Shakespeare’s Juliet once famously declared the name a merely artificial and futile convention, when professing her love for Romeo. But in the tangible world, exactly how much does it count for?
Alongside the quality of the product and service that you provide, I’d say a hell of a lot.
Across history, prominent and influential people have altered their names, recognising a need to become more profitable. The case of celebrity might be the first example that springs to mind. Would Freddie Mercury have reached such dizzying heights of fame had he been known as Farrokh Bulsara? Would Elton John be as instantly recognisable using his birth name Reginald Kenneth Dwight?
But it is not only those in the entertainment industry who realise the buying and selling power of a name. Apple revolutionised the tech brand-naming process, in the 1970s, by choosing something totally unconventional. Ever since, we have seen many businesses, across the board, follow suit with their alternative name choices.
Today, start-ups, in particular, seem to follow the ever-popular trend of using exceedingly quirky names – dropping vowels and inventing words. Platforms such as Twitter and Google have led the way in this trend for some time now, with great success. But let’s not forget that it is far from without its failures. So many start-ups seem to focus on the moneymaking and spending side of things – assuming, or rather hoping that the name will work itself out … eventually.
The year 2013 has seen the introduction of more start-ups than ever before. According to the Telegraph newspaper, more than 90,000 new businesses were created in the first half of the year. The UK alone, with creative hub London leading the way, had the highest growth percentage. By the time the year is out, that number is set to reach around 500,000, according to the Financial Times. On a global scale, American research consultant Moya Mason estimated last year that around 137,000 start-ups were born each day.
Evidently, we are a world of intelligent innovators and change agents. So why have so many new businesses created names that simply don’t reflect those qualities? It’s important to be creative and unique when naming your business, but taking the bid to be different too far risks misrepresenting what the company is all about. Naming trends in the start-up world often seem to be predicated on a particular success story, such as the ‘-ify’ suffix propagated by Spotify. The start-up business is much less likely to have the added advantage of sophisticated marketing to aid its promotion, so this is where a choice of name can make a monumental difference.
It’s more probable that the consumer of today will register a brief, simply spelt brand than a title that is basically a long-winded description of what your company does. There are certainly benefits to keeping it short and sweet. The highly successful app-based black taxi ordering service, Hailo Cab, for example, is quite obviously an homage to the action of “hailing” a taxi. Mind Candy, online gaming and entertainment business, also succinctly encapsulates exactly what it is with its name.
Still, making up words and creating your own spellings might seem like a good idea now and can, sometimes, work well – but are you still going to be proud of those choices in 10 years’ time? One need only look at all the companies that place a lowercase ‘i’ or ‘e’ before their names during the dot-com boom. How many of those survived or retained their names? Not many. The moral of the story is: Don’t unwittingly set your brand an expiration date before you’ve even begun.
If you are lucky enough to already own a globally recognised, well-branded business, congratulations! But if you’re an entrepreneur just starting out, choose wisely.
Georgiana Foster works in Business Development at gyro London.
Follow her @GiorgianaFoster