How to Pick a New Name for Your Company: Guide for Marketers

Adam Smartschan

Partner & Chief Strategy Officer

Picking a new name for your company is easy … and super difficult. We’ve covered before on this blog the logistics and business factors to consider when renaming a company. But you can’t rename without … a name. How do you get there?

Frankly, it’s never the same process twice. Every company is different, every industry has its own norms, and every leadership and branding team is going to have their own opinions.

Picking a name for a company obviously isn’t as emotional as naming a kid, but if you’re a founder, it’s really not that different.

The overarching thing here is that you should trust your gut. You’re going to have to live with your new name and brand. It’s going to be on the front of your polo shirt, your business cards, your hats, your building. Lot of commitment there.

If you don’t like it, then there’s something wrong.

So, how do you land on one you’ll love? Here’s the process for renaming your company.

It all starts with vetting and winnowing.

Picking a new name for your company

Step 1: Brainstorming

This is where personal experience, culture, and personal opinions come into play. Oftentimes, we’ll sit down as a team (close to the full agency) and come up with around 100 names for a client.

At that point, every idea is a good idea. Our rule of thumb is that you can’t shoot anything down – just put it on paper.

That 100 names then gets whittled down pretty fast. The first thing is the sniff test. Just like with a bag of kale, you’ll know right away if it’s still good or not.

Does this new company name meet the culture of the region where the company operates? Of the industry? Of customers? Would you have a SaaS-style name with an .io or .ly at the end if you’re in the pharma industry?

Probably not.

Step 2: Is There Someone Close to This?

Is there a potential for confusion? If it’s obvious to you that someone in your space has a similar name, you might not want to go with it.

And that’s something to figure out before you go to an IP attorney.

Remember, TESS is your friend.

Step 3: Domain Names

If you can’t get a decent domain name, it’s not a good name.

The customer is inevitably going to type, so in a perfect world, you want something pretty darn close to your new name. If you need to do something fun like a .io or .ly, that’s perfectly fine if it fits your space.

You also want to buy every permutation of your company name, all of the .orgs, .coms, .nets. You don’t want your competition to snatch them up.

At this point, congratulations. You’re probably at 5-10 potential names, which will fall into one of four categories:

Real English Words

This is the least likely. There are a lot of companies in every industry, and there’s a chance someone will be close to your new company name if you’re using a real word. Especially one that’s relevant to your space.

Plus, you probably won’t be able to find a domain. It’s pretty rare if you use a real English word. If you can find one though, that’s awesome.

Combination Words

You’ve seen company names that are just two or more words jammed together. Even tech giants have done this: microcomputer + software = Microsoft. It is very common, and it has a fancy name of its own: portmanteau.

Foreign Language Words

These are often picked from Latin and Greek backgrounds, and in some cases, even French or German.

The plus side of doing this is that you can use Latin roots to connote something. For example, ver has a connotation of truth or honesty. It does add some deeper meaning.

The downside of using foreign language words for your company name is that some pronunciations can be more difficult for those who are primarily familiar with English. Plus, if you’re not a native speaker, you might not understand the full context of what you’re using.

Nonsense Words

These are perhaps the most fun of the four types of categories to consider when renaming your company. In many cases, companies will take a foreign language word and modify it a bit. They’ll mash up a word with a fun or meaningful prefix or suffix and create a brand new word. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s pretty common.

Take Unbounce, for example. Not a real word. Just a creative twist on reducing a website’s bounce rate. 

Even Zapier. You have zap in there — it’s fast, it’s easy. So the name works. But even with them, it’s a cautionary tale.

Don’t get us wrong, they’re awesome. They even have shirts that say “Zapier makes you happier.”

It’s cute, we know.

We happen to love their company’s name, but even the stuff you think is so obvious to pronounce may not always be.

(Even though rhyming Zapier with happier should say it all).

Finishing the Naming Process

At this point, picking a new name for your company becomes an emotional exercise. So sleep on it. Talk with folks – people you trust.

You have to live with this thing, so you better like it. If it’s just you thinking about it, you might miss something.

Once you’ve picked out that perfect name, the last step in the naming process is to go to an attorney. There’s no reason not to. It’s a few hundred bucks and they’ll help you get the name and get your trademark going.

It’ll save you a whole lot of issues down the line and secure everything. So you don’t have to worry.

Now you’re off and running with your dream name.

Adam Smartschan

Adam Smartschan heads Altitude's strategic marketing and branding efforts. An award-winning writer and editor by trade in a former life, he now specializes in data analytics, search engine optimization, digital advertising strategy, conversion rate optimization and technical integrations. He holds numerous industry certifications and is a frequent speaker on topics around B2B marketing strategy and SEO.