What’s in a name?

It’s surprising how often the most obvious question is ignored.  What’s in a name?

Following on from conversations resulting from some of my previous blogs I thought I would briefly tackle this important issue.  Whether you are in business or you are a nonprofit organisation, a name will make a big difference to your success.  If you don’t have a massive advertising budget, it matters even more.

If you opt for a name that says nothing about who you are what you do, then you start from a fair way behind.  Only celebrities can afford the luxury of using their own names as the one for their business.  Let me preface that statement by saying celebrity does not have to be someone who is  a famous sportsperson or actor.  You could be a celebrity in your community – so well known that you are the lure that brings people to your doors.  That works where your long term aim is to remain working only in that community.  If you are aiming bigger then I would be angling for a different tact.

You often only get one shot at telling people where you are from before they lose interest.  If your name has no meaning then you stand even less chance of them remembering who you are.

I have worked with a number of businesses and nonprofit organisations in recent years where the name has become a major issue and yet some of them don’t realise it.  They wonder why they struggle to get any cut-through and be noticed, yet their name is doing no work for them.  Given the chance for their logo to appear somewhere or their name to be mentioned in passing, nobody is any the wiser about what they do.

You must make your name have meaning.

Don’t be misled by perceived goodwill in a brand name.  Just because the community who already engages with you knows your name is not a reason to stay with it.  You need to make sure your potential audience can grasp who you are quickly.  That is an even bigger issue if your potential audience includes funders.

It is not easy to take a step back and see what someone who might encounter your name for the first time is going to think / how they will react.  But you must consider the outsider and not pretend that because you have had your name for years it must stay as is.

I am not necessarily advocating immediately changing lots of names of businesses or nonprofits overnight.  There are options to consider.  You could introduce a strap-line which helps explain what you do.  Alternatively you could introduce a new name but include a reference to the old name,  For example, formerly known as OR part of xyz.

There is much pain in finding the right name and even more so if you are changing a name that may have a long history.  The rewards in the long run are that you have a business or nonprofit which is much easier to market because the name itself is doing some of the work.

Communication is the key to the success of any business or nonprofit and if the name is your first and sometimes only real chance to be heard, then it needs to make its point clearly.