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It's a Shame You Chose That Name: The Six Biggest Naming Mistakes

by Laurel Sutton  |  
August 14, 2013

Naming your new company or product is a huge opportunity. Get it right, and you could put your brand on the map, generate buzz, and spark interest among customers. Get it wrong, and you might render your brand invisible—or call attention to it for all the wrong reasons.

Yet, because name creation is more art than science, and a highly personal process to boot, it's very, very easy to get it wrong. (Just look around at the marketplace.)

So what are some of the pitfalls to watch out for when naming your brand? As naming consultants, we've noticed that most of the self-sabotaging behaviors boil down to six all-too-human tendencies.

1. Wanting to be like everyone else

It's human nature. You see a something that's working, and you want to copy it. A well-known brand name sounds solid and credible. But remember, that's often because the brand has become solid and credible over time and with a lot of marketing dollars behind it. (Do you think the name Google sounded solid and credible in the beginning? Or Yahoo?)

Besides, it doesn't matter how much your competitor's name has helped them to rise to the top, because one of your brand name's primary jobs is to convey that your brand is different from the competition. So resist the urge to copy your competitors in style, tone, or construction during name creation.

2. Forgetting what's important to your customers

Before you start naming, make sure you've honed your brand positioning so you're crystal clear about what your audience is looking for (even if they might not know it yet), and also about the most important and distinctive way your brand meets that need or desire.

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Laurel Sutton is a linguistics expert and principal at Catchword, a full-service naming company founded in 1998. For more information, contact Laurel at 510-628-0080 x105.

LinkedIn: Laurel Sutton

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  • by Chuck Kent Wed Aug 14, 2013 via web

    Good post. I would just prioritize #2 as #1

  • by Leon Palmer Wed Aug 14, 2013 via web

    #7 - Not checking to see if the name you choose has already been registered as a domain name, especially if it is being used by someone offering similar services.

  • by Ashleigh Wed Aug 14, 2013 via web

    The rash of businesses name iSomething after the iPhone came out is just terrible. It makes me not want to buy from companies that can't come up with something more creative than that. It's even worse when the 'i' has nothing to do with their business type.

  • by Cara McDonald Wed Aug 14, 2013 via web

    Reminds me of the movie, That Thing You Do. The band originally called itself the Oneders (pronounced Wonders), but people kept calling them the O-needers. Don't be cute with your spelling, go for the Wonders, straight out. How wonderful!

  • by Erin O'Donnell Thu Aug 15, 2013 via web

    To No. 6, I would add a subsection: Scour the web -- especially its dark places -- for double meanings of particular terms. I considered a blog name with the word "amateur" in it. Sounded innocent enough. Until a close friend pointed out my idea was already a porn term. Whoops.

    I will be laughing about "penisland" all day.

  • by Gracious Store Sat Aug 17, 2013 via web

    Choosing a good brand name is important, it is a way you communicate what your brand stands for to your customers and prospects

  • by Susan Lawson-Dawson Thu Aug 22, 2013 via web

    It should be The URL in the article really IS what you'd expect from the name - which I guess proves the article's point in a way. Just wish I would have realized it before I sent it to my whole office :) Not sure I'll live this "piece of advice" down for a while.

  • by Vahe, MarketingProfs Thu Aug 22, 2013 via web

    Susan, thanks for pointing that out! (Well, that was embarrassing...) The correction's been made.

  • by A K Sun Aug 25, 2013 via web

    This is a completely false statement, "Philip Morris Companies was convicted of covering up the dangers of smoking." While the sentiment may be true, the facts are not.

  • by John Antonios Wed Sep 18, 2013 via web

    I loved the post.
    I would add a very important element in choosing a brand name and that is how it crosses borders ... some names have a negative meaning in other languages ... So checking wether the brand name chosen is "universally" accepted is also important for a brand the plans to be a global one - but then again, with the internet, whether you like it or not your brand is scene across the globe!

  • by Jenny Fri Sep 4, 2015 via web

    Good post.

    The biggest mistake is to keep a name just for the sake of being unique. Your business name should tell your story, who you are, what are your values etc.


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