwide).
If you are struggling to think of a name, think about the words or phrases people might search for when looking for a business similar to yours and consider using these in your name. Having a domain name (ie website address) with the key search terms in it will help you to move up the all important Google rankings – but choose niche search terms, rather than ones which are dominated by big brands.
Once you have a shortlist of business names, you need to check whether these are available
- is the domain name available (we strongly advise using .com and/or .co.uk, possibly .org.uk if you are a charity or educational business)
- has the name been trademarked by anyone else (check at www.gov.uk)
- has anyone registered the company name (check with Companies House www.companieshouse.gov.uk). Two companies cannot have the same registered name
Finally, think about testing your chosen business name out on a few people whose opinions you trust. You may have missed some obvious negative association.
Once you have a business name. Be proud and own it. Tell everyone about it. Register the domain name (even if you are not planning on a website initially, buy it so that it doesn’t go to someone else), set up social media accounts with that name and think about trademarking it too (as this is the only way to prevent, legally, someone else from using the same name).
Good luck and have fun coming up with a name!