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

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.


Techli team

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What others say about : CEO Sundays: Why Is Naming A Company So Damn Hard?..

Marshall Kirkpatrick

Sorry but Passing Green *totally* sounds like sharing a joint with a circle of people. If no one told you that, and this is advice we could all probably use, I suspect you need to expand your social contacts to include people with a wider variety of life experiences.

Edward Domain


When I first met the Passing Green team, I said the *exact* same thing.  And… “…you need to expand your social contacts to include people with a wider variety of life experiences.” FTW 

Muse Seymour

I wasn’t apart of the decision on the original naming process, unfortunately. I have always disliked the name, as Ed can attest to. However, renaming it with something that everyone likes is proving to be a much bigger daunting task that I ever would have imagined.

Muse Seymour

So I have a lovely little addendum to the article as I have received the history for the name of a fantastic social app called We&Co (@weand_co) from their Co-Founder Jared Malan (@jfals82:twitter ). We&Co is an awesome application to ‘thank’ the people who make all of our days possible and better. From the waitress at lunch, to your assistant, to the guy who just fixed your sink, and besides according to their research, saying thanks makes you 25% happier. It is a fantastic application for the iPhone and a web app on other devices, with a simply beautiful design. 

So here is Jared’s story:

“We&Co is the baby of a social innovation firm called BeDo.
Among other things, BeDo provided clients brand development support, so
it is something we were good at. We had a great team of creative
thinkers, designers, and brand guys.

We started with a brainstorm, which led to hundreds
of potential names. We used multiple techniques, but themes connected to
our concept were especially helpful–themes around a “small town” and
tip of the hat for example. After we had a giant list, we started
crossing names off to get to a reasonable number of solid potential

We then checked those potential names to see whether
they were ownable. This step kills a lot of great names. First, a great
URL is critical. Some say that a great URL has to be a .com. I’m not of
that mindset, at least not for many online businesses. Great .com’s are
impossible to find without a giant heap of cash. And, there is nothing
worse than a 16-character URL or inane combo of letters that happen to
be available. We’re a social app so referrals drive our awareness, less
so Google or visitors going directly to our website.

Once we’ve killed the great, but un-ownable names,
we do some quick designs. A designer does a quick mock of the remaining
names so we can start to get a visual feel for the name. Once you get a
good look paired with a great name, the decision making becomes easy. It
took us a few rounds of mocks to get to a brand that we really loved:

We&Co is not a perfect brand. The ampersand
confuses some people; we don’t have a .com; people refer to us as
We&Company (we kind of love this, however). Despite these short
comings, we love We&Co. It’s fresh, fun, and completely unique. It
doesn’t tell you what We&Co does, but it perfectly communicates what
We&Co is all about, people, community, and great businesses.”

Choosing a name by design is not something I had considered before and is a brilliant idea to succeed with rule #4. And please please check out the fantastic We&Co

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