What’s In a Name?

How to choose a company name that you will be proud to display

Stretch Fabric GraphicThe name of your new business is probably the most important, and lasting, marketing decision that you will make. A name is more than just a collection of letters: it can convey your business values, future aims and quality of service.

The legal stuff

Before you get started, there are practical and legal considerations to be made. To be a registered company, you must register a limited name. Your name can’t be the same as that of another registered company and you may even be required to change it if someone makes a complaint based on similarity of the name. Your name must usually end in either ‘Limited’ or ‘Ltd’ unless you are a registered charity.

Your registered name does not have to be the same as your business, or trade, name. If you choose to advertise under your trade name, bear in mind that you must not indicate that the name is limited. The name must also not be the same as an existing trade mark, or contain any sensitive words or expressions.

Displaying your name

It is a legal requirement for you to display a sign showing your company name at your registered address and any premises where the business operates, unless you are running your business at home. You must also include your company’s full name on all company documents, publicity and letters. For business letters, order forms and websites, you must also show the company’s registered number, office address and where in the UK the company is registered.

First impressions

Once you know the legal checks that you will need to make, it’s time for the fun bit! For a start-up to be saddled with the wrong name, building the business can feel like an uphill struggle. A good name should fire the imagination of potential customers and generate interest in finding out more about your business. There’s no need to get too cryptic; customers don’t want to struggle to pronounce your name, for example. You must identify what story your business wants to tell and why, and this will inform your naming process.

What does it all mean?

Beware over-testing for potential offence and ease of understanding. This often leads to very descriptive names that can feel flat and uninspired. As a small business, you can certainly choose to be straightforward: your name, for example. Or you may want to be a little bolder in your choice of names. If so, it is helpful to have a little direction to your brainstorming:
Wordplay – A clever linking of concepts can be expanded across all of your branding: linking architecture and stone for example. However, avoid puns unless you are confident that it’s a corker; they can alienate as many people as they attract.
Impressions – A strong name should be easy to remember and be meaningful to your audience.
Spelling – If you choose to deliberately misspell your business name as a branding device, it must be both obviously intentional and easy to remember.
The Proven – Be inspired by gathering together all of the established industry names that work for you, identify why they work – and then aim to do something different.
Go Abroad – Looking at foreign words for your key elements of business could lead you to a memorable and catchy name.

Going online

Many short, snappy .com domain names will be used already, but don’t let that put you off your chosen name if you feel it is right for you. Consider alternative extensions like .net and .biz, or contextualise your name as part of a longer web address.

Choosing your business name is not a quick and easy process. It requires time, thought and lots of brainstorming. It has to be right if it is going to be emblazoned over your business threshold. The unmistakable sign that you’ve arrived at the perfect name for your business is that it is so natural that it appears to have arrived in the blink of an eye.