What’s In A Name?

Recently, we’ve been working on company names and logos. I always find this process interesting because a logo is the solitary defining mark that represents one’s company at every single level of communication. From business cards to emails to letterhead to advertising, that logo IS your company. You better think long and hard about it because you’re going to live with for a long time. Marks like Coca-Cola, Apple, Tiffany and the unforgettable Nike swoosh are timeless examples. Some logos are just fonts. Others have a symbol associated with them.

As for a company name, that’s usually dictated by the client. But sometimes we are asked to come up with names or advise on an appropriate name. It’s always nice when your company name can include a hint of a descriptor as to what your company actually does. But the most important thing a company name must do is reflect the culture of the company.

Some names are created from made up (or misspelled) words (Google, Haagen-Dazs, Hulu). Some are descriptive (NetFlix, Caterpillar – their tractors crawl like caterpillars). Some tell a story (Samsonite – from Samson, a supernaturally strong biblical figure; Virgin – Richard Branson was 20 years old and considered himself a complete virgin at business). Some are aspirational (Amazon, Mozilla). Some combine two owner’s names or two words (Garmin, Adidas).

When I started this company ten years ago, the trend was to use random creative names. Most every agency I knew was called something like Yellow Shoes, Green Frog, FireStarters, Rainmakers or Chameleon. I went the traditional route (like David Ogilvy) and chose to use my name. It’s the one thing I was sure I wouldn’t tire of. I added the word “Creative” because I wanted to give people an idea of what we do here.

The first thing you have to ask yourself in determining a company name is what do you have equity in? If you are known in the community, your name might help you. If you have no equity in your name (or if you have a bad reputation in the community), it might be better to go with something more descriptive of what you do.

At the end of the day, your company name & logo will define you in the minds of your audience. Our job is to make sure it paints an accurate picture.