Branding Speaker, Trainer, and Coach

How to Avoid the 7 Deadly Sins of Naming


Ashley Madison, the adulterous hacked website, has finally changed its name. Hoping that a new moniker will make some of its 37 million former members forget that their contact info and unusual predilections were released on the dark web, it announced that its new name is … (wait for it) Ruby! Yes, one full year since the leak and this is the best brand name it could create?

Don’t #rename your company unless you have the dot com Click To Tweet

7 Deadly Sins of Naming (WARNING: THIS IS A LONG BLOG)

I get it; naming is hard, but this name fails on many fronts fueling my fire to arm you with the sins to avoid in the naming world.

  1. Announcing the Name Without the Domain – Quick, how do you find Ruby? goes to Kay Jewelers. is still available, so how do you find them????
  2. Holding a naming contest – Inevitably, when it’s time to create a new brand or company name, someone comes up with the brilliant idea to hold a naming contest. Actually, it’s not so brilliant. If the contest is either among employees or occurs at a trade booth, the time actually spent on the project is disproportionate to its value. Isn’t a new name worth more than five minutes of thought while uncomfortably standing on a trade show floor?

Don’t hold a naming contest to create a #brand name; it rarely works Click To Tweet

Even worse, contestants usually don’t understand naming rules or linguistics. They rarely know your naming preferences, the competitive landscape, trademark law, domain availability, or constructional linguistics to ensure that your name is appropriate and available. You then feel compelled to use the name and award a prize, even though you know that there is no winner in this game.

  1. Listening to GoDaddy – One of the ways entrepreneurs get into trouble is by following GoDaddy’s alternate name suggestions when your original dot com is unavailable. RESIST! These suggestions are based upon what is available for them to sell to you, not what you need. Also see last week’s blog about the lack of a relationship between domain availability and trademark availability.)

Looking up synonyms for a #brand name just gives you a similar name to competitors Click To Tweet

  1. Relying Upon Your Thesaurus – It’s easy to fall victim in naming to just look up synonyms. If, for example, you’re trying to name a new leadership company, you’re not surprised to see every variation of that domain taken. So, you then start looking at the thesaurus. Your competitors have been there too and this well quickly runs dry.
  2. Naming for the Moment – Your goal in naming is to create a brand that will survive the long term: a name that will survive today and prosper tomorrow. Is Awesomeness TV going to sound relevant in 3 years? Will LOL even make sense 20 years from now?
  3. Forgetting the International Audience – The Internet has truly made naming a worldwide event. All names today must work in numerous languages, or at least in the most common ones. Then there’s the classic story, circulated around the globe, of how Chevrolet introduced the car, Nova, into Spanish speaking countries where nova translates into “no go.” Recently, however, statistics have emerged showing astonishingly strong sales in Latin America, lending credence to the theory that the story might just be an urban legend.

Nissan didn’t learn from Chevy’s misstep. It designed a spectacular electric concept car that’s winning raves. And its name is…Pivo. But wait a minute! “Pivo” means beer in most Slavic languages. What a concept indeed! Have a beer and keep on truckin’! Toyota also missed the boat with MR2. In French, it translates as if reading the words “mer” plus “deux”—meaning “sh*t.” Oops!

I also chuckle when I remember how Israel mistakenly translated the sentence “Jerusalem: there’s no place like it” from Hebrew to English. The tagline then morphed into “Jerusalem: There is no such city.”

Some foreign language mistakes continue to be made over and over again. Esteé Lauder introduced Country Mist, Rolls Royce introduced the Silver Mist, and Clairol introduced the Mist Stick. The only problem was that the word “mist” in German roughly translates into horse manure! How alluring!

  1. Squishing Two Brand Names Together– Afraid of losing brand name recognition in the wake of a merger? Just combine all of the names together. You’ll join the tongue-twisting ranks of Dean Witter Morgan Stanley, ExxonMobil, LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, DaimlerChrysler, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Bristol-Myer Squibb, AOL Time Warner and SmithKline Beecham. Name merging is the compromise solution chosen when neither party will agree to a new company moniker. With yesterday’s decision for AMC to buy UCI Cinemas, will it end up as AMCUCI? Now that’s just alphabet soup!

Simply squishing 2 bad names together doesn’t make 1 good #name Click To Tweet

Please share your comments below.




  1. Great points. Another issue I’ve seen is picking a company and domain name that must be spelled out to understand. Fictitious example is Rent4Less. Is the domain,, or do you get both.

    • You get both, promote one and forward any visitors to the other on to the main site with the content.

    • I recommend NOT using homonyms in brand names because which spelling is correct. Is it Blue and or blew and or ????

      If your brand was created pre-web, I recommend gathering ALL of the potential domains and misspellings.

      On another note, avoid heteronyms too; these are words that are spelled the same, but pronounced differently. Led Zepplin, for example, initially started our as LEAD Zeppelin, but got tired of folks calling the LEED so they changed the spelling and the rest is music history.

  2. Yes – great points! I love Liz’s practical consideration of trademark issues (but then again, I’m a trademark lawyer). One additional example of “squished” names that has always rankled me: Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. A woman named Ruth bought an existing restaurant (Chris Steak House) and later renamed the business Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Or 5th 3rd Bank (I guess that’s two examples). What the owner likes and what consumers like and want can be two very different things. . .

    • I agree. The possessive drives me crazy too. And, very awkward to pronounce!

  3. Great post, Liz. Love your stuff, and appreciate how well it brands YOU

  4. Great advice, Liz! It’s bewildering that large corporations don’t heed this. My husband’s company has been bought out three times in the past four years, as well as a spin-off. The confusion created by each new mega-corporation who buys the company and changes names is almost insurmountable. They end up lacking credibility.

  5. Excellent points. The other challenge with long or combined names that try to hit all points or make everyone happy – they get turned into acronyms that no one can figure out, especially your customers!

  6. I see you don’t monetize your site,you can earn some additional money,
    just search in google for: ideas by Loocijano

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