How to choose a good company name

27 Nov 2011

Facebook - one example of a good company name

When it comes to starting a business, its name is probably the most important starting point in any marketing strategy, says Company Formations International Ltd (CFI) managing director Séan Kavanagh.

Get a company name right, Kavanagh points out, and you have a good start in promoting a business and attracting customers.

Kavanagh urges entrepreneurs to keep certain points in mind when it comes to naming a new company:

1. Your company name should be descriptive. Ideally, the name should describe what the company does.

2. It should be as short as possible. It should have two or three syllables (or even one), so it will work on the phone or internet, even if people have never heard or seen it before.

3. It should be easy to pronounce. If people need to be told how to spell it once, that is OK (and this may even help with recall), but if they have to be told a second time, that is not good.

4. Test your new company name with friends and family. Obtain feedback from loved ones on what they think of the company name.

5. Apply good alliteration. If you do have to use a long name, try and create it with good alliteration. One of the world’s most famous brands – Coca-Cola – runs to four syllables, but it’s memorable because it rolls off the tongue.

6. Avoid abbreviations. OK, there’s IBM, HSBC and NBC, but these companies have spent a lot of years and a lot of money in developing their brands. Also, avoid long names that can unintentionally be reduced to just initials, eg, Ace Clerical Recruitment becomes ‘ACR’ and loses its meaning.

7. Try not to be too parochial. Most start-up businesses initially operate in local markets. This is fine if you are marketing to customers that are nearby and chances are they already know you. But giving your company name a geographical element can be limiting when you expand beyond your locality. For example, ‘Ennis Roofing Company Limited’ is less likely to attract customers from outside Ennis, even though it may provide a nationwide service.

8. Try not to be too grandiose. On the other hand, a name such as ‘Premium Worldwide International Widget Company Limited’ may invite scepticism, especially if the registered office is in a back-lane garage.

9. Choose a name that will not ‘age’. A company name can become ‘dated’ if it is connected to a particular technology, eg, ‘Telex Consultants’ or a phrase of the moment, such as ‘Dial-Up Internet’, which can quickly be seen as passé.

10. Should you use your own name? Where an individual is well known within an industry or a community, and the service being provided is inextricably linked to that person, there may be a good argument for using his or her name in the company title. But keep in mind that if you use a personal name you risk your company being viewed as a ‘one-man band’.

11. Make sure your company name is web friendly and will easily translate into a domain name.

12. In Ireland, check with the Companies Registration Office (CRO) that the name you choose is available. Do this before you make your final decision about your company name. The CRO may have to refuse a name, if it believes it’s offensive, identical or similar, phonetically or otherwise, to a name that already appears on the register of companies, and it would suggest state sponsorship, eg, National Coal Company Limited.

Certain words or phrases such as ‘bank’ or ‘university’ will require permission from relevant bodies, such as the Central Bank or the Department of Education.

Company names can always be checked on the official CRO website .

Finally, it is also wise to check the name against trademarks, which can also be done online.