Let’s say you’ve spent a lot of time and money developing a name that’s distinctive, legally available, and a good match for your naming brief. You can still end up with a less-than-desirable name if you neglect to ask these important questions.
1. How will it look in lower-case spelling? A name like IfByPhone or PopUpEdu depends for clarity on intercap letters. On Twitter and other applications, however, the name may appear in all lower-case letters—ifbyphone, popupedu—with a potential loss of intelligibility and pronounceability.
2. How will it look in black and white? Color can transform your company or product name into a sharp-looking logo. But for some applications—press kits, white papers, email—you won’t have the benefit of color. If you rely on color to make your point, as the Big Ten athletic conference did in its recent logo redesign, you risk losing your message. (I’m not saying that Big Ten is necessarily confusing anyone, but a smaller organization that attempts a similar strategy may be asking for trouble.)
3. How will it read in the newspaper? Speaking of black-and-white, print journalism isn’t dead yet. No matter how stridently you insist on accent marks or punctuation in your name (Aol. and Yahoo!, I’m talking to you), the business reporter on deadline is unlikely is share your obsession.
4. How does it sound on the telephone? Or in everyday conversation, for that matter? I've written previously about the counterintuitive pronunciation of Virgance. Here’s an even more-boggling example: μTorrent, a popular file-sharing client, is spelled with the Greek letter μ (mu), which is commonly pronounced mee (in modern Greek), myoo (in English), or micro (in scientific measurements). But μTorrent’s URL is utorrent.com. The program’s Swedish creator, Ludvig Strigeus, “usually” pronounces the name as “you torrent” but has also suggested “microtorrent,” “mytorrent” (my, pronounced mee, is Swedish for μ), and “mutorrent” as possible pronunciations. For a consumer-facing company or product, this much word-of-mouth confusion would be catastrophic; it’s not exactly wonderful for μTorrent, either. (See also #3, above.)
5. Do you have a misleading or undesirable acronym? I’m currently talking with a prospective client, a startup, whose working name is a three-word idiom that ends in a word starting with “U.” Reduced to its initials, the company looks like a university. That’s misleading, but it could be much worse: the initials could be a real WTF.