There are many reasons to test your business name, but this might be the most compelling: names can influence destiny. Studies have linked a person’s first name with chosen career, company rank, even juvenile delinquency. For instance, one study claimed that if you are a woman with a gender-neutral name like Cameron, you may be more likely to succeed in a legal career. There’s even a fancy term for it: nominative determinism.
In business, shorter names are usually more memorable and distinctive than long ones. And, as one blogger observed, IPOs may be more likely with a name under 13 characters. A name that begins towards the start of the alphabet might place you towards the top in local or online lists.
Your business name can be evocative of the kinds of client you serve, your company mission, or what makes your business unique. No matter what imagery your company name is associated with, however, one thing is certain: your name is your calling card.
It’s no wonder Fortune 500 companies spend millions of dollars on studies and consultants when it comes time to name a business. But you don’t need millions to run a successful test. Follow these four tips and you’ll be well on your way to a winning business name.
1. Only test one thing at a time
Your business name is distinct from your business logo, and creating the two should be separate processes. Each has different considerations and will be judged using distinct criteria.
Testing more than one thing at a time is also problematic because it skews your results. Below is an example where an entrepreneur wanted to test two business names. However, when he posed the question, he submitted the names in two different type treatments that some saw as an early logo concept. Respondents to this PickFu poll commented on both the name and the design. Sounds like twice the value, right? Wrong.
This is a type of polling bias called a double-barreled question. A double-barreled question asks two separate things, but respondents usually only respond to the one that means the most to them. And even if the respondent only reacted to the name in a written comment, that reaction was likely subconsciously influenced by the logo and vice versa.
Some responses that reference the name:
• “I chose ‘Get Up,’ because Vim is entirely foreign to me as a company name/product name. Get Up makes me think of the things I may be able to achieve with this product.”
• “[Vim] sounds like it might have to do with vitamins. The other would lead me to believe it was a male enhancement product.”
Some responses that reference the logo:
• “[Option B has a] cleaner look and name.”
• “[Option A] has an appealing font and name.”
When testing your business name, test your business name only. Leave the logo design and any other considerations for later tests.
Read more about double-barreled questions and other poll biases here, and when you’re ready, get our tips for testing logos here.
2. Explain a little about the business
Unless it’s obvious what your business does (example, John’s Insurance Company), it’s usually a good idea to briefly state your company’s purpose. Here’s a good example:
Without a little context to explain what the consultancy does, the idea of hearts and lawyers might seem an odd pair. A quick, simple explanation will help respondents understand what your business name seeks to accomplish.
In this example, because respondents know what the product does, they can give helpful answers like these:
• “[Option B] sounds like a snack for humans.”
• “Frustules doesn’t sound appealing. Frustules sounds like a part of a body (I think it’s because of the -ules ending).”
• “DIATOMS sounds like a substance that will kill insects when you say the name aloud. It sounds powerful, simple, and to-the-point.”
• “[Option A] totally sounds like a bomb for bugs”
In my last post, I mentioned that sometimes in logo tests it’s valuable to ask a blind question, without any background on your company. There are instances where this could also be useful with business names. For instance, if the pollster above decided he wanted to name his product Frustules after all, a good question without context might be “What kind of product does the name Frustules sound like to you?” Still, more often than not, it makes sense to tell people what you do.
3. Test pronounceability and misspellings
Names whose pronunciations aren’t obvious aren’t necessarily bad. There’s a band whose name is !!! (pronounced chk-chk-chk) that has released seven albums. And ice cream brand Häagen-Dazs invented its name entirely to be “Danish-sounding,” even though true Danish never uses an umlaut (the accent over the a) and would never put the letters z and s next to each other.
72% chose Option B, and the pronunciation was a big reason why:
• “The first one seems hard to say/pronounce”
• “[Option B] is easier to pronounce”
• “Choice B is simpler to remember and pronounce. Any person who has heard of the company will remember the name easier in order to tell others about it or ask others if they’ve tried it.”
• “option B is easier to process and pronounce”
Just like there are exceptions to the pronunciation rule, there are good and bad misspelled company names, too. Google is a misspelling of the word googol, which is the number ten to the one-hundredth power, a reference to the many search results that Google delivers. Lyft is a misspelling of lift, as in “catching a lift.” But other misspellings can seem accidental or just be offputting. One brand that always bothers me is “Unstopables,” a line of laundry detergent made by Downy. The word unstoppable has two Ps, but Downy only uses one. Was it a mistake? Probably not, but I hate it anyway!
Below is an example of why you should always test intentionally misspelled names. Here, both names contain misspellings, but the first came across as a clever play on words, while the second seemed to cheapen the brand in the eyes of those polled:
So, if your name idea is potentially difficult to pronounce or includes a misspelling, always, ALWAYS be sure to test it. It may work in your favor, or it may work against you, but you’ll want to know before you launch.
4. Once you’ve decided on a name, test an accompanying tagline
As mentioned in Tip #1, you should only test one thing at a time. But once you’ve settled on a name (or at least narrowed it down to a few finalists), it makes sense to run additional tests in order to see if your company’s tagline flows alongside it.
Your tagline can express what makes your business unique or give information about what you do. This is where you would want to exclude information about your company. Let’s take a situation like the lawyer’s poll from Tip #2. If the business owner decided the business’s name should be Lawyering From The Heart, she then might want to see if a tagline clarifies what the name means. She might ask a poll like, “Given these taglines, which do you feel connects to you more?” and offer options like “Lawyering From The Heart: Help out, don’t burn out” or “Lawyering From The Heart: Encouraging stronger client communication,” and see how people react. Is the tagline clear? Is it confusing? Without context, what do respondents think the consultancy does?
Read this post about testing marketing messages to help you develop your next tagline, then try it out on PickFu today.