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Choosing your Company Name

Choosing your company name is crucial when registering your company. It will help to portray an image to your customers, is essential for branding and needs to be as flexible as your business potentially will be. Below you can read about a history of company names, and tips to help you choose the right name for your company.

History of company names

Naming a company used to be so simple. Financial firms, department stores and publishers featured the names of their founders - Ernst & Young, Bloomingdale's, McGraw-Hill, Goldman Sachs, J C Penney, F W Woolworth's etc.

Companies that manufactured products took the words that best described their business: International Business Machines, National Cash Register, General Electric, Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing.

Some industries had both: General Foods, General Mills, Kellogg's, Kraft, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler.

The internet and its impact, both in the proliferation of new companies as well as the expansion of information and global awareness, have contributed to an explosion of names that frequently sound unrelated to a company's business and often use manufactured words, for example, Yahoo!, Proxicom, Avaya, Priceline, Oxygen.

The internet has helped to cause a boom in the volume of companies

While the internet is not the only contributor to this trend, it has had a huge influence. The internet's lack of boundaries and wealth of information has made users comfortable exploring places and topics they were never aware of before. As a result, acceptance of words from other cultures and the exposure to the unknown and the unusual have made people less judgmental regarding new company names.

Meaningful Words

While this trend has accelerated recently, it is not new. In 1888, George Eastman created the word Kodak because he simply liked the letter 'K'. "It seems a strong incisive sort of letter," he once said. "It became a question of trying out a great number of combinations of letters that made words that started and ended in 'K'.

Then there's Xerox, they chose a name based on the word xerography. And xerography? While it's a derivative of the Greek words for "dry" and "writing," the word was coined by an Ohio State classical language professor to describe what was then called electro photography, now known as photocopying.

Growing trend in unusual company names

In recent years, the growing trend toward unusual names is a result of buyers being much more receptive to new words, says Lexicon Branding, whose creations include Intel's Pentium, Apple's Powerbook and Procter & Gamble's Swiffer. 'Twenty years ago nobody would have looked at a magazine called "Wallpaper" unless they were interested in wallpaper, now consumers will stop and look because names signal an edge.'

Strategic naming of your company

Company naming has become much more strategic, names give companies a competitive advantage that cannot be taken away - A company name should be the foundation of marketing efforts.

The recent spate of new company names seems to reflect this approach. Accenture, Andersen Consulting's spin-off, claims that their new word puts an accent on the future. According to the company, Accenture is a youthful and dynamic expression of the firm's new marketplace. Aperian, formerly Micromedia Solutions Inc. derived its new name from the Latin word "aperi," meaning a passage inside, an opening or portal. Avolent, based on the French verb "to fly or soar," changed its name from Just In Time Solutions to symbolize the company's higher aspirations to provide enabling technology. Cingular, the joint venture between the wireless units of SBC Communications and BellSouth, says their new name shows the importance of the individual customer as well as the unity of this joint venture.

Company Names with drawbacks

The internet has also resulted in a trend toward generic names, such as Garden.com, Furniture.com, and Pets.com. However, these names, while simple and easy to remember, have huge drawbacks. It is tempting to use a common name - but no one can own that space. The more competition there is, the more having a generic name, with no personality attached to it, will eventually hurt you. A brand is only a brand when people have expectations and beliefs about it, this is built over time, through advertising, use, and word of mouth.

With a common name, prospective customers cannot differentiate between a website name and the category name. Consumers are unable to associate a specific attribute with a generic name because the name stands for the entire category, not just a particular site.

Identifying a Winner

With so much to consider, developing a new name really is an art. Therefore use science and linguistics to help, you have to look at the competition and the marketplace. Brainstorming, using morphemes (the smallest, semantic element of a word), and market research all contribute to the process.

As for the future, one area that is interesting is researching is three word solutions and how they affect the success of a name. In future years, I think we're going to question the validity of short names really being better than long ones, right now, most clients want no more than seven letters.

In the long run, however, whether it's a short word, long word, two words, or six, the values and personality that people ascribe to that name will ultimately dictate which companies in this slew of new businesses take their place next to Microsoft, Coca-Cola, and McDonald's.

Internationally acceptable names

Be careful if your business is selling overseas since your business name may not go down so well in translation if you’re not careful!

A strong company name should be:

  • Simple. All those who will potentially interact with your business should understand the name, it should be one concept that is easy to understand.
  • Meaningful. Make sure your name is easy to understand the meaning you are trying to convey through the company name.
  • Able to invoke a mental image of what you are trying to get across.
  • Carrying the brand of your business.
  • Emotional. It should empower, entertain, engage and enlighten.

Your company name should not:

  • Be hard to spell. You should not have to tell customers how to spell your name. This is especially true when conducting business internationally.
  • Similar to competitors names. A similar name will only tarnish the image of your company.
  • Disconnected from your company's brand
  • Irritating to customers and clients. It shouldn't have a hidden meaning or feel forced.
  • Be boring, uninspiring and without emotion
  • Based too much on 'inside knowledge'. Everyone should be able to understand the concept of your name.
  • Be hard to pronounce. You should not have to spell out your company's name, or indeed say it out loud for someone to be able to understand it.

Company Name restrictions

When registering a limited company, there are restrictions on the kinds of names that you can use and there are certain guidelines that need to be followed when selecting your company name. You can’t pick just any name for your company – there are rules to follow.

  • In many countries the name must end with ‘Limited’, ‘Unlimited’, ‘Public Limited Company’ or their abbreviations.
  • Your company name could also be rejected if it’s the same as another company’s name
  • or if it’s offensive
  • some names need approval from the Secretary of State before they can be registered, e.g. if you would like to include words like England and English in the name

For certain industries, such as banking, there are further limitations. You may also consider doing some trademark research in case your proposed company name has already been registered as a trademark.

Let your name be as flexible as your business

It is important to think about the future when selecting your company name. business at the moment may be concerned with, for example, software selling. Say you wanted to expand your product range in the future, if your name does not allow this then you may have a problem with moving your business forward. Sure you could set up another company, but in doing so you would lose all the branding and reputation you have built up with your original company. Make sure your company name can adapt with you business.

Make your company name relevant (and therefore meaningful)

The name of your company can have a great impact depending on the nature of your business. certain types of name suit certain industries better. If you are providing someone with a professional service, they would probably expect a traditional sounding company name to instill confidence in traditional values and principals expected with that service. But if your company is at the cutting edge of technology, customers would expect a forward thinking, imaginative name to represent your creativity and modern edge.

Decide what kind of name you want (using a drugs company as an example):

  • Descriptive name - describes what your company does - The Low Cost Drugs Co Ltd
  • Invented name - Hermay Drugs Ltd
  • Experiential name - usually highlights a benefit - Smart Choice Drugs Ltd
  • Evocative name - often a nonsense name that doesn't tell anything about the business but it can be very powerful - Vanilla Drugs Ltd

Choosing a name for your company should be a creative and enjoyable process. It is also one that you need to get right. Customers will deduce a lot from your company name and first impressions count.

This guide shows you how to create the right impression, you need to consider whether your company name will also be your brand and how it relates to your website. We also outlines the specific rules that you must follow when choosing a company name for a limited company.

To test out a company’s name, first ask if it possesses these qualities:

Simple – one easy-to-understand concept Meaningful –- customer instantly “get it”

Imagery – visually evocative, creates a mental picture Legs – carries the brand, lends itself to wordplay Emotional –  empowers, entertains, engages, enlightens

Then scratch the name if it’s got these deal-breakers:

Spelling-challenged - you have to tell people how to spell it Copycat – similar to competitor’s names Random – disconnected from the brand Annoying – hidden meaning, forced Tame – flat, uninspired, boring, non emotional Curse of knowledge – only insiders get it Hard-to-pronounce – not obvious, relies on punctuation

Using personal names

Naming your business after yourself is relatively easy to do. Some say it adds credibility to your business. It could be your full name, first name or surname. Using all or some of your initials is also fairly common. The business may be a partnership of two or more people, which provides more possibilities. Examples of companies named after people:

  • LL Bean

  • McDonalds

  • RM Williams

As with brandable company names, a problem with using a person's name is that it is not immediately apparent what products and services your company offers.

Descriptive company names

Generic, descriptive names make it easy for potential customers to work out what product or service your business provides.

Examples of descriptive company names:

  • International Business Machines (IBM)

  • British Airways

  • Kentucky Fried Chicken (now KFC)

Descriptive names run a slight risk of not being able to 'stand out from the crowd', although the examples above didn't seem to have any trouble in making their mark!

Summary

Be careful using a specific location in your business name. If you move across town or across the country your name may become a problem. The same applies to the products or services you provide - there is a chance these may change in the future, so try not to be too specific what you include in your business name.

Change of Company Name in the UK

If you wish to change the name of your company we can supply a special resolution for the Directors to sign and submit all the relevant paperwork to Companies House.

The change of name takes approximately 3 days to complete once we have received the signed resolution, after which we will send you the Change of Name Certificate.

The company must pass a special resolution in a general meeting, or all the members must sign a written resolution that the name of the company be changed to the new name. A special resolution is a resolution passed at a general meeting of the company by 75% of those members entitled to vote.

Companies House will then process the resolution and issue a Certificate of Incorporation on Change of Name. The name of the company is not changed until the new certificate is issued.

How do I change my company’s name?

  • Your company must pass a special resolution at a general meeting; or
  • All the members must sign a written resolution that the name of the company be changed to the new name.
  • A signed copy of the resolution(s) should then be sent to Companies House.

A copy of the amended memorandum and articles must also be sent in at the same time as the change of name resolution(s).

What is a special resolution?

A special resolution is a resolution passed at a general meeting of the company by 75% of those members entitled to vote.

What is a written resolution?

A written resolution is a resolution unanimously passed by the members of the company. All the members should sign and date the documents.