So you’ve just started your own company? Ah jeez, I swear I’d never write an article starting with that cliche. Lets try this again, shall we? Whats in a name? We’re not talking about baby names or City names or street names, but company names. Chances are you have half a billion corporate identities floating around in your head; McDonalds, Google, 7-11, Coca-Cola, Microsoft (don’t sue us please), Adobe, etc. Everybody knows these company names, the same as they know many other company names I’ll give examples of next. However, the difference between McDonalds and Orkut is that McDonalds means something, it makes sense. It’s not just a few randomly placed consonants and vowels. McDonalds is McDonalds because two dudes whose last name happened to be “McDonald” opened the restaurant before Ray Kroc came along and took it off their hands for them. Others, like Microsoft, Meetup, and even Twitter also share that common denominator of having a name that makes sense.
That leads me into the now, where it seems another start-up pops up every 12 minutes with some random, nonsensical name that makes me scratch my head and wonder “How? Why?”. Names like previously mentioned Orkut, eBay, Xanga, Plurk, Ning, etc. Notice how a lot of these just so happen to be “Web 2.0” companies (or the case of eBay, web 1.5)?
Next we have examples such as Amazon, Yahoo, Apple, Fox, and many more. These are companies that are far beyond successful, and yet the name of their company makes absolutely no sense. What the hell does a computer have to do with a fruit? Why would I immediately think of “an uncultivated, boorish person, a yokel” when I think of “Searching the internet to find relevant content that interests me”? I don’t know either. Amazon? I could think of a very far-fetched way that Amazon COULD potentially make sense, but it’s really reaching and I’m not even going to bother. Buying stuff online does not make me think of a big giant rain-forest.
Even Trademark Productions doesn’t make a whole lot of sense if you think about it. We’re a web development company, at our core. Sure we do Marketing and other things, but primarily, we build awesome websites. Trademark? Nothing to do with websites (technically it does, sure, but that’s not the context we’re talking about). Productions? Ok, we…produce websites! Yeah!
So why is this? Why do we have these two separate categories of company names, yet they are both equally silly? Well, not many people are going to remember your company called “Search Engine and Data Mining, Inc.”, or “Online Marketplace of Buyers and Sellers, LLC”. It’s short, it’s catchy, and it’s, dare I say, hip?
Sure, “Kleenex” makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, but we all know it now. What needs to happen is a considerable amount of balance between “Completely off the wall, making no sense whatsoever” and “Catchy and memorable”. Google, for example, is short and to the point, has a reason behind it (slightly, taking into consideration the intentional misspelling of googol), same goes for Microsoft (still please don’t sue us), and others like Amazon, Twitter, Facebook, even Digg.
But why Yammer? Ning? Xanga? What’s the purpose? Perhaps a lack of creativity? I’m half tempted to write my own “Web 2.0 Company Name Generator” using some simple English language syntax rules for placement of consonants and vowels (some companies don’t even pay attention to this, like “iWiW or ibibo”), and just randomly grab any letter in our dictionary. I have more pressing things to do, and plenty of these already exist, and some are quite comical.
So my point is this: If you’re starting a new company, or just trying to come up with a name for your new social media website, or just bored and think about stuff like this all the time, the key is balance. Balance catchy and memorable while somewhat making sense, and most importantly, pronounceable without having to ask a few different people how THEY pronounce it.