The latest fads in business names

July 17, 2009
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Nobody familiar with the intricacies of naming a business thinks the process is easy. Not if the messages words send to potential customers are grasped.

So itâ??s easy to understand why the Indianapolis area is filling up with companies one way or another dubbed â??group,â?? â??systemsâ?? or â??solutions.â??

The names originally sounded cool and often actually meant something. â??Groupâ?? implied more than a one-person shop. â??Systemsâ?? suggested computing or the ability to integrate. â??Solutionsâ?? could mean just about anything.

But the three terms â?? and there may be more â?? have largely lost their meaning, says Jim Walton, who runs an Indianapolis marketing firm called Brand Acceleration.

â??Itâ??s another buzz. Itâ??s another fad that will pass,â?? Walton says. â??When there are so many of them the word becomes meaningless or it becomes diluted, then five years or ten years down the road, those people start thinking about what theyâ??re going to do next.â??

The best names precisely communicate what the company does, he says. Sanders Precast Concrete Systems in Whitestown is a favorite of Waltonâ??s. (OK, maybe sans â??systems.â??)

Nobody should name a company after himself or herself unless the owner is extremely well known for a certain product or service, Walton says. Gates Foundation is fine. Otherwise, itâ??s lazy or egotistical.

How do you feel about popular names, particularly if your company is a â??group,â?? â??systemsâ?? or â??solutions?â?? Have the terms lost their meanings?

Can you add to the list? Or finger the next fad before it happens, the still-obscure word that will be too easy to latch onto?
  • Good example - Electronic Data Systems becamed just EDS.

    What about the oxymoronic names like - National City - No wonder they lost their way and had to sell out. As their name implied, did they forget they were a bank?
  • I, too, dislike acronym names. The first question is always, what does it stand for? If people ask that question, the name has a problem.

    Also, company names are sometimes too long. In that case, the public will shorten it. Federal Express followed the public and started calling themselves FedEx.
  • Citigroup? Citicorp?

    an Indy oldie: RCA Corp...the C already stood for Corporation, but everyone always referred to the company by its initials anyway.

    anything followed by Financial Services, usually initials or bland names like One America
    Group used to stand for a related group of companies that for legal reasons had separate entities, and it was common in insurance and real estate. Now it seems as if it has been appropriated by small-shop service providers such as lobbying, PR, advertising, and consulting companies.
  • Yes, there are plenty of people out to sell us solutions. How about any business with Concepts in the name (Concrete Concepts)? And you can always tell when a guy couldn't come up with a name for his business when he just resorts to his initials (XYZ Concrete).
  • I always liked the name of the actual owner. It says, That guy stands behind his service. It gives you the feeling that, if they weren't handling business honorably, you could easily find him and throw and egg, pie, etc. at him to shame him. Even if the business has been sold or morphed into something much larger (Eli Lilly comes to mind), it at least reminds everyone that there once was a local guy who stood behind his service.
  • We help companies with names-- one of the hardest assignments there is. We agree that solutions has become so overused as to meaningless. And as marketing guru Harry Beckwith says, Monogram your shirts, not your company. They actually do a survey every year to pinpoint the top 25 overused words in business. You can get the link from our blog:
  • I used to dine at a quaint little restaurant on the upper westside of Manhattan called Nacho Mama's Good food.
  • I think naming a business is as challenging as naming a child, or at least a pet. You hope that you will be using that name for a long time, so what you choose is important.

    Even naming a blog has its challenges. A year ago January, I decided I was ready to try blogging about the abundance of live theatre that I was seeing and loving in the Indianapolis area. I decided to call my blog Indy Theatre Habit because

    a) the focus would be on INDIANAPOLIS theatre,

    b) the focus would be on live THEATRE - and other performance art as I have time, but mostly theatre - and

    c) the most important part: I hoped my blog would encourage people to MAKE A HABIT out of going to see live shows.

    So I bought that domain name, signed up for a host, and asked a computer-saavy friend for help in figuring out how to get started with Wordpress.

    We loaded up the default theme or template, and looked at the words Indy Theatre Habit at the top of the screen. Then we looked at each other.

    Oh, no! I said. Does it make you think of nuns? Or worse, needles?

    No, my friend said, with a big grin. It makes me think of hobbits.

    Hope Baugh
    Indy Theatre Habit
  • Good story, Hope - too funny!
  • I disagree with Mr. Walton.

    Hyper-specific names such as Sanders Precast Concrete Systems, can corner a business, making it difficult to communicate diversity of services in future expansions.

    They also tend to communicate less about specificity of purpose and more about a company's lack of personality and differentiating characteristics.

    If you want people to perceive your company as a generic, soulless entity, then by all means, just name it after its primary function.

    To find a powerful name, spend time with a thesaurus, find words that describe the personality of the company, its employees, its mission, its values and choose those that sound good rolling off the tongue. Think abstractly, visually, typographically, metaphorically, and memorably.

    Taglines, not names, explain the mundane, and offer further purpose clarification. It's why they exist.

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