Getting a name right first time round is tough.
Take Innocent Drinks. After nearly two decades of smoothie domination, there’s no denying that it’s a pretty smart name.
It’s simple. It’s sweet. It says ‘goodness’. And when it first launched against established competitors like Tropicana, it managed to sound unaffected, as though it really was just the idea of three university friends.
But Innocent sounds even better when you hear the other options the founders almost went for. Like the oxymoronic ‘Fast Tractor’. Or the ho-hum, heard-it-before ‘Naked’. Or the downright bizarre ‘Hungry Aphid’.
(I mean, seriously bizarre. For those who don’t know, an aphid is a ‘small sap-sucking insect’ that’s ‘among the most destructive pests of cultivated plants in temperate regions’ and considered ‘the enemy of farmers and gardeners all over the world’. Which is kind of sweet and unaffected. I guess.)
But Innocent weren’t alone in getting off to a rocky start.
Amazon started life as Cadabra. As in, ‘abra-cadabra, look how many books we have’. It wasn’t an obviously bad name – at least, not until founder Jeff Bezos overheard someone mispronounce Cadabra as ‘Cadaver’. Which isn’t exactly the kind of vibe a buzzy start-up wants to be associated with.
Then there’s Google. Or, as it was originally known, BackRub. It’s something to do with ‘crawling’ ‘backlinks’. It’s also pretty darn creepy, particularly when you see the original logo.
What do all these attempts have in common? It’s that they don’t really say anything about their brands.
For example, Innocent’s brand is all about ‘tasting and doing good’. That’s not exactly something that springs to mind when you hear ‘Fast Tractor’.
Ultimately, that’s the first hurdle any name should be able to jump: is it really saying something about your brand?
It’s not easy. (If it were, we’d be out of a job.) Often, it means scrapping lots of names you love.
But the result – a name that speaks proudly of who you are, and makes people sit up and listen – is more than worth it.
So if you’re in the middle of naming your business and feeling lost, take heart. Even the biggest brands didn’t get it right at the beginning.
(And remember, you can always pick up the phone.)