Tips for Evocative, Distinctive Company Names

    July 29, 2005

As the sponsor of a Name-This-Company Contest ( ), I’ve been watching suggestions come in by the dozens every day.

Unfortunately, the great majority of names submitted so far do not pass “go.” A good company name is not only catchy and evocative, but also pronounceable, spellable and not likely to backfire because of unsavory associations.

Since the contest offers prize of $100 for the best business name submitted, along with the chance to become a professional “namer,” getting paid to think up new product names, new company names, tag lines and ad slogans, I would guess that the same flaws occur when company owners or managers sit down to think up a new name for their own business.

So here’s a quick quiz to sensitize you to important factors in potential company names. To which of the following names would you give a thumbs up and which a thumbs down – and why? 1. Zyklon Bikes 2. Quirinus Quarterly (political magazine) 3. The Energy Spot (web site selling healthy snacks and diet plans) 4. Elkins Enterprises (mail order company)

Answers: All the above names deserve thumbs down. Here’s why.

1. “Zyklon” sounds fast and energetic. However, it’s also the name of the gas used by Nazis to kill millions during World War Two. A British company that announced this name for running shoes earned terrible PR.

2. Quirinus was a Roman god of military and political affairs, so the meaning of this name fits. But even most Ph.D.s and history buffs would not be able to spell or pronounce the name with confidence.

3. Start the name of an ecommerce company with “the” and customers won’t easily remember whether or not “the” is part of the domain name. “The” followed by the letter “e” is even more problematic for spelling a web address. People will hesitate to type “”

4. Like “Quirinus Quarterly,” “Elkins Enterprises” has alliteration in its favor. But so many dubiously honest and struggling but honest businesses have used “Enterprises” that it sounds suspicious to many people as a business name component.

If you’re reading this before August 31, 2005, you may still enter our first name-this-company contest with as many company name candidates as you like at . The winner of the company name contest will be announced September 5, 2005. Non-winners who submit captivating names will be considered for a post as a professional namer, as will the contest winner.

After the expiration of this contest, you’ll find another contest running at , for a tag line, with a product naming contest after that and probably yet another kind of naming contest after that.

Marcia Yudkin is the author of 6 Steps to
Free Publicity and ten other books hailed for outstanding
creativity. Find out more about her new discount naming
company, Named At Last, which brainstorms new company names,
new product names, tag lines and more for cost-conscious
organizations, at