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Friday, 10 January 2014

New year, new name? It pays to run these checks when looking for the right name

Naming a new venture affects every aspect of the business

An appropriate and memorable name is a major asset to a company or brand, but available ones are thin on the ground thanks to the low cost of registering domain names.

Online availability is important, but it isn't the only criteria. If a name has been registered as a limited company or a trademark, it may be almost impossible to use in case of legal action.

And if it's been blacklisted or has notoriety attached, the associated negativity and hassle factor is not a great start to a bright shiny new brand. I know of at least one new company that was chased hard for substantial debts racked up by another outfit  trading under the same name. That takes time to deal with and causes considerable anxiety.

We do get asked to help with naming, usually after a team have spent a lot of time and failed to find a name that nails the offering, and is also available in the desired domain(s).

The domain availability is usually as far as they've gone in the checking process. When we are commissioned to run a search, we use a raft of creativity tools, some of which are unique to us. Everyone has their own way of thinking up ideas. Whatever you use, keep notes and remember, the wrong name is often a stepping stone to something much better. To be sure of coming up with really strong ideas, we usually generate enough names to create a list of around 100 available names online. We then whittle that down to c10 and yes, the hidden names do include some stepping stones! Before we show the shortlist to the client, we run more detailed checks and recommend the following:

  • Online availability (usually we're asked for the .com  and If other suffixes have been taken (for or .co) we will show who owns the other versions if that info is available 
  • Companies House check
  • Trademark search (basic)
  • Google search to see if there's anything obviously amiss.

We also run the telephone test. The what? I hear you ask Well, if the company or brand is going to be a hit, you are going to be contacted, possibly by phone. When your staff or virtual PA answers the phone, does it trip off the tongue? If so, it should also be easy to say with confidence at networking events and presentations - and be remembered fairly accurately.

Even if the first shortlist doesn't nail it, it will have teased out a whole raft of secondary criteria that were not obvious from the initial brief. Quite often that's enough to bring other available solutions we've already discovered into the frame. And if it significantly alters the brief, we are starting from a point much closer to a solution and should be able to nail it with a shorter search.

It sounds like a lot of detailed work, and it is, but all of your marketing and branding effort is affected by a name. It sets the tone for the entire venture. So getting it right rather than bagging the first available name you see could mean the difference between success and the also rans.

If you get stuck, by all means contact us if you need help finding the right name for a business, a brand or a new development.

PR blog posted by Penny Haywood Calder founder of Edinburgh PR agency:  PHPR Ltd


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