♫ What’s the name of the game? Does it mean anything to you? ♫
-ABBA, “The Name of the Game” from “The Album,” 1977

 ♫ What’s the name of your business? Does it mean anything to people? ♫
-Mike, “In The Shower,” 2011

Whenever we help a client name a business, it occurs to me that this important activity has become something of a blood sport. Think of all the tests a new business name must pass:

Be short, be memorable, be easy to spell and pronounce, tell what you do, be clever but not too clever, have an available domain name, preferably a dot-com; don’t be already taken, don’t be trademarked, don’t rhyme with bad words, don’t have any negative connotations whatsoever, and don’t be confusing.

Yikes—it might be easier solving Goldbach’s conjecture!

To me, the most important test to pass is: “tell what you do.”

Here, take the “What Do You Do?” test. Just ask yourself: when you tell someone the name of your business, do they know, at least in general, what you do? 

“I work at Fred’s Lawn Service.” Great, you do lawn service!

“I work at Xanthaxum.” Huh?


“I work at Xanthaxum Accounting.” Nice save!

Now, it’s true that many companies have started with nonsensical names, or names with different meanings (Kodak, Google, Apple, Amazon) and imbued them with new meanings over time.

However, that imbuing—that forcing a meaning onto a name—takes resources such as time and money. If you want to go the imbuing route, my advice is to adjust your marketing budget accordingly—in other words, increase it. You will simply need to put forth extra effort to make people understand what you do.

To summarize: with all the tests a new business name must pass, THE most important one (in my opinion) is the “What Do You Do?” test. Pass this test, and you’ve removed a very significant barrier to building relationships and making sales.

PS If you do manage to prove or disprove Goldbach, please call me as soon as possible! 406-248-3555.