Is the name easy for people to spell?
That may seem to be a given, but some companies purposely select names that consumers can't easily spell. It's a risky strategy to try to make a company stand out, and some naming consultants recommend against it. "If your name looks like a typo, scratch it off the list," says Alexandra Watkins, founder and chief innovation officer of Eat My Words, a naming service based in San Francisco. She also believes that it's important that your name be spelled exactly as it sounds. Otherwise, you will forever have to spell it out for people when saying the name or your company's email or website address aloud. "Think of how often you have to spell your own first or last name for people," she says. "Why would you want a brand name with the same problem?"
Does the name sound good and is it easy to pronounce?
Manning says the sound of the name is important in conveying a feeling of energy and excitement. You also must be sure potential customers can easily pronounce your company's name. "It is a hard fact that people are able to spell, pronounce and remember names that they are familiar with," he says, pointing to Apple, Stingray, Oracle and Virgin as strong names. But he doesn't like such company names as Chordiant, Livent and Naviant. "These names are impossible to spell or remember without a huge advertising budget, and the look, rhythm and sound of them cast a cold, impersonal persona," he says.
Is your name meaningful only to yourself?
A name with hidden or personal meanings evokes nothing about your brand, and you won't be there to explain it when most people encounter it. "Refrain from Swahili, words spelled backwards, and naming things after your dog," Watkins says. She gives the example of Lynette Hoy, who was using her first and last name for her PR firm in Bainbridge Island, Wash. The name didn't work because it failed to evoke Hoy's fiery personality and passion, Watkins says. So, the company was rebranded Firetalker PR, and Hoy took the title of Fire Chief. She called her office The Firehouse, and began offering PR packages such as Inferno, Controlled Burn and The Matchbox. "Her entire brand is built around that name and lends itself to endless ways to extend the name," Watkins says. "Her prior name didn't lend itself to any theme or wordplay."
Is the name visually appealing?
You also want to consider how the name looks in a logo, ad or a billboard, Manning says. He points to Gogo, the inflight Internet service provider, as a good name for design purposes. "It's the balance of the letters, all rounded and friendly, versus a word with hard, angular letters like Ks and Ts and Rs," Manning says. Other visually appealing names include Volvo because it has no low-
Have I conducted a proper trademark search?
A great name is worthless if someone else already has laid claim to it. Start with some free resources like Trademarkia.com or USPTO.gov to do a cursory search to see if the name is already in use. Then, hire a trademark attorney to do a more thorough screening, and if the name isn't taken, to register it with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. "Get it right the first time," Watkins says. "A third of our business comes from companies who are being threatened with trademark infringement."