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Business Names 101

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How to choose a business name with great retention?

Imagine you have a time machine and could go back to the 90s (or even earlier). What do you think would happen if someone asked you a question and you suggested that you 'Google it'?

What has become commonplace in the 21st century - to the point where a brand name is now a verb - was once a completely made up word. And yet it stuck. Google is arguably now one of the most globally recognized brands in the world, and you'd be foolish to think that their name didn't have something to do with that.

Retention is one of the most important aspects of choosing a brand name, but it's also one of the hardest to get right. For one thing, there aren't as clear cut guidelines to follow. A good name, one that will stick in your mind, often possesses a little bit of star quality, or a certain 'je ne sais quoi' that helps it stand above the rest.

There are several linguistic aspects that help names pop. Employing one or more of these can boost your name's star power in a major way.

Words that rhyme or have a repeated letter can be easier to remember. Using the Google example, the double G helps the brain break up the word into two segments, with a bit of a sing songy sound. Our brains like patterns, and a repeated sound helps your brain differentiate your brand.

Sounds Like...
Some words or segments of words just stick out in our brain. Maybe they're a rarer combination, like 'ube' or 'uff'. Or perhaps they're from the less common part of the alphabet - typically the end. Words that successfully (not superfluously) incorporate an 'X' or 'Z', for example, often stand out in our minds. For example, a word like 'Fuzz' sticks out in a way that one of its counterparts, like 'Hair' or 'Fur' wouldn't.

Similar Structures
If you're looking at an abstract name, think about how it aligns with a real word in terms of its vowel and consonant structure. Again, circling back to Google, it does have a similar sound and feel to the word 'Goggle', meaning to look around in wonder. Adding in the extra 'o' gives it a playful, quirky sound but still mimics that feeling of the original word, making it more familiar for your brain. Again, our brains love patterns - and all three of these tactics are great ways to trick your brain into falling in love with your name.

Real Words Versus Abstract
The main example in this post demonstrates how Google - an abstract name - has a certain stickiness. In theory, abstract names have to work a little harder at capturing your attention and staying planted in your mind, because when we first heard it, we didn't have any natural associations with a word like 'Google'.

But it's equally important to consider retention when looking a name based on a real word (or series of words). Let's say you're in the 3D printing business, and you're inventing a new, portable type of 3D printer. You decide to call it 3D Print Express. Meanwhile a host of competitors come along with similar products, with names like 3D2GO and 3D On the Move. People are tired of spelling out your name and you become 3DPE. Suddenly, your name gets lost in a shuffle of too similar names. But one of the competitors - an outfit called HoloPrint - is gaining traction. The reason? Their name is sticky, and creates a unique visual picture in the mind: printing holograms.

The lesson being - whether you're going after real words or an abstract name, take a look at what your competitors are doing or what they could do if you're the first one to enter a space. Find a name that sticks out in a memorable way and you could find yourself at the top of the competitive heap.