Briefings > Things to consider in choosing a name

Your identity

A name gives you an identity and is how you want to be remembered to differentiate you from others in your market. If you are a new business, the process of choosing a name is an important step and an important investment. Her are some things to consider:

Is your name for your company or for a product or service? Are the corresponding domain names free? If so, snap them up once you have been through the exercise below.

Get some help

Choose a name, with the help of those with marketing expertise, that will help your company or product stand out and convey the message you want. Choosing a descriptive name, for example ‘Computer specialists’ if you are an IT company, is not going to help you get ahead in the market as anyone else can do the same and the name is not inherently distinctive. Accepted wisdom in the past has been that invented names, e.g. KODAK and PEPSI, are the best (at least in terms of trade mark registrability). However, dictionary words such as APPLE or ORANGE, which are now famous brands, can also make excellent trade names (if they are not for fruit!) if someone else hasn’t already claimed them for anything similar to your goods or services. Incidentally, if the mark is famous, the best policy is to keep well away from it even if you think that your goods and services are quite dissimilar.

Brand extension in other countries

Think in terms of the extension of your market - which countries would you like to operate in? What connotations would your name have in other languages? In Spain or Latin America a car called NOVA (General Motors’ Chevy Nova) would give the idea of “it doesn’t work” since ‘No va’ means ‘it doesn’t go’. One can learn from past faux pas of major corporations in their PR campaigns in order to be cautious about linguistic nuances when dealing with other cultures. In Taiwan Pepsi’s advertising slogan ‘Come alive with the Pepsi generation’ was translated as ‘Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead.’ Rolls Royce’s SILVER MIST car in German became ‘Silver Animal Droppings’ car. Schweppes Tonic Water was conveyed as Schweppes Toilet Water in Italy. All because of not getting in local expertise. Of course, it can work the other way around. The Scandinavian Electrolux company had to be told that ‘Nothing sucks like an Electrolux’ wasn’t necessarily the best slogan in English if you are trying to sell vacuum cleaners!

Think of your logo too. Successful companies always have a visual as well as oral message. Remember to get your designer to assign or transfer their copyright in the design when you pay them so that you are free to protect the artwork component of your trade mark logo.

And finally, remember that just because you have a companies house registration, this doesn’t necessarily mean that your name is either free to use or is protectable as a trade mark. If someone has the same or similar name as a registered trade mark with effect in the UK, you could be infringing their rights if your area of commercial activity is anything like theirs. The law around company names and the law on trade marks are quite different.

Once you have a list of possible names and/or logos, it’s time to look at the risks and do an availability search.