As Shakespeare Put It: 8 Common Business-Naming Mistakes

By on May 8, 2013

As Shakespeare Put It: 8 Common Business-Naming Mistakes

What’s in a name?  A lot, actually.  When you’re deciding on the word that’ll stick into any potential customer’s head when they first hear about your product.  You may be further on your way to choosing the right name for your business by avoiding these eight mistakes:

  1. Trying to outsmart a successful large company by using a clever knock-off of its name. Big companies have expensive lawyers, and as an entrepreneur, you probably don’t. Keep this in mind even when designing your logo—the number of lawsuits involving cases where a certain famous mouse’s image was used either deliberately or accidentally is nearly legion!

  2. Using personal or family names. Unless it is your intention to keep the business forever in the family, just don’t do it. It’s more likely that you’ll want to sell the business at some point, and a name that you have branded will add to the value. Unless, of course, you’re like the someone who came up with the idea for that famous mouse and get immensely lucky.

  3. Choosing a name that’s difficult to spell or pronounce. Avoid homophones like to, too, and two, as they may be misinterpreted or misspelled in searches. Imagine, if you will, the shock of someone searching the Web for a line of children’s pants that you cleverly named “Bear Bottoms.” The PR you’d receive would be the stuff of legends, but that’s not the kind of press you want your product to encourage.

  4. Not researching what the name could mean in a foreign language like Spanish, French, or German. Opening a restaurant with the name “The Gate” may seem harmless enough until your realize the word means “spoiled” in French.

  5. Not performing an Internet search. Make sure the reputation of any similarly named company is solid. You don’t want people thinking your company is a similar one with a horrible reputation. (We’ve wisely decided not to give any examples, but please don’t name your investment firm Madoff & Madoff)

  6. Using a geographic location in your name. You may not always be on Main Street, and you may grow bigger than Smithville. Don’t create a name that could stunt your growth or cause problems in relocation.

  7. Don’t use outdated thinking in creating your name. In the days of phonebook yore, it used to be popular to use names like “A-something” or “Acme” or “Apex.” Naming your business something like this simply no longer applies and also looks pretty tacky.

  8. Don’t create a name that will only have meaning for you. It may serve as personal motivation through the inevitable tough times, but it will not likely help your business establish its brand. Hairball Harry’s Dog Groomers may have a ring to it in your own ears, but clients will probably bring their poodles to the other side of town.

What’s in a name? Perhaps more than what may first appear. Discovering the “perfect” business may come easier for some than for others. Avoiding these eight mistakes can set you on the right path!


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Adam Toren

About Adam Toren

Adam Toren is an Award Winning Author, Serial Entrepreneur, and Investor. He Co-Founded along with his brother Matthew. Adam is co-author of the newly released book: Small Business, Big Vision: “Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right” and also co-author of Kidpreneurs.


  1. Goran Maric

    May 8, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    So true! If you use personal or family names while you are naming your business, you can make big mistake, unless if is your family famous like Dr. Oetker. :)

  2. Fehmeen - Management Mafia Blog

    May 9, 2013 at 11:57 am

    This is a really good compilation of business-naming rules and even though it seems pretty simply, many people get it all wrong. Generic names are a big no. I once came across a chemist, simply named, ‘Decent Chemists’, and the same thing happened with a furniture shop. Talk about being lazy and uncreative. Another shop that sold high end, good quality mens clothing named itself, ‘Monsieur Dress’ (French for ‘Mr Dress’) but unfortunately, the location it was setup in only attracted the kind of people that had no idea what that meant. You can imagine what happened next!

  3. Anton Volney

    May 10, 2013 at 6:29 am

    A famous business name faux-pas was the Chevy Nova. Just as you pointed out in point #4, the folks at Chevy didn’t check to see what Nova might mean in other languages. It means “Doesn’t Go” in Spanish. Chevy Does Go–––that did pretty badly in the latin american markets.

  4. Julie Harris

    May 11, 2013 at 3:12 am

    Internet search really helps when you want your brand to be unique. For me, in choosing a brand name it has to be unique but not awkward, simple and easily remembered. All in all, this Shakespeare’s lesson would really start up business how to be wise in choosing the most suitable brand name. Great post Adam. :)

  5. David

    May 21, 2013 at 7:18 am

    Excellent points, Adam. And I agree with the above comment about making sure that you don’t name your business something that is too generic and vague. Some businesses just go by “Smitty’s” or “Mike’s”, which does not describe in any way what the business is about or does. By adding just a keyword or two to the name, not only can you help people understand what you do, but it will also help you in terms of being more visible online.