the 19 steps on this page to create a
company name or tag line that sparkles
An imaginative, memorable business name often proves valuable in all sorts of ways. The day a company called Bundy Very Used Cars changed its name to Rent-a-Wreck, CBS arrived to feature it. The tag line, a saying which accompanies the business name on cards, stationery, ads and even invoices, can have equal impact. Which bank would get your business, A or B?
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Creative think tanks and branding consultants charge
tens of thousands of dollars to invent identities for businesses.
If you're on a budget, you can concoct candidates for stardom by following these 19 steps.
Step 1. Brainstorm a list of keywords related to your business. The more words, the better
- verbs, nouns and adjectives. For instance, keywords for a fence company would include fence, boundary, perimeter, surround, keep in, keep out, bounds, picket, enclose, yard.
This list gets used with several of the later steps, so continue adding words until you feel completely stuck.
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Step 2. To lengthen your list of keywords further, look up all the keywords in a thesaurus, or synonym finder, and add other words you see that relate to your business. Useful book-length thesauruses in print include:
J.I. Rodale, The Synonym Finder
Roget's Super Thesaurus
Roget's (other editions)
When I look up the keywords I started with for the fence company, I can add lots more to my collection: limits, border, verge, hem, frontier, edge, pen, coop, wall, corral, pound, hutch, rampart, moat, ring, and more.
Even 75 to 100 words at this point are not too many. Consider writing them all out on jumbo poster paper in colored markers or crayons.
Step 3. Try combining words on your list. Sometimes this alone sparks a winner: Frontier Fence; Boundary Keepers. When any idea feels promising but not quite right, be sure to write it down.
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Step 4. Consider whether any of the words on your list have a
- another word that sounds the same but is spelled differently. If so, add the
homophone to your list. For example, one keyword for a human resource company is "hire," which sounds the same as "higher."
Step 5. Look back through your list of keywords, and see if any suggest common sayings, mottoes or clichés. For instance, a custom tailoring shop would spot the word "stitch" and jot down A Stitch in Time, In Stitches and Stitched Together. For now, don't judge or filter what comes up; write down all the possibilities.
Step 6. Now write down words that represent the benefits and results your clients and customers receive from your product or service. A financial software manufacturer might cite these: speed, convenience, accuracy. For a public relations firm, the results would include: fame, reputation, increased sales, credibility, shorter sales cycles. Repeat Steps 3, 4 and 5 for these words. If at any point, you feel you've come up with a perfect prospect, skip down to Part Two to complete the business name and tag line generation process.
Step 7. Next, ask yourself what qualities characterize your clientele. A yacht chartering concern might reply: exclusive, busy, demanding, tasteful, famous, private, wealthy, multilingual, cosmopolitan. Here the fence company might add either "home" or "industrial" to its list. Look for combinations of these new terms with the old ones.
Step 8. Add your own name, if you're the business owner, to the brew. Does it suggest a homonym or pun? Publishing guru Dan Poynter calls his newsletter Publishing
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Step 9. Since we assume you wish to be best of your kind, consider words that imply mastery, excellence, superiority, biggest, best.
Also, think of what the best or top ones of different sorts are called, such as king, big fish, pinnacle, mogul, goddess, roof, etc. Do these words, in combination with previous ones, have sparkle, as in Queen of Clean?
Step 10. Now brainstorm what your customers and clients are trying to avoid or get rid of when they buy from you. For an embezzlement detection and prevention firm, it's theft, cheating, cons, loss: Loss Busters. For a house cleaning service that straightens up as well as cleans, it's chaos: We tame the chaos.
Step 11. What wishes, no matter how far-fetched, do clients often voice? Write these down and play around with them. For example, a word processing service might call itself Done Yesterday. A used auto parts shop claiming to be the biggest in the area could use this tag line: Everything but the kitchen sink.
Step 12. Go back through your collection of keywords and find or create alliteration - combinations of words beginning with the same letter or same initial sound. Unless the effect is silly, which sometimes happens, alliteration gives your business panache and makes it more memorable.
For instance, Frontier Fence works better as a business name than Borderline Fence. Similarly, the tag line for Amazon Drygoods, an Iowa company that sells Victorian-era clothing and patterns, gives it an authoritative ring: Purveyers of the Past.
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Step 13. Similarly, try out rhymes and near-rhymes for your keywords. After looking for rhymes, a tourism TV channel might select as its tag line The Vacation Station.
Step 14. Reach for a paradox, a combination of two ideas that nearly contradict each other, but not quite. Construct a paradox by linking two concepts that could be considered opposites. For instance, an Italian pastry shop could boast of "the most heavenly cannolis on earth." Look back through words and phrases you've previously jotted down and ponder their contraries.
Step 15. Sometimes an evocative business name or tag line uses figures from ancient mythology. A
web site known for breaking stories that conventional news media won't touch might style itself: Newspapers' Nemesis. Or, for a moving company: The Hercules Crew with the Touch You Can Trust.
Step 16. Once you have one or more candidates you like, subject them to a few criteria for success.
Is it pronounceable and spellable? If former national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski formed a consulting company, he'd be better off calling it Washington Defense Partners than The Brzezinski Group. No one wants to stumble over or be unable to spell the name of companies with which they do business.
Is it concise? When management consultant Harvy Simkovits shortened his tag line from "Helping Independent
Business Build Capable Managers & Sound Management Practices for Growth, Sustainability & Prosperity" to "Building Business Growth, Prosperity and Continuity," it gained effectiveness.
Is it distinctive? The following aren't: The Quality Professionals; Fine Dining; Products for Daily Life.
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Does it communicate your message? Something that sounds catchy but doesn't fit what you do or sell won't serve you well.
Will it sound pleasant to the ear?
Repeated sounds generally add to the appeal of a name, but you also want to make sure your new name is not easily confused with similar words that have nasty connotations.
Is it something you can stand behind? If you tell customers you offer Clog-free
Gutters - Guaranteed, you had better be able to deliver them.
Step 17. Try it out. Before committing yourself to your top choice, get feedback from at least half a dozen people who'll be hearing or seeing it for the first time. You may discover one of two things: They just don't get it, or you don't feel 100 percent comfortable with it yourself.
For instance, you may be surprised to learn that most people in your target market don't quite know what the word "nemesis" means. In that case, don't use it. Or you may get a very positive reaction but find yourself shy or embarrassed about saying your new name.
If after a few weeks you still can't get used to it, hunt for an alternative. I've seen people invent a business identity that they can't bring themselves to spread wholeheartedly
- and their whole investment goes to waste.
Step 18. Check for legal problems. One woman wanted to call herself the "Martha Stewart of the dog world," but her lawyer warned her it would mean trouble. Similarly, using the prefix "Mc" for your business (McCoffee, McCleaner) will almost certainly land you in hot water with a certain multinational corporation.
Step 19. Finally you're ready. Use your new business identity everywhere - on business cards, brochures, Web sites, e-mail signature files, in ads and when you speak verbally about your business. Enjoy the rewards when you've chosen well!
Copyright 2004-2011 Marcia Yudkin. All rights reserved.
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