Great Company Name or .com: Which comes first?

Written by Kimberly MacArthur Graham on April 13, 2015

Shakespeare famously inquired, “What’s in a name?”

When naming a company, product, the answer is “A lot of thought, discussion, and research”! While it’s always been a balancing act of creative, strategic, and practical (including legal) aspects, but in a world of proliferating websites, everything can be trumped by availability. That’s right. In any naming brainstorm, the elephant in the room is, “Is the URL still available?”

Ask any branding pro about the impact of URLs on naming and they will groan. All of us have left at least one perfectly good name on the cutting room floor because someone, somewhere beat us to the URL. It has gotten so competitive now that even made-up words or intentional misspellings likely already exist in cyberspace.

If coming up with a name in the digital age has you wigged out, here are 4 tips to help keep your sanity intact.

  1. Start Analog. At Layer Cake, the first step in any naming process is brainstorming. We put our heads together in person, on paper and white boards. We don’t use and we don’t hunt for URLs. We’ve found that involving a computer in brainstorming kills the creative process. At this early stage, allow your minds to wander and the ideas – good and bad – to flow.
  2. Filter analog, then digital. Once you have a few potential candidates, vet them as a group for basic considerations like verbal presentation (how they sound when spoken), written presentation (will the name be a spelling nightmare), unintentional double meanings, and the like. Names that pass an initial sniff test should be searched for online. Do this with each new group of names that you consider.
  3. Give digital its due – but no more. While it’s true that pretty much any business will need a website, not every business is equally reliant upon a website, or a short, easy-to-remember URL for that matter. Many variables including your product or service, your target audience, and your business model will determine how vital the URL is.
  4. Tiny words = big difference. In addition to variations on .com, consider including short descriptors, using acronyms, or adding words like “go” (GoLayerCake!) to make the name uniquely yours.

And, finally, no matter what website name you decide upon, one final tip. Remember that the written form of the URL is a communication; not a design statement. Especially if the name is long or comprised of multiple words, use case-sensitive text (upper and lower case letters) to make the name clear. If people can’t decipher it at a glance, they won’t remember it and they may not even find it. And all that time you spent on the URL hunt will be for naught.

Posted Under: blog, Branding, Marketing, Online, PR, Web Design
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