Ever noticed how the name “Google” progressively became a standard vocabulary for “search on the internet”?
It has become so common that people are now getting away with otherwise contradictory statements like “let me Google that on Yahoo.”
Admit it. We’ve all done it at some point.
In retrospect, the war between Google and Yahoo has been one that has spanned more than a decade. It has been fought across multiple fronts, as both giants struggled to dominate the World Wide Web.
But somehow, despite increased efforts from both adversaries, one is now valued at $581 billion, and firmly in the $1 trillion value race- while the other is barely hanging on to dear life at $68 billion.
Now, hold it right there! Where did things go wrong?
Well, there are many innovative technical hacks Google has leveraged to position itself ahead of Yahoo. But, since the latter also has its team of formidable engineers, it should be easy to adjust and recover, right?
Theoretically, that would probably make sense. But, here’s the kicker. Google is still the dominant favorite because, among other reasons, it has a name that’s proving too hard to compete against.
Maybe Yahoo would have stood a better chance had Google retained its former name “BackRub”. But Google’s co-founders Larry and Sergey have always had this exceptional wordplay skill. They realized early enough that that name just wouldn’t cut it.
Because, imagine how awkward “Backrub the meaning,” would sound in your office.
So during a brainstorming session, they thought of trying out “Googol”- which is essentially digit “1” followed by a hundred zeroes. The two basic units of digital information. Quite a brilliant suggestion, to say the least.
Then came the most interesting bit.
While they were checking the name’s availability online, they mistakenly entered “Google” instead. And boom! The rest is history.
A business name, undeniably, is the most basic element of an ecommerce brand. It forms the bulk of the average 10 seconds it takes to make a first impression to a prospective lead.
It’s not surprising that psychological science concerned with semantics has proven this on several occasions. The vocabulary and structure of your business name determine the subsequent reaction it elicits.
Unfortunately, choosing a name is not that simple. And even if you happen to accidentally stumble on one, would it be good enough for your target market?
To help you through this entire process, here are some solid tips for finding an ideal one.
So let’s fire away!
Keep It Friendly, Simple and Short
Our brains were all like blank slates when we were born. A large part of the subsequent learning process was vocabulary development. Within the first decade, most of us were consciously aware of about 10,000 words, a number that ultimately grew more than two-fold by adulthood.
Now, this process is not simply about being fed letters and words like a computer. Each word was digested subconsciously, and our minds consequently developed specific attitudes towards certain names.
This is the whole concept behind implicit-association tests. Even when we don’t realize it, our brains have systematically developed negative and positive connotations about certain terms.
As a result, there are names that sound pleasant and friendly. While others will only make you react like “huh? What the! Ok, next!”
According to a Customer Thermometer survey that sampled individuals in the U.S., 65% of consumers have emotional connections to brands. And subconscious mental connotations, among other elements, have always been critical determinants.
That said, one thing’s for sure…
A name can’t be friendly enough if it’s not adequately simple and short.
The faster your prospects digest your business name, the quicker they’ll be able to remember it, and consequently the higher your chances of attracting returned visitors.
The secret here is starting out with words they can already relate to. An adult native-speaker knows about 20,000-35,000 words. So that should give you quite a wide pool to choose from.
Here’s a breakdown of different categories to help you narrow down to the specific target market demographic.
An unfamiliar or complex name, on the other hand, could end up pretty much like Mississippi. It originally went by an Ojibwe word “misi-ziibi”. But then we coined an even more complicated mouthful, simply because the original name was too unfamiliar to recall.
In your case, unfortunately, people won’t even bother coming up with alternative terms. If they can’t remember the name, they simply move on to your competition.
Should Be Synonymous With Your Micro Niche
Even when you’ve never spent a second on social media, you’d probably have a rough idea of what “Instagram” is all about just from the name.
If that proves to be a challenge, at least you can take a wild guess about “Facebook” or “LinkedIn”.
I, for instance, was not aware that Snapchat existed in 2012. My kids beat me to it. And the app’s logo didn’t help at all, because it only threw me off further.
A bell? Perhaps an alarm app? Then I read the name again…aha!
Pretty much explains why they didn’t find it necessary to include an “about us” page on their main site.
Instagram, on the other hand, essentially combined “insta” from “instant”, and “gram” from “telegram”. To be honest, it can’t be more straightforward. Explains why Facebook only messed around with other features but left the name intact after acquiring the app.
Now that’s the sheer power of choosing a name that’s synonymous with your ecommerce Micro-niche.
Look at it this way.
According to data by Chartbeat’s Tony Haile, 55% of your site’s visitors will bolt out within the first 15 seconds. That means that only a small fraction of them can afford to spare some time to dig around the “About Us” page.
So it only makes sense to start passing the message right from the name and save everyone’s time.
Be Unique and Original
Ok, we’ve agreed that a perfect business name should be friendly, simple, short, and relevant to your micro niche.
So let’s cut to the chase
Doesn’t this basically translate to a bland common name?
No, not at all. Make no mistake about this process. A familiar name can be common, but it doesn’t have to be bland.
It all boils down to your creativity in working around these two often mistaken characteristics.
Think about “Amazon” for instance. Previously, it only referred to a renowned forest in South America. Then Bezos came along and it became a trademark. Familiar, but refreshingly thoughtful and original.
Failing to be original could have your business suffering the same fate as a small time restaurant in Korea, which was formerly named “Louis Vuiton Dak”.
Of course, many people would assume that the designer company Louis Vuitton would never bother with small fry. That such established brands only go for other large businesses that present a real threat.
But let’s not overlook the fact that their extensive workforces often include in-house full-time lawyers. And since they are not involved in actual production and marketing, the legal professionals possibly crawl around the web for new prey every time they get bored.
The Korean restaurant was an especially juicy target because it had the nerve of even adopting the designer’s logo. Eventually, the original Vuitton won the resultant International Trademark infringement case, forcing the restaurant to switch to “chaLouisvui Tondak”. But that name, surprisingly, wasn’t good enough and the owner ended up paying a fine of $125,000.
The point is…
The name doesn’t even have to be completely identical to attract a legal suit. If it tastes, or even smells like another registered business, you’ll be labelled a copycat. And that’s bad enough, in addition to the risk of hearing from a team of hungry lawyers.
Trademark laws are no joke. So to be safe, check with bodies like The United States Patent and Trademark Office, and consult a lawyer for additional guidance.
And just like that, you’re all set.
Have fun sampling different possible names.
You might be forced to brainstorm many ideas, but you’ll be able to secure an ideal one through these tips. And don’t forget to seek additional name ideas from other parties.
Finally, we love stories on business naming and branding. So don’t forget to share the juicy details through the comment section. We can’t wait to learn how you came up with the concept behind your business name.