Ready… Set… Open (Part 2)
What’s in a name? If you are in retail, everything! The name of your store is the cornerstone of your brand. It will immediately suggest what folks will find inside or online. Not only that, people will be referring to and talking about your business by its name. It is your brand; it’s what the law refers to as a source identifier. So here are some tips on how to choose wisely.
- Brainstorm, a lot: You are presumably going to have this name for the duration of your business, so you are going to want to identify with the name, too. In the South, we say, “You are gonna wanna love it!” You should sit down at one time with a blank piece of paper and just begin writing names till you cannot think of anymore. After you do this you will begin to see some patterns. Take those names and categorize them. You can categorize them a few ways — either by ones that you prefer or group them by similarity. You can do this as many times as you want. It may even be a good idea to do it more than once. Often our preferences and tastes change, you want to go with the one that keeps popping up each time you do it. You can also enlist a few friends or colleagues to do this same exercise. Be sure and ask folks who get the vision of your store, so that the name they come up with won’t be from out in left field. When you compile those results you are certain to see some trends emerging. Take note of those names or concepts that continue to rise to the top. The worst thing you can do is be dead set on a name to the exclusion of all others.
- Be distinctive:This is where it gets really tricky. In the law, to have a name protected as a trademark, it must be distinctive. In very simple terms, this means it can’t be like everyone else’s name. It can’t be generic (i.e. Retail Store or Clothing Store). In most cases, it can’t be descriptive (i.e. Cute Preppy Clothes). You really wouldn’t choose those names anyway, but you get the idea.Shorter is better: There are several reasons to choose a short name, but the main reason is that the customer can remember it. It doesn’t do any good to have a fantastic long name if no one can remember it.
- Easily pronounceable: You want the name to just roll off peoples’ tongues. The easier it is to say, the more they will say it. If it is difficult to pronounce, often, folks will avoid saying it for fear of saying it wrong or not being able to remember the name.
- Easy to remember: This kind of goes along with the previous two suggestions, however, it is no less important. If they don’t remember you, they won’t come to see you. Sometimes, we use different literary tools to help us remember things. So using alliteration (Gibson Girl) or rhyming words (Hype Strype) may help customers remember your store name.
- Be thematic: Try to choose a name that allows you to build on a theme. That suggests that the name is broad enough to have lots of smaller pieces. Just like your retail store, the name embodies the whole store, but then suggests lots of individual parts or products, or product categories.
- Careful with clever: It is tempting to opt for clever names. I, for one, am someone who really enjoys wordplay, however clever or witty is a subjective standard. So to one it may be clever, catchy, or even funny, to another it may be corny, or dare I say cheesy.
- A foreign language: You must be really careful with this one. However, it may be worth exploring. On the one had you may have to help customers with the pronunciation, but if the meaning is connected to a strong theme, it could be worth the extra effort.
- Don’t copy others: It may be a name that works for someone else, but they will always be the first. You don’t want to be known as the second or third. Furthermore, from a legal standpoint, if you copy a brand that is called trademark infringement. It can get you in a lot of legal hot water. Take the time to be unique. Although imitation is the highest form of flattery; you won’t make money off of flattery.
- Seek the advice of counsel: This is something most folks never do, but it would save so much heartache down the road if they did. Once you have your list of names that you could be happy with any one of them, find an intellectual property attorney and schedule a one-hour strategy session with him or her. That is all it will take most likely. Show them the names and explain what type of store you will have. This type of attorney will be able to advise how strong your name is as a potential trademark. You could pay extra and have the attorney do trademark searches on a particular name. This gives you valuable information on what is out in the stream of commerce already.
Whatever you do, make sure you really like the name you have chosen. You will have a relationship with it for a long time hopefully. Be deliberate and intentional. Don’t be afraid to take your time. You are constructing the foundation of your brand, so make sure it is rock solid.
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