The Real-World Test—We’re Naming Names!

This is the last part of our Naming 101 series. In part one we looked at 13 “Do”s: the crucial research and development issues surrounding your choice of a name for your firm, product, service, or division. In part two we examined the “Don’t”s that you must avoid, in order to use your name to grow your business.

Let’s look at examples of companies that do and don’t follow these naming strategies. For links to all the articles in this series, click here.


Ten Names That Create Growth (with levels of understanding, positive associations, and “sticky” memory hooks)


Burger King


Stayfree (Feminine products. Great name)

Apple (Part of the backstory here, legendary by now, is that Apple was mainly aimed at teachers and schools in the beginning. An apple a day, get it? As the backstory is forgotten, this is becoming a break-the-mold name)

Nike (Winged Victory. Genius)


Home Depot

SuperFresh (Grocery chain)

Baby Phat (You may not get it, depending on your age, but it hits the target market perfectly)


Ten Names That Break the Mold (Do you have the time and the $ to do this?)




Kodak (The back story to this name as I understand it, was that George Eastman wanted a word that has no direct or implied meaning in any language. With powerful marketing and a strong early position in a skyrocketing field, they took off in spite of the handicap, but do they have what it takes to keep their name foremost in your mind anymore?)

…for Dummies (You wouldn’t think that would be a draw, but it works like anything on our collective insecurities)

RIM’s Blackberry (You mean, that used to be a fruit?)

FedEx (Some think that, gorgeous Landor-designed logo aside, the changing of their official name from Federal Express—has meaning—to FedEx—nonsense word—was an error. Just let the public nickname you, like Mickey D’s, don’t fall for the lure… However, the revamp has clicked. When it’s gotta get to Grandma or the VP now, what do you say? “I’ve got to go FedEx this.” Not, “I’ve got to go UPS this.” It’s a verb now, like Google or gluestick, and they own it. Nice work)

Virgin anything (Who’d have thought that Richard Branson could take a word we barely mention in public unless it has “Mary” after it and make an empire out of it? Even when a new Virgin concept misses, everyone is listening, because like FREE and SEX, the word draws you in on curiosity alone)

Starbucks (Search their website for a while and you’ll find the genesis for the name is the character of first mate in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. Okay, I barely skimmed it in high school or maybe I’d have known that already. Even more than Blackberry and Virgin, they have completely taken over this word)


Names That Waste Dollars and Retard Growth (I Couldn’t Stop at Ten!)

Accenture (Huh?)

Avaya (Ditto)

Ameriprise (Are we still worried about being at the front of the yellow pages here?)

Acme (C’mon, even if you live with this large grocery store chain near you every day, don’t you sometimes think of the RoadRunner? Does the name say anything to you about their value?)

Lowe’s (a. What’s a Lowe’s? b. Why is the old movie-theatre group doing home improvement? [They’re not, that’s Loew’s.] Oh, that’s cleared up)

Boston Market (I don’t associate Boston with chicken anyway—and I’m from there—but at least Boston Chicken gave me something tasty to think about, however limited. “Market”? Can I shop for groceries there?)

Wawa (It’s a chain of convenience stores. There is a backstory, but I don’t care and most customers don’t know. If you’re not from around southeastern PA, you probably think of your one-year old nephew asking for a drink… of wawa.)

Exxon, BP, Sunoco… (I could keep going. You argue: They’re huge! Whaddya mean, retard growth? Let me ask you this: Do these names make you feel loyal? Describe the unique value of the chain? If you’re like most, when you need gas, you stop. Where the cheapest stuff is. No loyalty at all. Bright naming spot in the fuel firmament: Mobil, whose name implies exactly what I want out of fuel: to be mobile again.)

AstraZeneca (Don’t get me started on pharmaceutical companies’ names. Doesn’t anyone in an industry dedicated to helping people heal want a name that reflects this? And while I’m on the subject… Xanax, Zyrtec, Advil…)

Hertz (Sounds like…)


With a memorable business name you’ve got a one-second ad that can help you grow faster, every day. I hope that Naming 101 has given you a head start on choosing a great name for your business.

For the sticklers out there: Nine. Yah, yah, I know. I got stuck. If you’ve read the series, you understand Naming 101 now—Who else can you think of that breaks the mold with their name, ignoring the rules and still burning up the balance sheet?


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson