Which Type of Business Name is Best for Your Business?
When you look at all the company names out there, it can be overwhelming. But if you break them down into types, it becomes much more manageable.
The type of name you choose will depend on your businesses industry, positioning, goals, and budget. In this article, we will dive into the different business name types, the reasoning behind them and their key characteristics, so that you can make a more informed choice.
Note: The characteristics described are generalizations. There are of course exceptions to every rule.
Generic Business Names
Generic names are high-level keyword names that identify an entire class of products or services: These are the easiest names for your audience to understand. If you get one of these names, you are making a bold competitive statement.
Key Characteristics of Generic Names
Authority - With generic names, your brand can gain immediate authority in your space, just by the nature of the name. If your business name is identical to your business category, people are going to take you seriously.
Type-In Traffic -Names with highly generic keywords also have the benefit of type-in traffic. These are visitors to your site who type in the full URL of a keyword.
Impossible to trademark - Generic names are the opposite of distinctive. You can’t trademark an entire business category (unless you created the category).
Very Expensive - All that built-in value means that generic names are generally very pricey. Not only are they extremely expensive, but the buyers are either large established corporations or nations. Just take a look at these recent sales:
- CarInsurance.com - $49.7 million
- Shoes.com - bought by Walmart for $9 million.
- Israel.com - bought by the state of Israel for 5.8 million
- Files.com - $750,000
Tip for Choosing a Generic Name
If you decide to go with a generic name, you want to make sure that your business offerings are as broad as the name describes. Don’t buy shoes.com if you only sell one type of shoe. You will miss out on a lot of that valuable type-in traffic and SEO traffic, and the name won’t be worth the price tag. If you only sell sandals, buy sandals.com.
Descriptive Business Names
A descriptive name uses keywords like a generic name but is more specific. According to intellectual property lawyer Jill Hubbard Bowman, a descriptive name “immediately conveys an idea of the ingredients, qualities or characteristics of the goods or services.
Descriptive names usually consist of one to three words. If the name consists of more than one word, at least one word conveys the niche or industry of the business. The other words usually either further specify the niche or highlight the main value proposition of the business:
- CheapTickets: - Cheap (value proposition) + Tickets (Niche)
- TripAdvisor: - Trip (Niche) + (Value Proposition)
- SalesForce: Sales (Niche) + Force (Niche)
Key Characteristics of Descriptive Names:
Easy to Understand and Retain -Descriptive names are made up of dictionary words, and that makes them easy to understand and retain.
Brand Education - A big part of branding is educating your users on what you do. Descriptive names give you a headstart in this respect. The nature of your business, and possibly your entire value proposition, is conveyed right in your name.
Forgettable: Although they are easy to retain, they can often energy and emotion. So while a descriptive name may convey to your audience what your business does, it probably won’t get them very excited about it.
Difficult to Trademark- While descriptive names aren’t as difficult as generic names to trademark, they still utilize fairly common keywords and therefore present a challenge.
Lacking in Uniqueness- Because descriptive names often describe exactly what you do, it’s a good bet that another company in your space (or other spaces) will be named similarly. This can lead to confusion, and make it hard for your brand to stand out.
Experiential Business Names
Experiential names draw from the experience people might have when using the product or service your business offers. They elevate themselves above descriptive names because their message is more about the experience than the task.
This type of business name is most commonly found in the software space. If your business offers a unique user experience, an experiential name may be the way to go.
Evocative Business Names
Buying decisions aren’t logical ones, they’re emotional ones. Business keywords inspire little in the way of emotional association. That’s why evocative names are so powerful.
Evocative names are names that use metaphor and suggestion to evoke a specific feeling. The inspiration for these names is drawn not from what a business does, but the experience or positioning the business aspires to achieve.
- Amazon: (conveys vastness)
- Apple (uncomplicated, unintimidating)
- Square (simple, trustworthy)
- Honey (sweet, rewarding, simple).
- Basecamp (A place to start for projects)
Not all evocative names have to be deep. You can also combine evocative words with descriptive words to create a descriptive/evocative hybrid name. The descriptive word can hint at your businesses industry, while the evocative word (usually a color, animal, or part of nature) adds some much needed energy, emotion, and fun. This type of name is particularly effective for businesses with inherently dry or technical subject matter.
- TaskRabbit (Find local help
- PayPal (money transfer)
- HostGator (web hosting)
- jumpStock (inventory management)
- DigitalOcean (scalable cloud)
Key Characteristics of Evocative Names: :
Emotional Connection - People don’t make buying decisions with their minds they make it with their hearts. Great evocative business names appeal to their target audiences emotional associations to catch their attention and keep it.
Big Picture- Evocative names help create a brand name that is bigger than the goods and services a company offers. This gives evocative names an aspirational feel that is great for the longevity of your business name.
Easier to Trademark than Descriptive Names - Evocative names rely on keywords, but not commonly used business keywords. The words they use are more abstract. For this reason, trademarking an evocative name is easier than other keyword names.
More Abstract Because most evocative names require more of a leap in imagination, they can be hard to get sign-on from the whole team.
Portmanteau names mashup of two dictionary words to form one invented word.
According to entrepreneur Daniel Eckler a good portmanteau name is something that sounds like it was a word already. This way it will sound natural and familiar to customers.
Portmanteau names allow to you to use keyword combinations that may not available or affordable otherwise. For instance, GroupCoupon.com is a generic descriptive name that would probably come with a hefty price tag. But by combining the two words to create the portmanteau name “Groupon”, the founders found a fresher and less costly way to convey the same value proposition.
Invented Business NamesInvented names are names that are made-up names that contain no dictionary words. Because of their freedom from convention, this type of names are often catchier, shorter and more brandbable then the rest of the name types.
Invented names can be derived from an existing word or sound:
- Vimeo - (Video)
- Canvaa - (Canvas)
- Kashoo - (Cash, and Cashew)
Or have no recognizable root words at all:
However, even this type of name is not completely a blank slate, since sounds can lend themselves to a particular industry. For instance:
- Flowing names with lots of vowels and 3-4 syllables work well for global corporations and consulting: Aricent, Celera
- Short, sharp sounds indicate science and technology: Kodak, Xerox
- Fun sounds are creative and entertaining: Zune, Hulu
- Noise/onomatopoeic sounds are exciting and fun: Zynga
- Some sounds are even visual: Oreo - two strong "o" sounds leads to thoughts of round circles
Key Characteristics of Invented Names
Short and Catchy: These bite-size names roll off the tongue and stick in your head like a great melody.
Less Expensive: These names usually cost less relative to keyword names.
Easy to Trademark - Because invented names are unique and don’t contain keywords, they are usually a breeze to trademark.
Highly Brandable - Invented names come with very loose built-in associations, or none at all. This allows you to have a blank slate when creating a brand around your business.
Requires Branding: Because you are starting with a blank slate, you will need to put more effort into educating your audience on your brand's story and value proposition.
Now that you know the different types of business names, it will be much easier to choose the right type of name for your business. Don’t be afraid to consider a few different types at first, so that you can get a feel for what fits best. Happy Naming!