We build businesses. Even little ones.

We build businesses.
Even little ones.

How to Name a Business, Thematic Resonance Edition

One thing that a lot of people want when they’re naming their business is something that we’ll call thematic resonance.

They’re looking for something with punch, something that viscerally impacts the target customer and kinda drips with meaning. (Everything I say here is just as applicable to taglines as it is to business names, by the way.)

Basically, they want a more elegant version of naming their plumbing business Nice Pipes, instead of Mike’s Plumbing.

This seems particularly true when you’re trying to appeal to a certain political or religious demographic. We want those in the know to, well, know. You know?

So today, I want to play a bit of an example game.

You may or may not know that I was raised Mormon. (Kind of. It’s complicated. My mother’s Catholic and my father was Mormon and my step-mother was Jewish. Except my father didn’t like the God bits in Mormonism so I wasn’t supposed to get baptized. But I digress.)

You also may or may not know that a big component of Mormon life is emergency preparedness. There’s a lot involved in that, but one of the major elements is food storage. As a Mormon mama, it is expected that you have enough food in your home to feed your entire family for a year.

And they say the Boy Scouts are prepared.

So let’s say that as an enterprising ittybiz owner to be, I got it in my head that it would be a good idea to target the Mormon mamas who were a tad daunted by this tricky little piece of doctrine. I also wouldn’t mind taking other people’s money while I’m at it.

I’m going to create a business that helps people get ready for “emergency situations” or, alternatively, the reinstatement of Zion, depending on who you ask.

Because I’m really targeting the Mormons, I want a business name that shows exactly what I’m trying to do. I want to resonate with the Mormons. So I set about creating a business name that really shows what I’m all about.

It’s like the company name version of “nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more, say no more”.

Now, you could achieve resonance by calling your company Preparing Yourself and Your Eight Perfectly-Groomed Children For The Return Of Christ To Lead His One True Church I Say These Words In The Name Of Jesus Christ Amen.

You could do that.

But it’s a bit heavy handed. Plus, you’d miss out on the PERFECTLY GOOD MONEY to be earned from the lovely non-Mormons who just happen to be conspiracy theorists, or fans of Neil Strauss’ book, Emergency.

The second approach tends to pendulum swing the other way.

You could call your company Z-Dog Prep 4 U. The Z stands for Zion. Get it?

But then your resonance would be either internal – you get a little smug smile every time you see your business card, but nobody else gets the reference – or you’d have to explain it every time.

And if you went with the explain it every time approach, every time you were at a non-cocktail party – hello! you’re Mormon! – you’d have to say, “The Z stands for Zion. Get it?” and then you’d be so mad after a while, you’d be saying the “GET IT?” in all-caps and you’d look like one mad Mormon mama.

(Do you see what I save you from?)

The ideal you’re looking for here is a combination approach.

Ideally, you want something that will resonate with the people you want it to resonate with, and either fly under the radar of everybody else, or resonate with them in a completely different way.

Here’s a crappy, off-the-top-of-my-head example that I in no way recommend you emulate.

How about For When The Day Comes?

This resonates with Sister Leatham. She knows exactly which day you’re talking about. But it can also resonate with Mike “Nice Pipes” O’Riflelover who knows for certain that the day you’re referring to is the day the Democrats finally get their way and the whole place goes to hell.

So how do we put this into practice?

Ask people who are your PERFECT demographic what your name makes them think of.

Don’t ask them if they like it. Ask what it makes them think of.

Now ask people who are NOT in your perfect demographic, but whose money you would still like to take.

Again, don’t ask them if they like it. Ask what it makes them think of.

When both answers are perfectly acceptable to you and you don’t find yourself going, “NO NO NO THAT’S NOT WHAT I MEANT AT ALL”, then you don’t have a resonance problem.

Your name might still suck. But it doesn’t have a resonance problem.