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  • 10.12.15
  • by Barry Pollock

What does a name mean?

The core of any business is its name, its identity, its brand.

Whether it’s good or bad, your business needs a name so customers can find you, talk about you and recommend you. When the business grows, the name grows with it, building reputation and recognition. Ok, so the name’s not the be all and end all, but if you have a name which is difficult to understand then you are starting from a hard place.

Think of the brand name as the foundation of a building. Once the foundation has been set, the structure can be built on top of it, it would be gruelling to try to build on a bad foundation.

You need the right name to get the business off the ground, it has the power to build relationships and develop your identity. Once you have a well-established identity people start to recognise your brand, what you are and what you represent.

It’s hard to come up with a name in the first place, so it makes it even harder when your business name is compromised and you have to start again from the beginning. Things can happen, things that are completely out of your control, which means your name doesn’t represent you accurately, and if you haven’t established a brand and identity yet then your name may be all you have. The meanings of words are constantly changing and new phrases are emerging, suddenly you hear one thing and immediately think of another. When it gets to the point where people are questioning the name of your business and using it for comical gain, is it time to change?

We’ve just read about a small construction firm which has undergone a full rebrand due to its name being compromised and the name now having a different meaning all around the world. Is this the right thing to do? Perhaps, but not everybody takes the same approach.

An area of Australia under the same name vowed not to change the area’s name simply stating that there were no links between the region and the compromised name so why should they change?

Once you’ve built your brand, the literal meaning of your name is irrelevant; it’s not what everyone immediately thinks of. Think of big names like Virgin, Google and Coca Cola, with their name comes reputation and everything they offer and stand for. You don’t just hear their name, you hear everything you’ve heard about their clean and consistent image.

When you think of Virgin, what comes to mind? It’s not the literal meaning of the word, its Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Media, Richard Branson, because over time they’ve managed to successfully create one of the biggest brands.

A distinctive business name is easier to remember and attracts attention. Google may have taken a risk, since originally it wasn’t even a real word to begin with, but the risk definitely paid off, it was a name that stuck. Originally, Google was called BackRub, somehow I can’t see that name being as successful in building one of the biggest and most recognisable search engines in the world.

Sure it’s good to stand out and be a little different, but you need to make sure you don’t go too far. What’s the use of your business name if it’s spelt in a quirky way and customers can’t spell or pronounce it? Spelling is particularly important, given that most people live online these days they need to be able to find you. But in the same breath you can’t be too basic and choose a name that will get lost among hundreds of thousands of search engine results. It’s about finding the right balance between the two (we didn’t say it was an easy feat).

If you are thinking of starting a business (and we haven’t already terrified you into choosing a name) we have one more piece of advice. Don’t forget the huge impact of language barriers. Not every name means the same in every country, and if you’re lucky enough to branch out to a different country, don’t just assume an exact translation will work the same. Remember the ‘Got Milk?’ campaign from the 90s, well in Mexico it was actually promoted as ‘Are you lactating?’ .. somehow it just doesn’t have the same ring to it.  

So what do you think? Would you change your brand name if you had to and why? It might feel like your energy was wasted the first time around, especially if it was a difficult process (which the majority of the time it is), but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. It shows that you are bold and care enough about the business that you want the name and its reputation to be as powerful and positive as it can be – which is what everybody strives for.