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What's in a Name?

Tips for Business Names That Put a Smile on 
Customers' Faces - and Yours

Here's a quick checklist to help you make sure you're on the right track with a company name or product name that you're tempted to use.

  1. Is it pronounceable?  When I first saw the name "Verizon," the new name for Bell Atlantic, I could think of several ways to pronounce it and wasn't at all sure which was intended.  A huge advertising budget can overcome this disadvantage, but if you need to launch for less, stick to a name whose pronunciation is obvious.

  2. Is it spellable?  Woe betide the law firm "Brzezinski, Brzezinski & Birk."  But the coffee shop "Java-Hunters" could be equally in trouble when it comes to its web site unless it buys up both "" and ""  

  1. Is it evocative?  "Rent-a-Wreck" was such a humorously on-target name for a used-car rental company that CBS News showed up the day it opened for business.  Likewise, customers love the name "Paul Hauls" for a moving company and "Jane of All Trades" for a handywoman service.

  2. Does the sound of the name make the right impression?  "Ockahochee Oncology" sounds too harsh and goofy for a cancer treatment center, while "Bellissima Ball Joints" sounds equally wacky, pairing a feminine-sounding foreign word with a stereotypically masculine product.

  3. Is it free of disreputable associations?  A British company that named a sports shoe "Zyklon" had a PR disaster on its hands for not realizing that this was the brand name of the gas Nazis used to kill millions during World War Two.

  4. Is it appealing to the target market?  "Pothole Pictures" might sound to you like an awful name for a movie house.  But in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, it clearly conveys proximity to the locally famous glacial potholes in the river running through the village.

  5. Is it legally available for use?  You'd be surprised how many otherwise savvy business owners neglect to check whether competitors have trademarked or otherwise reserved their favorite name.  Prevent the arrival of a cease-and-desist letter after you've printed up brochures and advertised your launch by first checking availability of your favorite name.

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