When it comes time to have any conversation about business names, people love to quote Romeo and Juliet. Here, I’ll show you:
“What's in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
See? Man, that felt good.
Here’s the thing though. Strictly speaking, it wasn’t Shakespeare who said that. It was his character, Juliet. And as we all know (spoiler alert), things didn’t work out so great for her. (Interesting side note for nerds: Shakespeare may have never actually written this line at all, as no printing within Shakespeare’s lifetime presents the text of Juliet’s speech in its modern form.)
And while reasonable people can disagree, I’d argue that if roses were instead called puke-buds, my guess is that they would not have become the intergalactic symbol of all things mushy and romantic.
There’s been a great deal written and researched on how much a name matters for a company – and if it even matters at all. While the degree remains a point of discussion, most people do think that a name is important, and that a good name came be a significant factor in the success of a business.
A business name can play a huge part in how easy it is for people to find your business, and how effectively people remember your business.
Especially in today’s climate with the internet and social media playing the roles that they do, your company’s name is your gateway to the public. It is how people will search for you on Google and how people will interact with you on social media channels like Twitter and Facebook.
The reason so many people have gotten the impression that names don’t matter anymore is because the internet and Silicon Valley are chock full of companies with absolutely ridiculous sounding names. Many of these companies are successful, and it would be difficult to argue that they are successful because of their ridiculous names. More likely, they are successful in spite of them or there may be a reason for that name which you may not be thinking of.
The argument for this kind of naming is that the names are completely original and will have little chance of being confused with anything else. Not to mention the added bonus that the wonkier the name, the more likely it is to be available at all – both for business registration and trademark purchases, as well as the domain name and social media handles.
But companies that name their businesses this way fail to recognize that just because their name won’t be confused with some other company, doesn’t mean it won’t be confusing in general. At a certain point, the public will hit (or perhaps already has hit) nonsensical name overload. Maybe the name won’t be confused with any other specific business, but you’re not better off if your company gets lumped into a group that customers and other businesses immediately write off as unprofessional and don’t take seriously. Plus, if your name is too weird, people may not remember it as easily and be able to spell it correctly when searching for it later.
Beyond that, taking your company name for granted is a hugely missed opportunity. Your company name is your first opportunity to communicate something about your business to the audience you are seeking out. Obviously, not every business should be named something descriptive like “Bill’s Railroad Spike Emporium.” But, there is certainly a happy medium. A name like “Lyft” strikes a balance between originality and descriptive. When you see names like that, you immediately gain at least some degree of understanding about the company.
And if it isn’t direct information that you are presenting about your company, it can at the very least be a tone or a feeling. “Slack” doesn’t necessarily convey descriptive information about the business, but it does convey a certain tone.
So yes, while a rose by any other name may technically smell the same, its name is still important. Call it a “Diaper Stem” and you’re really going to limit the rose’s branding potential. But if you traded in the name Rose for Daisy, Daffodil or Tulip – the flower of love would probably still be safe.
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