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The Name Game

August 31st, 2007

What’s in a name? For a new generation of dot-com start-ups, not a whole lot of sense.

Ever heard of Qumana the blog editing site? What about Tagtooga or Tendango, two sites for social networking? Ok, let’s try BooRah, a site dedicated to restaurant reviews?

What do these names have to do with the services they offer? Not a thing. But in the midst of corporate baby boom where Internet start-ups are born daily, these young companies are desperate to differentiate themselves from the rest of the pack.

Their method of differentiation? Choosing the wackiest, most nonsensical names you’ve ever heard, all which seem to resemble some form of gibberish rather than the English language.

Take Silicon Valley as a prime example. According to research firm Dow Jones VentureOne, since the beginning of 2006 venture capitalists have invested $2.5 billion into 400 young Internet companies. That’s remarkable considering the fact that venture capitalists only poured $1.3 billion into 236 companies during the previous two years.

Now with competitors like Google, Yahoo and ebay, no one expects that these babies will last for long. But nevertheless, they are popping up everywhere you look – and they all need names. And in their great struggle to be unique, these companies focus on names more outlandish than rational.

“Naming a company is like naming a celebrity,” said serial entrepreneur Jared Kopf, who has helped christen companies including Adroll.com, his online advertising firm, and Slide, a Web photo service. “Made-up words don’t come with psychological baggage.”

Now I am the first to admit that picking a catchy, unique name is no easy task – and I also realize that these companies have to deal with the reality that almost every recognizable domain name has been scooped up with the intent to be resold for a big profit.

But picking a name should be thought of as defining a brand, not unraveling the English language. Like a brand, the name should evoke an emotional feeling when the customer hears or sees it. A great brand doesn’t just say they are like no one else. It makes you feel that they are like no one else. And a made up, crazily concocted word just doesn’t cut it.

So young dot-com’s, here’s a little tip: rather than putting all your energy into creating a name that is beyond recognition, try instead to come up with a name that evokes the exact feeling your product elicits. Develop a name that strikes a note of understanding with your customers – a note they can commit to memory. It may be the difference between a company that lives on and one that becomes nameless.

Posted Under: Branding
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