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business models, strategies and technologies

Rethinking the black magic of new company names

From descriptive and inspirational to bland and nonsensical, company names can be glorious opportunities or risk-laden pitfalls.

In the world of digitally focused business, there’s been a tsunami of new company names that’d have been inconceivable twenty years ago. Made-up names, weirdo words and alphabet soups, all in service of the need to register a URL not already shanghaied by either potential competitors or the early-mover Internet property sharks that registered pretty much every conceivable combination of nouns that a computer could cook up.

Art of the available?

I myself have been professionally involved in numerous such name-seeking projects. And they always seem somehow soul-destroying. You’re sitting with a founder’s dreams and a company’s future at your fingertips, all the while gruesomely cognisant that the prime constraint lies in what’s available – not what’s good, powerful or “just right for you”. And there’s also a lurking awareness that quirky, fashion-of-the-month names picked in a company’s mewling infancy can often turn into either conceptual and practical millstones round the brand neck later on.

In recent-generation digitally based companies, you’re often looking for a name for an intangible, piece-of-a-jigsaw process or service that no one has ever seen or used, and where there are no established vocabularies or familiar identifiers.

Unless you start using computer wizardry to mix’n’match words, it’s also a weird exercise in trusting to chance, and it’s disconcerting that “name generator” websites out there seem to be doing it just as well – if not better.

Sting in the tail

There can also be a nasty sting in the tail. If the name (or trademark) you opt for turns out to be too close to another, or in any way infringes the intellectual property of some payout-seeking soul, you might well end up facing bothersome, time-consuming wrangling or even expensive litigation that could squash your infant enterprise.

And simply owning the URL doesn’t mean you are safe – far from it.  There are lots of interweaving issues with trademarks and usage, which is why most companies are pushed into a difficult choice between:

  1. Paying big money for expensive law firms or branding agencies to carry out the “search and suggest” process for you
  2. Trawling through countless national agencies (such as the USPTO site in the US) on your own – and still only getting partial answers. There’s a recent EU-sponsored database (apparently far from easy to use) and there’s Google, but no obvious trans-national capabilities.
  3. Taking the time-consuming, manpower-draining route of finding a new name and developing a new trade mark yourself – and taking the Russian-roulette risk that no one will ever notice, check or feel threatened or vengeful
  • Way back in the mists of time, checking this kind of thing pre-launch was perhaps a doable, mainly national endeavour – but globalisation and the Internet have kiboshed all that.

Help for a big decision

As so often, the Internet can be the source of the problem but also provide an opportunity to provide an apparently glorious solution. Naming Matters™ is a US startup currently (May 2017) in beta that seems to provide a much more effective take on the convoluted but critical company naming process, by applying a combination of linguistic analysis, trademark searching and domain name acquisition, delivered as a self-service web-based package that also deftly folds in both search and data visualisation.

From www.namingmatters.com

The Naming Matters service seems carefully tailored for startups, and their know-how is apparently derived from the big-money Master-McNeil corporate naming and branding firm, founded in 1989 and claiming to be “thought leaders in naming”.  For companies that can’t afford the big bucks to get others to do it for them, Naming Matters seems to be a great way to move beyond slow, antiquated name searching and dartboard serendipity in naming decisions. The company puts out its own shingle with singular clarity, in an exemplary what’s-not-to-like statement.

We combine algorithms, natural language processing, phonetic similarity, and advanced search techniques to rate, rank, and visualize names that are the same or similar to yours — which could prevent you from building the brand you want.

The current limitation with Naming Matters is (apparently) that it’s only based on US data – which not so useful for the rest of us. But it provides an enticing example of new capabilities and a new perspective for the whole “company naming” business model.

External info
https://www.namingmatters.com/ http://www.naming.com/index.html