CEO Sundays: Why Is Naming A Company So Damn Hard?

By November 27, 2011

Names are important to defining a company and its path and there are literally millions of potential choices. Also, thanks to companies like Gowalla, Spotify, and Pinterest names don’t need to mean anything or even exist as real words, so why is it so goddamn difficult to find one that works?

What Do We Call Ourselves?

We are in the process of renaming Passing Green. Why you ask? At this point it’s a cornucopia of reasons. There are most certainly things that need to be considered when naming a company that lives on the interwebs.

  1. The internet is international. Make sure your company name works internationally
  2. Make certain your company name has little or no negative connotations
  3. Don’t use buzz words that can get the purpose of your company confused
  4. Make your name something fun that you can brand in your own clever way

We failed all four of these rules I have just come up with. For starters, we are the only country with green money, perhaps we could rebrand in Britain to Passing Queen (the domain is available). This issue then leads directly into rule 2. So if Passing Green doesn’t make sense overseas, what does Passing Green mean to them?

Let me tell you a story of Passing Green at TechWeek. This was the first week we had taken Passing Green out of our test market of Green Bay, WI and we were quite visible throughout TechWeek. Part of this included us walking around in Passing Green shirts around all week. On the back is our company twitter handle @passinggreen. A security guard at the conference came up to me and asked if he tweeted @passinggreen with his address and an amount would we deliver him weed. My response was that no matter how much fun I heard prison might be it is in fact not that great. Rule#2: FAIL.

How we fail the third rule should be pretty obvious. I have had a lot of people approach me at demo events asking how we are involved in clean energy, to which my only reply can be that we are not. Of course when the company takes off I will gladly build myself a “green” house. I have had the pleasant experience of people asking me if we do something with clean energy and when they find out we don’t don’t then they walk away, annoyed.

Lastly, I’m not really certain we have failed rule 4, but we certainly haven’t succeeded and after a year of not having a clever, fun name to brand is a failure by default.  So how do companies come up with their names?

Well, Twilio, came about in a strange way, “What we started doing is saying, we want to invent a word, we know that, so let’s just start making syllables without faces and when we have something that sounds good, check and see if the domain name is available,” as told to Mashable. Not to mention that fact that Twitter was pulled out of a hat.

If anyone wants to help us out, I’m all ears.