What can The Apprentice tell us about naming a business?

by Stratton Craig

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“It’s a strange choice given that it embodies decay and moral turpitude."

…No, this wasn't a shadow politician lambasting the latest government policy; it was Nick Hewer on The Apprentice questioning  the women's choice of 'Decadence' as their company name.

Stall owner Nurun Ahmed thought the word would be a great way to celebrate a decade of the BBC reality show. But it's clear that she, and the rest of the businesswomen on her team, didn't stop to think of the actual meaning of decadence. It’s described only slightly less evocatively by the Oxford English Dictionary as: 'Moral or cultural decline as characterised by excessive indulgence in pleasure or luxury’.

So, what can we learn from one of the most cringeworthy moments in The Apprentice's history? As wordsmiths, it's our job to make sure people don't ever end up in the boardroom for crimes of language, so we thought we'd offer our top tips on what to think about when choosing your company name.

1.       Avoid using plain words that don’t stand out from the crowd. If you’re the first company in your sector to use it you can possibly get away with it (think General Motors for example), but otherwise it’s a fast-track to being forgotten. This is also particularly relevant for ensuring you have a clear, visible presence in the search engines.

Creative examples: Yahoo!, Google

2.       If you are planning on using a more generic word, make sure you know what it means. And more importantly, that its meaning is relevant to your business.

Meaningful examples: Innocent Drinks, The Cloud

3.       What about if it’s likely to be abbreviated? Always check the acronym and make sure it works.

Not so great examples: LSD (Landscaping Supplies Direct), DoH (Department of Health)

Catchy examples: IKEA, DHL, H&M

4.       Remember to think about the bigger picture, i.e. your future. Will the name still work if you expand?

For example, you might need to think carefully before including your hometown in your company’s name.

5.       Be sure to check there’s a simple domain name you’ll be able to own.

6.       Lastly, check your company name in the search results – do any of your competitors appear? Or any unwanted brands/results? You might be surprised what else is out there!

And a final word from Nick Jenkins of Moonpig…

“What I was looking for was a name that had to be as few syllables as possible, it had to be unique on Google, it had to be phonetic, easily represented by a graphic logo […] and it had to be available as a domain name. I spent four days searching for a word that was unique on Google […and that was available as a domain name] that I could use for this and I couldn’t find anything. I was throwing all sorts of things into it.

I spent four days looking for something that would satisfy those criteria and I came up with a couple. One of which was my old nickname at school, Moonpig, it just so happened that it ticked all the boxes and it worked very well. It was sort of despite the nickname thing; I would rather not have used my nickname at school but it worked.”

What's your favourite, or worst company name? Leave us a comment or tweet us @strattoncraig.

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