Athol Foden’s Top Three Naming Factors

Here are the first three criteria from Athol Foden‘s Top 10 Factors for a Good Name.” The whole list is worth keeping in mind when you go to select a name for your product or company.

  1. Short, sweet and easily pronounced
    The ideal name for customers to remember, and for you to use to cut through the industry noise, is probably short and sweet and easily pronounced. This means it will have two or three syllables (or even one), and it will work on the phone or internet even if people have never seen or heard it before. If they have to be told how to spell it once, that is OK (and may even help with recall). But if they have to be told a second time, that is a problem. One of the sticky consonants (k,q,x,z) can help with recall.
  2. Unique within its industry
    Your name doesn’t need to be weird or clunky, but it does need to not sound like all the rest of your direct competitors.,,,, are all easily lost in the crowd. But stands out dramatically – even though it does not describe what they do! In practice, it has become brand shorthand for job searches, just like Starbucks has become shorthand for coffee.
  3. Legally available and defensible
    Your lawyers think this should be item one of course. Regardless, what is the point of starting any company or marketing campaign if you cannot have full rights in the name? Your best defense is always a magic ® – which only can be issued by the USPTO (or equivalent agency in other countries). If the USPTO won’t issue a registration certificate because they judge it to be generic, then you have problem (2) above anyway. Common law trademark searches are also critically important.

Athol gave a well received talk last Friday in Milpitas, addressing not only naming issues but also his personal history bootstrapping several startups.

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