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How to name a company in 3 steps

Your organization’s name matters.

It determines consumers’ first impressions of your organization. It influences your site’s performance in search engines. It impacts the way investors evaluate your business, and much more.

So how do you pick a name that performs the way you want?  Here are the 3 key steps for how to name a company successfully.

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1. Establish a couple names your team likes.

Here are a few tips and tricks that can help your team brainstorm potential names:

  • Think broadly. What problem does your product solve for at a high level? Thinking through its general value propositions is not only a valuable exercise for identifying good company names, but it also helps you pick one that’s immune to changes in your product or product portfolio.  
  • Consider blending relevant words. This can be a good way to give people an impression of what you do, without competing for popular trademarks or domains. You often see this play out in the real world: Evernote mixes “forever” and “note”; Netflix puts “internet” and “flicks” together; and Groupon fuses “group” and “coupon.” 
  • Take a global approach. Aligning yourself with a historical or national landmark that symbolizes the value your organization offers can be just as effective as using words that are directly related to your organization. For instance, the tech giant, Amazon, named itself after the rainforest to communicate the scale of its business.  
  • Work in your founder’s name. You can get creative by combining them, shortening them, using their nickname, or adopting a mix of these tactics. Case in point: Adidas’ founder, Adolf Dassler, named the company by merging his nickname, “Adi,” with the first part of his last name, “Das.” 
  • Review your competitor’s names so you know what to avoid. If you have a name that’s similar to a rivals, it can confuse your target audience and prove difficult to trademark. You can check to see if a name is already trademarked or overlaps with a rival’s by searching it on the United States Patent and Trademark Office site

2. Test each name.

The next step on how to name a company involves testing your options on your target audience. Their feedback will help determine the ones with potential for being good company names, as well as provide ideas on improving them. 

We’ll briefly cover each step of testing your names. If you’re looking for a more comprehensive breakdown on any part, check out this resource.

1. Decide how to present your options.

You’ll have two options to choose between: a monadic survey design—when you ask for feedback on a single name—and a sequential monadic survey design—when you ask for feedback on at least 2 names. 

Each of these designs have their own pros and cons, so take your time to pick on the one that’s best for your situation. This page explores the designs in-depth and can help you decide.

2. Consider the specific metrics to measure.

The metrics can include anything from appeal (how enticing the name sounds) to relevance (how well it captures what your audience is looking for). 

Once you’ve decided on the metrics to use, you can convert them into Likert scale questions—a question format that allows you to get a nuanced understanding of respondents’ opinions or attitudes on a topic. 

For instance, if your metric is relevance, your question can look like this:

How relevant is the company name to your wants and needs?

  1. Very relevant
  2. Somewhat relevant
  3. Neither relevant nor irrelevant
  4. Somewhat irrelevant
  5. Very irrelevant

Learn more about the different metrics you can measure by reading our guide to concept testing!

 3. Pick your method for getting feedback. 

You can only pinpoint good company names once the right people have answered your questions. Here are your options for finding them and gathering their input:

  • Collect responses from a survey panel like SurveyMonkey Audience. Our platform lets you define your audience and gather feedback with a survey. This option is great when you’re looking to reach a big group of people and collect responses in a way that’s easy to organize and interpret.
A bar chart with a microscope in front.

Pro tip: Need help building your survey? Our name testing survey template can help you get started! Simply edit the questions so they ask about your organization’s name instead of your product’s. 

  • Run focus groups or conduct individual interviews with people who fit your target audience criteria. Though this option is more expensive and time consuming, you may be able to gather more in-depth answers and ask more questions.

4. Review your results to land on a company name.

If you’ve run a survey, you can use word clouds from open-ended questions (those that ask for feedback in the respondents’ own words) to pinpoint common themes for each name. And you can build charts from closed-ended questions (those that include answer options) to better interpret your quantitative results. Once you’ve analyzed both types of data, you’ll have a clear idea of what the best name is. 

Pro tip: Take a closer look at your data by applying filters and compare rules. They allow you to look at particular groups of respondents so you can better understand and address them.

For interviews and focus groups, the process of reviewing your conversations may not be as simple. It will mostly involve looking back at your notes and comparing them with others who also ran interviews or focus groups. Ultimately, the decision will be more opinion-based than quantitatively-driven.

To recap the steps:

Each of the key steps for naming a company.

3. Trademark your name.

Once you have the winning name, you’re ready to make it your own by trademarking it.  

You do this by submitting an application to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). You’ll then either receive approval or get a letter that explains the issues you’d need to resolve by a certain date. Once approved, it’ll be published in the Official Gazette, which gives others a final chance to make their case against it before it’s officially trademarked.  

Now that you know how to pick a company name, you’ll be able to choose one that your target consumers, colleagues, and investors will like.

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