UWF Experts Offer Tips for Naming Businesses, Products

Pensacola – Naming a company, product or service can be a long and arduous process for business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs. Selecting the wrong name could cause an otherwise fine product to struggle in the marketplace.

But Kelly Massey, regional director of the Florida SBDC at the University of West Florida, and Sabrina McLaughlin, a visiting lecturer in the University’s Department of Communications, have some tips for those struggling to name – or re-name – their business or its wares.


  1. Choose a goal for the name. “What do you want to communicate to the audience?” McLaughlin said. “How is that name going to allow you to stand out?”
  1. Push past the first idea. Assemble a group of people you trust to brainstorm. Make it the group’s goal to come up with three top names. Whittle down possibilities from there.

“It’s never going to be the first idea,” McLaughlin said. “It might be a variation of the first idea, but not the idea as it is. So, keep generating ideas. You may end up with something totally ridiculous. But to get to the idea, you need to get to the ridiculous before you can find a middle ground.”

  1. Check for existing trademarks. Some people work with one idea and develop a whole business plan around it. But when they check for existing trademarks, they find out the name for that company already exists. Checking this at the beginning of the process saves time and energy.

 “If you don’t have time to check for trademarks, hire an expert,” McLaughlin said.

  1. Be unique. Pick a name that is one-of-a-kind, easy and memorable.

“I would recommend having a name that is memorable like Yahoo, Two Men and a Truck – that’s a moving company, and I think the name is catchy,” Massey said.

  1. Create a brand image for your final selections. Once you’ve brainstormed and sifted through your ideas, create a brand image for your final selections.

 “You want to make sure the name can be represented visually,” McLaughlin said. “People are visual creatures. And if you ignore that, you’ve got a problem.”


  1. Use humor. Using humor in names of companies can be complicated because what is funny to one person might not be to another. Others might even find it offensive.

“Humor is not impossible, but it’s probably the most difficult kind of approach,” McLaughlin said.

  1. Imitate other brands. It’s OK to find inspiration in other brands, but don’t imitate them. It will make people question your ethics and originality.

 “People will kind of look at you as a fraud,” McLaughlin said.

  1. Use defined regions. If you name your company after a region – the Panhandle, for example – and decide to expand to Chicago, people there might not be familiar with the Panhandle.

“Having a defined region in your name can be good at first,” Massey said. “But if you grow beyond that region, then you’ve got a problem.” 

  1. Try to be everything to everybody. It’s important to know your audience and target them, instead of going for everyone. Once you target them, use your brand to speak from their perspective.

 “Be consistent with who and what you are,” McLaughlin said.

  1. Pick the wrong image. The wrong image – a logo or the way the name looks when it’s written, typed or printed – could hurt the company.

Even kerning – the space between letters in a word – is important. Too little space, for instance, can push two letters together, making your carefully chosen name look like something you didn’t intend.

“Even (inappropriate) fonts or (using) the wrong graphic can send the wrong message,” McLaughlin said.

Written by: Juliana Lievano, Student Intern for CREO.