Here are some of the biggest naming mistakes I’ve seen entrepreneurs make and why you should avoid them.
1. You believe your domain name has to match your business name.
Tesla doesn’t own the domain name Tesla.com. Do you think someone wanting to buy a Tesla gives up if they go there and don’t find the website? Of course not! They type “Tesla cars” into a search engine and find it in no time flat. And they don’t even notice what the domain name is, which by the way is TeslaMotors.com. If Tesla doesn’t have to have an exact match domain name, neither do you.
2. You spell your name “creatively.”
This is by far the biggest mistake entrepreneurs make when naming their company. The problem with having a name like Naymz, Takkle, Flickr, or Speesees is that you will forever have to spell it when you say it, because it isn’t spelled how people hear it. (Think about how often you have to spell your own first and last name. Why would you want to have to do this with your brand name, too?)
Plus, Siri and other voice recognition software do not understand names that are not spelled naturally. And if you and your employees have to spell your name out loud for people, you are wasting everyone’s time and apologizing for it, over and over again. Resist the temptation of getting one of these domains just because it’s available for $9.95.
3. You use an obscure domain extension to spell your name.
While it’s tempting to create a domain name using a country code such as .me for Montenegro, .it for Italy, .us for United States, and .io for Indian Ocean Territory, those names are tru.ly troubleso.me. In addition to being difficult to spell, these domain names can be hard to pronounce, especially when unaided by a visual identity. How do you pronounce Copio.us? Is it “Copio dot U-S” or “Copious?” Equally troublesome is that the human eye is trained to stop when it reads a period. So a name like Copio.us causes people to stop reading (for all the wrong reasons).
4. You business name is too niche.
You don’t want to outgrow your business name. What if Amazon had been named Bookstore.com? They would be limited to selling books.
One name that outgrew itself is Burlington Coat Factory. When they were naming their store, they didn’t think far enough into the future. When they expanded their product offering, they had to change their tagline to, “We’re more than just coats.” (They also always have to have a legal disclaimer in their ads that says, “Not affiliated with Burlington Industries.” Ouch.)
5. Your name pronunciation is not güd.
Your name should be approachable and intuitive to pronounce in your brand’s country of origin. Don’t rely on punctuation marks or letters in different colors to aid in pronunciation. Your name will not appear in color in the press or in search-engine results and people go batty trying to find accent marks and umlauts on their keyboard.
6. You invent a clunky coined name.
If you invent a new “word” for your name, be careful that it doesn’t sound unnatural. Mashing two words together or mixing up a bunch of letters to form a new word rarely appears or sounds smooth. And be cautious using trendy suffixes to make up a new word. Sprayology, Teaosophy and Perfumania are all train wrecks.
7. You try to be mysterious.
A sure-fire way to annoy people is to choose a name that’s completely random and seemingly meaningless. One I wonder about a lot is Vungle. I have no idea what this company does, and I don’t want to know. Likewise, can you guess what companies Qdoba, Magoosh, Iggli, Kiip, Zippil, or Zumper do?
Blindly following naming trends will lead to nothing but trouble down the road. But don’t just take my word for it. Ask the founders of Xobni, Svbtle, and del.icio.us.