Company names

From a book I’m reading at the moment, “Investacorp had bought half-shares in the company a full eighteen months ago but they still thought of then as the Suits”

Phil: I’m sorry. “Investacorp”? You think that sounds like a company name?

No, it doesn’t. What it sounds like is a writer trying to come up with a name and getting it wrong. What they are trying to say is “evil, money-sucking b*****ds” but real firms don’t name themselves like that.

What they tend to do is make up gibberish words like Aviva, Diageo, Corus. You can’t tell what any of these companies do but that doesn’t matter – someone, probably wearing skinny jeans and sporting a beard, pocketed a huge amount of cash for thinking them up.

Creating real sounding company names is actually quite tough if you don’t have the aforementioned jeans and beard combo. One of my favourites recently is “Perfect Curve” from the BBC’s series 2012 and W1A.

Perfect Curve sums up the vapid end of the marketing world where high-brow concepts are tossed around in mind-showers full of people who know they won’t be forced to turn this rubbish into anything practical.

One major problem is that once you have a convincing name, you need to check that it isn’t so convincing someone else has thought of it and is using it for their firm. Google is your friend here – just bung the name in and see what happens. If you’ve been beaten to it, move on or a stern letter will be on the way from the sort of lawyers who eat lonely writers for breakfast.

In our book, we have “KOD Associates”. The acronym means something but I’m not going to tell you what, you’ll have to read it to find that out. I think it sounds plausible though and to be safe, we’ve even registered the web address to stop anyone else using it.


Filed under Phil, Writing

3 responses to “Company names

  1. Christian Summers

    Totally agree – whilst there are some dumbass names out there in the real world, these days a lot of new startups use search engine friendly names that would only come up with one result.

    ‘First Business Services’ will have a million hits whereas ‘Tumblr’, ‘Flickr’ or ‘Vimeo’ are so specific you’re only likely to find the company you want. Clever stuff. And of course ‘A1…’ doesn’t work anymore now yellow pages is dead and buried.

    I have deliberately gone for a generic sounding bunch of names for companies in my WIP, suggesting mergers of already enormous companies, and turns out ‘Allied Conglomerates’ is registered as a real business. It’s also widely suggested to be a shell company for a fraudster, which somehow makes it even more perfect.

  2. I’ve often wondered what goes into making a company or a product name, even though I once worked with marketers in a multinational corporation so you would think i would know. I do know that all the standard names are taken up in trademarks, so all that is left is strange sounding names, which explains those cheesy pharmaceuticals in television ads. Sad that we have to put up with corporations and products with names that tell us nothing about them except whether they’ve hired clever enough marketers.

  3. Christian Summers

    See above Alan – I work in marketing and I think at the moment I think it’s a product of our time. No doubt this methodology won’t last forever. The only constant is change.

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