What’s in a name? Plenty, if it’s a business name.

(First published in the Philippine Online Chronicles, September 24, 2012)

by Myrna R. Co, SERDEF Media Bureau

Some 10 years ago, when my son announced he was quitting his job at the Department of Public Works to put up his own contracting firm, he said he would name it ARC Construction – based on his own initials.

I chided him for being so unoriginal.  Gamely, he asked me to suggest more “original” alternatives.

I came out with a seven-item list, which I have forgotten by now, except the ones that remained when it was short listed.  These were “Edifice Rex” and “Innobuild.”

I was enamored with Edifice Rex, for its literary allusions (Oedipus Rex, remember, from Greek mythology?).  But my son didn’t like it, simply because it sounded like “Edifice Wrecks” which he thought would give the company a very negative connotation.

So Innobuild Construction it became.   It proved to be an auspicious choice.  It conformed with most of the characteristics of a good business name.

Characteristics of a good business name

1. It’s short.

2. It’s specific and reflects a specialized business.

3. It’s unique. Consider using words that are not in the dictionary: Jollibee, Innobuild,  Google.

4. It’s creative. Don’t copy existing famous brand names.  Mang Donald’s is dangerously close to McDonald’s, and thus was short-lived, But you can build on or adapt a popular name and make it your own. For example:  Dates 4 U, a dating service that takes off from  the popular Toys R Us.

5. It’s an easy name to say, spell, and remember. Use proper English construction so that when put in a sentence, it will work: “Let’s ask Innobuild to build the gym.”  “I got the camera from Sulit.”

Innobuild, the sole-proprietorship, is now Innobuild, Inc. and has built a good track record in implementing government-sponsored infrastructure projects. My son thinks his business name stands out among other construction businesses.  When he visits a client’s office, the staff would say:  “Nandito na si Innobuild.  Ibigay na lang natin ang project kay Innobuild.”

The Innobuild story highlights the importance of selecting a good business name.

How do you start the process of business naming?

First of all, consider the type of business you have, what you stand for, and what you hope to accomplish.

Popular naming methods

With these fundamentals in mind, you can start the process of naming your business.  Knowing the most popular naming methods should be useful in doing this.  Would you like a name that is different? Mainstream? Name-based? Obvious? Or trendy?

  1.  Different – A business name that is different can be memorable to its target markets. This category of business names includes words that are made up, are not frequently used, or have a special meaning. Such names are not easy to forget and not likely to find duplicates.  Edifice Rex should be in this category.  Among multinationals, Pfizer and Knorr can be cited as other examples.
  2. Mainstream – This makes use of common everyday words which are then turned into a brand. Examples are Tomato, Bench, Gap.
  3. Name-based – Some small business owners may like to use their own names or initials or those of their spouses and children.    Vida Doria, Jose Aliling and Associates, FPJ Productions, Lapid’s Chicharon, Aling Mila’s Lechon, Kanegie (a combination of the names of the owner’s children) Kakanin are some examples.  A warning on use of names:  Be sure the names are not hard to pronounce and spell.
  4. Obvious – A pointed business name.  This is where the business name indicates clearly what the company is doing.  Examples are Fair Deal School Supply, China Bank, Salay Handmade Paper Products.  The disadvantage is that an obvious business name may be considered boring by some so you have to make it a point to add some interesting element in the name, the way Innobuild Inc., Purefoods, and Royal Ceramics were able to achieve it.
  5. Trendy – Trendy business names give the idea of being new, cool, in with the times.  These should appeal to the young market.  However, it relies on a trend that may be short-lived and is in this sense risky.  Dot coms belong to this type.
  6. Abbreviated Initials – This takes the initials of the official business name to form an abbreviation that becomes the brand name.  Examples:  IBM (for International Business Machines), BPI (Bank of the Philippine Islands), URC (United Robina Corporation)

Final word on business names:

There is more to naming your business than just coming up with something that sounds good or clever.  It is important to your branding success and marketing and promotional efforts.  It should reflect your image, brand and position in the marketplace.

Photo: from young entrepreneurs.com

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