8 Examples of Exceptional Company Names

“When I close my eyes, I see this thing, a sign. I see this name in bright blue neon lights with a purple outline. And this name is so bright and so sharp that the sign—it just blows up because the name is so powerful…”

That bit of dialogue comes from a scene in the movie Boogie Nights. Mark Wahlberg’s character, Eddie Adams, who’s looking to break into the adult film industry, shares a vision he had for his screen name. He says he imagined seeing it in lights. And as an audience we see it too. It looks like this…

Boogie Nights Name Inspiration

Many business owners probably envision the company naming process to be like this—a magical moment where the perfect name comes down like a lightning bolt, making all your dreams come true.

In reality, it rarely happens that way. In most cases, choosing a company name is a challenging and time-consuming task filled with a lot of misses, not-quites, and mediocre ideas. It often ends in compromise and contentment rather than shouts of “yes!” and applause. 

A lot of that may have to do with approach. Most business owners would be wise to approach naming less in Dirk Diggler fashion and more as a strategic process. Rather than sitting around waiting for lightning to strike, take the time and steps necessary to create a lightning rod—which will help you harness more and better name ideas.  

A Few Things to Keep in Mind When Naming Your Business

Remember, your company name creates an all-important first impression. Think strategically to make it a good one…

Avoid puns – Lawn & Order. Spruce Springclean. Wok This Way. These kind of novelty names may work on the local level, but they typically flop if you want to grow the brand.

Think about how it will look and sound – Don’t just choose a name, think about how it will look on a building, billboard, or website. Also, consider how it will sound when people use it in conversation. Does it sound awkward or roll right off the tongue?

Consider the URL Can you get a good URL for your company name—one that is short, simple, and easy to remember? This is definitely something to consider in our web-based world.

Explore potential negatives – The truth is a bad name can have more negative impact on a business than a great name can have positive impact. Go out of your way to avoid the negative. Ask: Does your name sound like another company name? Is it in any way offensive? Does it sound a little too close to a part of the human anatomy? These are all things you should consider.

Find your onion – The best company names are the ones that work on several levels. That have multiple layers you can peel back to reveal different meaning. Good business names establish a tone, allude to what the company does, and hit on the key benefit they provides customers. Great business names do all those things simultaneously.

8 Brilliant Brand Names—Why They Work & Where They Came From

On a recent episode of the Speaking Human podcast, we talked about what makes a strong company name. We also shared some examples of brands we thought nailed it with their names. Here are the companies mentioned and what we like about their names:

1. IKEA

This strong, compact name helps the Swedish home furnishings company stand out. The name is actually an acronym, with the “IK” coming from founder Ingvar Kamprad’s initials and the “EA” coming from the name of the farm and city where he grew up (Elmtaryd Agunnaryd). The name has history and meaning. And it’s far more interesting than if they would have just called the retailer Kamprad’s. It also sounds like the word “idea”, which works since this is a store where you can find ideas for your home.

IKEA

2. NIKE

This might be the best company name out there. It’s short, simple, and has the look and sound of speed and action. The combination of letters, particularly when used in italics, actually look like they’re ready to spring forward into a full sprint. Going a layer deeper, the name actually comes from the Greek goddess of victory, which fits perfectly with the brand and the benefit they offer customers.

3. ORACLE

This is a great example of adopting a word that is loaded with existing meaning and applying it to an unexpected industry. In this case, the word “oracle” traditionally means “a priest or priestess acting as a medium through whom advice or prophecy was sought from the gods”. Applied to a company that develops computing platforms and engineered systems, it implies wisdom, knowledge, trust, and looking into the future. It’s also a name that stands out in the jargon-filled tech space (as does another computer company name you’ll find below).

4. LEGO

Lego is the abbreviation of two Danish words meaning “play well”. That’s really the whole idea behind the company. It’s their ideal. When used in the brands’ visual treatment the letters also almost seem to snap together. The word itself has now become so ingrained in our culture, it’s impossible to detach from the brand in any way. When you see the word, you see the product. That’s every brand’s dream.

5. UNDER ARMOUR

Word on the street is founder Kevin Plank wanted to call the company “Heart”, but his trademark application was denied. He then considered “Body Armor” but couldn’t snag a trademark for that either. It was only when his brother mistakenly called the company “Under Armor” that inspiration struck. Even if it came about incidentally rather than strategically, the name works. It appeals to the athlete/warrior mentality of the target audience and suggest the better protection/benefit the products provide.

6. APPLE

Another short, sweet and effective name (have you noticed a trend in length and number of syllables with the names on this list?). Allegedly, founder Steve Jobs was driving back from an apple farm when the name clicked. Like the computers and devices Jobs’ championed, the name is simple, un-intimidating, and user-friendly. Unlike other computer company names like IBM and Microsoft, Apple is softer, less tech-y, and more approachable. It was easy for everyday, non-computer people to access and embrace. The name definitely helped the brand stand out in the industry.

7. XEROX

Sometimes weird-looking and sounding names can work wonders. Xerox is a prime example. This name not only pops out, it has become synonymous with making copies. The name comes from the word “xerography”, which was a combination of two Greek roots meaning “dry writing” (the unique selling point of Xerox’s technology at the time). The key to the success of this name is the “X”, a rarely used letter that demands attention. The parallel X’s that bookend the name perfectly emphasize the concept of making copies.

Xerox

8. SNAPPLE

When the company originally started out it had the truly awful name of Unadulterated Food Products (key tip: don’t include the word “adulterate” in your company name ever). But when a carbonated apple juice the company produced began to pop its caps because the juice had fermented, the name “Snapple” was born (it’s a combination of “snappy” and “apple). The name alludes to fruit, the unique flavor combinations that would drive the brand’s popularity in the 90s, and the light tone that would become a touchstone of their marketing. It also rolls of the tongue amazingly well.

Give Your Business a Name That Puts You in Position to Succeed at the Highest Level

Make it simple, powerful, meaningful. Think it through. Put some depth behind it. Give it layers. You want a name that underlines your mission and the key benefit you’re trying to offer. That has a story that adds power to your company, so that if someone asks you what it means you can tell them something better than “it sounded cool”.

Perhaps most importantly, make your company name unique. This requires some risk and an adaptation period, but it will give you the biggest payoff. Words like Ikea, Xerox, Nike, Google, and Starbucks didn’t mean much—until they did. That’s because the companies gave them their meaning. They defined them.

Choose a name that can be all yours. That you can own. That people will remember you by. It all circles back to Boogie Nights. If that movie taught us anything, it’s that Eddie Adams is just the name of another guy trying to break into the industry. But Dirk Diggler is the name of a legend.

Listen to our full podcast discussion of exceptional company names…