Showing all articles tagged: branding


How to Pick a Name for Your Venture ...

The ten most valuable brands (circa 2017, ala USA Today) ...

10 ... IBM
9 ... Mercedes-Benz
8 ... Facebook
7 ... Toyota
6 ... Samsung
5 ... Amazon
4 ... Coca-Cola
3 ... Microsoft
2 ... Google
1 ... Apple

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Tips from the Wall Street Journal ...
There isn't a one-stop place to find out whether a business name is already in use, so it requires some checking around. A good start is a thorough Internet search. If you do come across another business using the name, there are a couple questions to ask: Is the business in the same industry as yours? Is it operating nationally or solely in its local area? Would prospective customers confuse your business with the other business?
Under federal trademark law, a business can claim rights to a name if it's first to use a name in a particular category of business in the geographic area it serves. So you want to determine whether another business in your industry is using the same name in the same geographic region you are. A business still has rights to the name if it is using the name publicly -- even if it hasn't officially registered it for trademark protection.
The next step is to go to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's Web site, www.uspto.gov, to see whether another business has officially registered the name for federal trademark protection. Click on "Trademarks" on the left navigation bar. Then click on "Search TM database" on the left to access the trademark search database.
If another business has registered the name, you're typically restricted from using it only if that business is registered in the same category of business as yours or sells the same goods and services. If the businesses are totally different -- say, you're a bakery and the other business using your chosen name is a florist -- then it probably isn't a problem.
But you do want to ensure that your business name won't be confused with another business in your area ... the last thing you want is your potential customers to be confused ... and end up having to change the name.
Some businesses register trademarks only in their state, so check with your state's trademark authority as well. Many states have online databases. You also can hire a naming consultant or a trademark attorney to conduct an exhaustive name search.
Another issue: Make sure there's a domain name available that closely matches the name for your company, since that will be important if you want your business to have a Web presence.
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Jim's Name-picking Checklist ...
Picking a name for a new venture, product or service is not easy. Picking the wrong name could prove disastrous; the right name (brand) could add many sales dollars. The following checklist should help. However, it is unlikely that any name will meet all these criteria, and there have been many successful names that met but a few. Good luck!
  1. Can the yourname.com URL be readily acquired? [If the URL is already locked up, odds are diminished that you'll be able to use yourname at all as it may likely already be someone's trademark!]
  2. Is the name distinctive?
  3. Is the name instantly recognized?
  4. Is the name easy to remember?
  5. Is the name pleasant to see?
  6. Is the name pleasant to say?
  7. Is the name easy to spell?
  8. Is the name itself confusing?
  9. Is the name easily confused with other names?
  10. Is there a connection between the name and the product, service, or business venture it represents?
  11. Does the name suggest what the business venture, product, or service does?
  12. Is the name descriptive of the benefits offered by the product, service, or business venture?
  13. Does the name convey the proper image?
  14. Does the name fit customer expectations?
  15. Does the name reinforce customer expectations?
  16. Are there any negative connotations with the name?
  17. Is the name limiting?
  18. Does the name coordinate with other names used in the organization?
  19. Does the name work in all target markets?
  20. Can the name be legally protected?
  21. Can the name be used in the primary US state of your business?
  22. Can the name be used in other states and countries?
4.11

How to Choose a Company Name: A 12-Point Test

For entrepreneurs, the importance of picking the right name for a company may rank second only to naming a child. (And it’s lot more expensive to change.)

Name consultants are paid millions each year to help decide what to call a company.

Now one has come up with a test: San Francisco naming boutique Eat My Words, which has worked for Kinko’s, Jamba Juice and other household names. It’s called the Smile & Scratch Test.

To test out a company’s name, first ask if it possesses these qualities:

Simple –- one easy-to-understand concept
Meaningful –- customer instantly “get it"
Imagery –- visually evocative, creates a mental picture
Legs –- carries the brand, lends itself to wordplay
Emotional –- empowers, entertains, engages, enlightens

Then scratch the name if it’s got these deal-breakers:

Spelling-challenged — you have to tell people how to spell it
Copycat – similar to competitor’s names
Random – disconnected from the brand
Annoying – hidden meaning, forced
Tame – flat, uninspired, boring, nonemotional
Curse of knowledge – only insiders get it
Hard-to-pronounce – not obvious, relies on punctuation

Choosing a domain name can be even harder. Most-short and-sweet addresses are long gone. Here are a few tips for finding a great Web-site address.

What’s your favorite company name? What names strike you as ill-fitting?



10 Questions to Ask Before You Pick a Venture Name

What's in a name? When deciding what to call your company, the answer is plenty. A business name can be too broad--or too confining. It can be too quirky--or not memorable enough. The challenge is to pick a name that's catchy, but also fits well with your particular type of business. Here are 10 questions to ask as you ponder various names, keeping in mind that the choice could make all the difference in establishing your company in the marketplace.

What do I want a name to accomplish for my company?
A name can help separate you from competitors and reinforce your company's image, says Steve Manning, founder of Sausalito, Calif.-based Igor, a naming agency. He suggests clearly defining your brand positioning before choosing a name, as Apple did to differentiate itself from corporate sounding names like IBM and NEC. "They were looking for a name that supported a brand positioning strategy that was to be perceived as simple, warm, human, approachable and different," Manning says.

Will the name be too limiting?
Don't box yourself in, says Phoenix-based Martin Zwilling, CEO and founder of Startup Professionals Inc., an advisor to early-stage startups. Avoid picking names that could limit your business from enlarging its product line or expanding to new locations, he says, citing the example of Angelsoft.com, a company formed in 2004 to help connect startup companies with angel investors. A couple of years ago, the company realized it needed to appeal equally to venture capital and other types of investors. So, it did a costly rebranding to Gust.com, which is less specific and evokes a nice "wind in the sails" image.

Does the name make sense for my business?
For most companies, it's best to adopt a name that provides some information about their products and services. That doesn't mean it can't also have a catchy ring. Lawn and Order, for example, is a good name for a landscaping business because it gets people's attention and also clearly relates to the company's services, Zwilling says. While unusual words like Yahoo and Fogdog sometimes work, quirky names are always a crapshoot.

Is the name easy to remember?
The shorter the name, the better, Zwilling says, suggesting that business owners limit it to two syllables and avoid using hyphens or other special characters. He also recommends skipping acronyms, which mean nothing to most people, and picking a name whose first letter is closer to A than Z because certain algorithms and directory listings work alphabetically. "When choosing an identity for a company or a product, simple and straightforward are back in style and cost less to brand," he says.

Is the name easy for people to spell?
That may seem to be a given, but some companies purposely select names that consumers can't easily spell. It's a risky strategy to try to make a company stand out, and some naming consultants recommend against it. "If your name looks like a typo, scratch it off the list," says Alexandra Watkins, founder and chief innovation officer of Eat My Words, a naming service based in San Francisco. She also believes that it's important that your name be spelled exactly as it sounds. Otherwise, you will forever have to spell it out for people when saying the name or your company's email or website address aloud. "Think of how often you have to spell your own first or last name for people," she says. "Why would you want a brand name with the same problem?"

How will potential customers first encounter your name?
Some naming experts believe there are exceptions to the easy-to-spell rule, especially if most people will see your name for the first time in a print or online ad. For example, consider Zulily, the online company offering daily deals for moms, babies and kids. "If you just heard that name, you might not guess how to spell it, but the company's aggressive online ad campaign has meant that most people first see it spelled out," says Chris Johnson, a naming consultant in Seattle and author of The Name Inspector blog, who came up with the name Zulily. "The payoff is that the unusual sound and spelling of the name have helped them create a very distinctive brand."

Does the name sound good and is it easy to pronounce?
Manning says the sound of the name is important in conveying a feeling of energy and excitement. You also must be sure potential customers can easily pronounce your company's name. "It is a hard fact that people are able to spell, pronounce and remember names that they are familiar with," he says, pointing to Apple, Stingray, Oracle and Virgin as strong names. But he doesn't like such company names as Chordiant, Livent and Naviant. "These names are impossible to spell or remember without a huge advertising budget, and the look, rhythm and sound of them cast a cold, impersonal persona," he says.

Is your name meaningful only to yourself?
A name with hidden or personal meanings evokes nothing about your brand, and you won't be there to explain it when most people encounter it. "Refrain from Swahili, words spelled backwards, and naming things after your dog," Watkins says. She gives the example of Lynette Hoy, who was using her first and last name for her PR firm in Bainbridge Island, Wash. The name didn't work because it failed to evoke Hoy's fiery personality and passion, Watkins says. So, the company was rebranded Firetalker PR, and Hoy took the title of Fire Chief. She called her office The Firehouse, and began offering PR packages such as Inferno, Controlled Burn and The Matchbox. "Her entire brand is built around that name and lends itself to endless ways to extend the name," Watkins says. "Her prior name didn't lend itself to any theme or wordplay."

Is the name visually appealing?
You also want to consider how the name looks in a logo, ad or a billboard, Manning says. He points to Gogo, the inflight Internet service provider, as a good name for design purposes. "It's the balance of the letters, all rounded and friendly, versus a word with hard, angular letters like Ks and Ts and Rs," Manning says. Other visually appealing names include Volvo because it has no low-hanging letters and Xerox for the symmetry of beginning and ending with the same letter.

Have I conducted a proper trademark search?
A great name is worthless if someone else already has laid claim to it. Start with some free resources like Trademarkia.com or USPTO.gov to do a cursory search to see if the name is already in use. Then, hire a trademark attorney to do a more thorough screening, and if the name isn't taken, to register it with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. "Get it right the first time," Watkins says. "A third of our business comes from companies who are being threatened with trademark infringement."

1.08

The Complexity of a Venture Affects its Value



In general, the more complex a business venture, the greater the valuation. The more complex a venture, the longer it would take to replicate it from scratch. And time is money! While most any venture can be replicated, it will take time and money to do so. Is it less expensive to start from scratch, or buy an existing venture? That's the essence of the thought process buyers go through before investing in (or, in essence, buying) a business.

Venture complexity may well come from a variety of sources. For example, brand recognition and reputation is an example of "complexity" that encompasses the blend of perspectives from industry, markets, customers, suppliers, employees, community, and more. While some brands do become "viral" relatively fast, most brands evolve over a significant period of time. Arguably, the brand is the only long term sustainable competitive advantage of any company. That's assuming, of course, that the company doesn't "screw it up"!

1.07

Jim Jindrick

You can send Jim Jindrick a message here: TextJim.VentureNotebook.com Jim's books are available here: Amazon.com/author/JimJindrick

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