Naming is a complicated task. It seems like there are endless options, and you just can't decide between all of them. Yet you still have the feeling, that most names you come up with, just aren't catchy enough yet. To help you find a path through the fog we've written a little guidance on different types of names. Knowing what type of company name works for you, will help you massively by limiting the possible names and therefore being able to focus on the right options.
Descriptive names are pretty straight forward. Did you build software that times social media posting? You could go with Timed-Social or Postimer. It's to the point and when done correctly can be of great help to communicate your companies service quickly. But it can be a weakness as well. Especially if you want to expand beyond the industry you started out in. When forced to change the name for new products or services, you’ll have to face the struggle and rebrand everything. That's why it is only a great type of name for dedicated niche businesses.
Examples: American Airlines, Home Depot, Cartoon Network, Toys R Us, General Motors
Brandable names or invented names
Brandable names and invented names are often mixed up, but they don't have to be the same. While every invented name should be brandable, brandable names don't have to be invented. Take Apple, for example, one of the best known English words which can help make it brandable. There are two main reasons why many people prefer invented names. Firstly: you can cross out pre-existing associations. Secondly and most important: the availability is higher, giving a lot of founders the possibility to find beautiful-sounding names.
An advantage that they both share is their flexibility in adding new products or expanding beyond your original industry. When Uber got into the business of food delivery they just called it Uber Eats. Yeah, it's lazy but that doesn't make it less great. It works and carries on their previously found trust and reliability.
Examples: Google, Apple, Uber, Lyft, Kodak, Adidas
Metaphorical company names have an interesting touch. Once you understand the connection between the metaphor and the company they can be a great memory hook. While it is great if you find a suitable name, getting there is quite hard. First, you have to find a meaningful metaphor that's both witty but also easy to understand. To ensure being brandable you have to limit the options further. Now you have to exclude hard to spell and difficult to remember names. While it can be impressive and also add character it is without a doubt a hard task to tackle.
Examples: Amazon (biggest river - "reaching everywhere"), Nike (Greek winged goddess of victory), Patagonia (Native tribe that were assumed to be giants), Oracle (An "all-knowing" entity), Pandora (created by greek gods to be of astonishing beauty and talent)
Acronymic names have the strength of seeming very established. But why is that? A lot of those companies previously had descriptive names that were shortened in a rebrand. That's why those names often give off the established feeling. While seeming established can come in as an advantage, most of the times it also comes along with seeming rather old fashioned. Established Companies come with big inefficient structures often not allowing them to follow trends. If you want to seem modern avoid acronymic names.
Did you know: One of the reasons many companies had to rebrand to an acronymic name is because they entered new business segments. Which often would have left their old name to seem misplaced. IBM is way more than the "International Business Machines" they've started out as. And BMW's audience grew far beyond their origin Bavaria which they had included in their name "Bayerische Motoren Werke" (Bavarian Motor Factories).
Examples: AMD, AT & T, BMW, GE, IBM, NASA, WHO, WWE
Numerical names can be very helpful when you want to include information into your name, that's more easily represented by numbers. 7eleven is probably the best examples, referring to their initial opening times from 7:00 until 23:00. Other numbers that are often used are 24 - communicating opening hours around the clock, sometimes used with the variant 24/7. 360 - talking about an all-around solution (f.e. analytics 360). 365 - referring to all days of the year. Sadly they are also often used by somewhat sketchy services. If you want to build a business with a numerical name, make extra sure to present yourself professionally.
Examples: Forever21, 7/11, Five Guys, 21st Century Fox
Double Trouble / Compound Names
Double Trouble or Compound Names are often very similar to descriptive names who often follow the double trouble practice. Yet they don't have to be. They often also include suggestive terms (f.e. WeWork), witty jokes (f.e. PayPal) or terms addressing emotions (f.e. Shurgard). Some good practices when going for double trouble is to work with alliterations like PayPal, DoorDash, WeWork, TikTok... Alliterations help people remembering your company name easily.
Examples: DoorDash, SurveyMonkey, WeWork, Facebook, Fed-Ex, PayPal
Origin or Founder names
Origin or founder names refer back to their founder or place of origin. While acronymic names can seem a little old fashioned origin/founder names nearly almost do. Naming your company after yourself can seem a little egocentric and that's why it rarely is a good call. In most industries it just earns mockery but for certain segments, it can clearly work. Fashion is, perhaps, an industry that is a little narcissistic, which might be why its founder names are so fitting. Ask yourself this question: Is your person of significant importance for your brand? If not - avoid it. If your name is of high value for the brand you can consider it.
Examples: Air Jordan, Armani, Burberry, Ford, Guinness, Kraft Foods, Porsche
You've picked a category but still have several options?
That's a great basis. Knowing what direction you're headed in is a step in the right direction. When deciding on one of many options there are many steps that can you help cross out some and prioritize others. Factors names should be easily spellable, catchy and memorable, obviously not trademark protected etc. To get in-depth with deciding on a final company name read our article on finding the perfect name that helps to avoid blunders.
Hope you could figure out which category works best to name your company. 👍