Startup naming: Five approaches you’d live to regret
A name can say a lot about a business. So when starting a new business there’s a natural tendency to ‘play it safe’ and give customers clear pointers in the company name. After all, you want to make sure people know exactly what you are and what you do. Although it seems logical, taking this approach can be dangerous.
Here are five of the most common – and often limiting – naming mistakes:
If you’re based in Croydon and you’re a carpentry business, ‘Croydon Carpenters’ seems inarguable, as long as there isn’t one already. But what happens down the line if you wants to expand your business beyond Croydon? Or you no longer want to be seen purely as a local business?
If you’re an engineer and your company makes clever widgets, you might call your business Apollo Manufacturing Limited – because you love the name Apollo, and you’re a manufacturer. But what happens a year or so down the line when you develop an engineering consultancy or design services strand to the business – ‘Manufacturing’ no longer works. (And because you chose a generic name like Apollo, you’ll always have to add another word to it to distinguish your business from all the other Apollos.)
Eponymous business names
If you’re a consultant called Janet Baxter, naming your business Janet Baxter Consulting places it in reassuringly familiar - and logical - territory. But growing a business with a name like this can be problematic; can you realistically team up later with an equal business partner without rebranding? And if you come to employ people in the future, might it be uncomfortable for them, especially if they’re in senior roles? But if you're never planning to grow, self-named businesses are fine - but only if you have a distinctive name.
You make jam - great jam at that. So you call your business JamFantastic. Nice. But what happens when the business is really flying and you want branch out into marmalade? JamFantastic Marmalade, or JamFantastic anything-other-than-jam sounds confused.
When starting out, you may well have an ideal customer in mind. But it’s a mistake to tailor a name to a specific customer type. Imagine you’re launching a skincare range, and your target is a typical, rugged guy. So you call your company Rottweiler. Sounds edgy, very blokey …but means you can never extend the brand to a female audience, or even to a different category of chap.
What these naming mistakes have in common is that they relate to or describe a business, its focus or its objectives at a very specific moment in its development. The start of a business is the wrong time to do this. And this isn't just for ultra-ambitious entrepreneur types – these rules apply to any business.
It might feel like playing it safe at the time, but naming approaches like this can be positively limiting to a company’s development - it’s the opposite of future proofing.