Choosing a name for your SME: not as easy as you think

The ins and outs of naming a new business

It should be simple. It should be fun. But naming a business can actually be more complicated (and crucial) than you might expect. Few companies end up using the first name they had in mind. Here are some considerations and tips for getting it right.





  • Think different. The biggest barrier to naming is the fact that most names are already taken, especially if they are strongly appropriate, straightforward or universal. You need to constantly check availability for every name you think of. Initially, you can do this through simple online searching. Later, if you think you’ve found something that’s not yet in use, this needs to be more rigorously, for example through a legal advisor. As well as the registration of the company name, you need to check online domain names. Sometimes the former is still available, yet someone is ‘cybersquatting’ the domain name.
  • Think international. Once upon a time, your business name just went on a letterhead, business card and on a name outside your business or a shop in the local area. But now, every marketplace is global, and you need to think how your name will play out around the world. This will determine the extents to which you can be found online and can build your name online.
  • Think ‘trademark-able’. As a general rule of thumb, it’s hard to trademark common words, and (relatively) easier to trademark more unusual or unique forms.
  • Think personality. The name should help to reflect the kind of company you are. Traditional and authoritative, or bold and quirky?


  • Try ‘coined’ words – names that are constructed from bits of other words and ideas, but that don’t actually mean anything normally. For example, the Norwegian (and now global) telephone operator Telenor.
  • Don’t rule out naming your business after the founder(s), or the family pet, or your town or birth or similar. Such ‘proper’ names are more likely to be available and trademark-able – as long as they still feel suitable, that is.
  • We have a unique card to play in this region: Arabic words. Many Arabic words, when presented in the ‘Latin’ alphabet, create unique and catchy names. Even if their ‘meaning’ isn’t always obvious to an international audience, it almost doesn’t matter – they still work as company names. For example, the property developers Emaar and Nakheel. Do be careful though of uncertain spelling – for example, customers not knowing whether to use souq or souk could lose you online custom.
  • If you’re absolutely set on a certain word, but find that it’s already in use, you could try adding an adjective (or two) for the sole purpose of making it unique. Colours and shapes, for example, are often used to turn ‘common’ words into unique and ownable names – ie Blue Circle Cement.
  • When you finally do decide on a name, remember the domain name is as important as the company name. So make sure to get both registered as quickly as possible.


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