Your business name is what your customers, suppliers, and other people will associate with your brand. Some people only use their names, while others prefer something catchy that makes themselves more memorable in the minds of others.
When starting a new business, it’s crucial that you put a lot of thought and consideration into your new brand. Get it right, and your name will be instantly recognizable. However, if you get it wrong, you’ll find it hard to start again with a new name. Especially if your brand is tarnished because of an oversight on your part!
One of the most important things you need to do when considering a business name is to check that no-one else is using it in some way. For example, if your surname is McDonald and you wish to use it as part of your new restaurant brand, you’ll have some intellectual property issues with a similarly-named and well-known established business.
Once you’ve shortlisted a few potential names, ask yourself the following questions to ensure the name you consider for your business is right, unique, and won’t cause you any legal or financial headaches:
Has someone else already registered your potential new business name?
Let’s say that you wish to start a business as a self-employed person and become incorporated at a later date. Is there anyone out there already using your brand? As with most online queries, it makes sense to do some research on Google and other search engines. You can also search at sites such as the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission).
If you’re planning on trading in other countries, you may wish to set up local offices in them. To do that, you’ll need to register your business name at those locations too. So, to do that, you’ll need to first check that your brand name is not already taken by another company there.
Is the name someone’s intellectual property?
When you start a new business, you don’t want to step on anyone’s toes because you have the same name as their company! So, how can you ensure that the name you choose hasn’t already been taken by someone else?
The first thing you should do is check if it is someone else’s intellectual property. To do that, you need to determine if the name is a registered trademark. In case you didn’t know, a trademark helps people protect the names of their brands, products, and services.
It’s important to check if your brand is used both on a domestic level and abroad. Why is the latter important, you may ask? Well, if you wish to expand your brand to cover international markets, you want to ensure no-one else has beaten you to it!
The good news is that it’s quite straightforward to check trademarks. You can search online for free from a variety of official sources in almost all countries. You can also hire a research agent to check local sources where a searchable online list is not available.
What does your business name mean?
One of the considerations people make when starting a new business is to think of what their brand name means. Some startups may use their personal name as part of their brand. But, for those that don’t, could their potential brand name mean something else in another language?
Here’s a sample of some brand names and how they can mean or sound like different things in other languages:
- Zhiguli – Russian domestic car brand. Sold as “Lada” in other nations as “Zhiguli” sounds like “gigolo” when pronounced;
- Blédina – a French infant food brand owned by Danone. “Blé” means “wheat” in French, but sounds similar to a vulgar Russian insult to women;
- Barf – an Iranian brand of washing machine powder, the word “barf” is Persian for snow but is English slang for “vomit”;
- Bing – Microsoft’s search engine sounds like the word for “disease” in Chinese;
- Hulu – the popular streaming video on demand service also means “cease and desist” in Swahili, a language spoken in several African countries.
As you can see, a business brand name could have an entirely different meaning in other languages! You can use a translating tool like Google Translate to see what your proposed name might mean in languages other than English.
Don’t forget that there are even some different meanings within variations of the English language! For instance, a “butt” in British English means a rainwater tank or a wine cask size, and in American English, it can colloquially refer to someone’s behind!
What do people search for in your niche?
Once you’ve established your brand, the chances are high that most people will find out about your business just by searching for what you sell. After all; your startup brand won’t be internationally recognizable at first like some established brands are today!
When thinking of a name for your new business, take the time to learn more about the things people search for in your niche. For instance, if you are going to manufacture cell phones, you might find that people search more for terms like “mobile phones” or “smartphones” instead of “cell phones.”
Depending on your proposed business name, you might find that your keyword searches highlight mistakes in your name. So, using the previous example, you may wish to call your brand “Acme Mobile Phones” rather than “Acme Cell Phones.”
In a sense, the above also ties in with the previous section on business name meanings in other countries. “Cell phone” is a term used in the Americas, whereas “mobile phone” is a more common term in other parts of the world including Europe.
How does your business name sound when you say it?
Last, but not least, a proposed name for your new enterprise might look good on paper. But, could it be hard to pronounce verbally? And if people with certain accents say the name, does it still sound the name or could it sound similar to another business name?
By taking the above points into account, you can ensure that you’ll have a unique, relevant, and memorable business name.