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Author Topic: What Should We Consider When Selecting a Company Name?  (Read 5035 times)
marsuniversity
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« on: August 18, 2008, 05:28:47 PM »

Hello everyone.  As a first-time poster, please forgive me if this topic has been posted too many times in the past (a quick search revealed only a few similar topics), or if it is in the wrong forum.

To explain our situation, we're setting up a small company (comprised of three individuals, working together).  The company will be producing mostly RPG-related products, with a few card and board games on the side.  We're currently debating amongst ourselves over what name to use.  My gut instinct is to just go with something that I like and that "sounds cool" (at least to me).  However, besides the name not being claimed by another entity, is there anything else we should be worried about?  Should we be trying for something catchy and easily memorable?  Should we be worried about having a name similar to another company?  How about an abbreviation?  The problem we're having with the original name we decided on was that its abbreviation would come out as FFG, which happens to be the same as Fantasy Flight Games, and we're a bit worried about confusion amongst our potential customers.

Has anyone experienced some issue with the company name they've decided upon that we, frankly, haven't even considered?  Any help you could give us on this decision would be greatly appreciated.
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David Artman
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« Reply #1 on: August 19, 2008, 07:27:36 AM »

You seem to have most of the issues sewn up. I'll toss out a few extras:
* Logo design and typography - You'll want to consider how (or even if) you include the company name in its logo, which can in turn impact the logo's shape or profile. For instance, a name with one long word and two smaller will make a T or diamond pattern, if typeset into the logo in a stack. Multiple similar-length words make a square or rectangle; etc.
* Exhaustively research what your company name (or similar words) mean in foreign languages. The anecdote I recall about that was, for the Commodore VIC-20, they considered calling it a "Vixen" until they found out that vixen in German is, basically, a slut/whore. And everyone knows about the Chevy Nova's lack of success in Spanish-speaking countries (would you buy a "No Go" named car?).
* Name -> Logo or Logo -> Name? Decide that soonest. If you just KNOW you want a particular logo element, well you're gonna have that element in the name, likely. Conversely, if you KNOW you want certain words in the name, then you need to consider how they will "inform" a logo. Or forget about it and be like 90% of all companies out there.

HTH;
David
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guildofblades
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« Reply #2 on: August 19, 2008, 07:48:13 AM »

You want it to be memorable first and foremost.

You want it to either 1) communicate as to what you do or (ala, Computer Consultants, Inc for computer consulting) or if you plan to do a wider variety of things, you want it to be topical or genre neutral (ala, Ebay, Amazon.com, etc. For instance, a name like Fantasy Role Players Inc would be less than ideal if most of what you did was historical miniatures).

Yeah, you wouldn't want a name that abbreviated worked out to be the same abbreviation (and an abbreviations known and used within the industry) to represent another company. It'll create brand confusion and make it harder for folks to remember you by.

Conventional wisdom suggests shorter names are better. Obviously, though, we ignored that one when naming our own companies. lol.

Ease of use. Try saying the would-be name of your company out loud. Talk about it in a sentence. If its difficult or challenging to say, folks will either not bother or they'll brutally hack it, neither of which works well for you in the word of mouth category.

Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Retail Group - http://www.guildofblades.com/retailgroup.php
Guild of Blades Publishing Group - http://www.guildofblades.com
1483 Online - http://www.1483online.com
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Ryan S. Johnson
Guild of Blades Publishing Group
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marsuniversity
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« Reply #3 on: August 19, 2008, 01:36:55 PM »

Thanks for the quick response, you two, you've definitely given us a few additional things to consider.

In regards to David's comments on logo design, we hadn't even considered that yet.  We were still focusing on a name, assuming that most customers would hear the name spoken or in typed print (such as in a review or internet forum post) much more often than they would see our logo itself.  I'm curious as to how much impact (if any) logo design has had on everyone here?  As we'll be working on small-run card games, we may need something that scales easily to fit on the back of a deck of playing cards and still leave room for a product blurb.  Using a company abbreviation could help that out, but we might loose a bit of name recognition.  Then again, this may not be an issue at all, as there a few game companies identified only by abbreviation (TSR and FASA spring to mind here).

Another issue to consider would be logo design choices affecting printing later on.  Does anyone have any horror stories or words of warning regarding their logo design and the cover/package design or printing process?  I'd like to know if anyone has experienced an easier time with particular image or font selections.

Ryan, the suggestion regarding verbal use is greatly appreciated, as you've brought up something that should have been a fairly obvious concern that none of us had considered at this point.  Additionally, as we're planning on putting out a range of game types, a more general name would probably work best for us.  The issue now, if I drawing proper conclusions from your suggestion, is to choose something which doesn't call to mind too many genre or game format trappings, while still making it obvious that we produce the kind of thing you'd find in stock at your local game store.

Thanks for the assistance so far, this is already helping us to narrow things down a bit.
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David Artman
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« Reply #4 on: August 20, 2008, 07:05:41 AM »

I'm curious as to how much impact (if any) logo design has had on everyone here?
For me, it's massive. Consider that the logo will be far easier to fit on a spine than the full company name (viz Ziff Davis; Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, etc). Further, I feel a good logo sticks in the head FAR better than even the most evocative names. Of course, searching on a logo is neigh impossible (unless its all letters, and then it merely becomes very hard). But spotting on on a shelf, with hundreds of other books: trivially easy. I guess it all comes down to your distribution agenda....

Quote
Another issue to consider would be logo design choices affecting printing later on.  Does anyone have any horror stories or words of warning regarding their logo design and the cover/package design or printing process?  I'd like to know if anyone has experienced an easier time with particular image or font selections.
No horror stories (I'm a good logo designer), but a few words of warning:
* Avoid color-transition gradients (or bitmapped art, in general) as it can render poorly and will increase print costs (needing four-color rather than spot color).
* On that note, be sure to make your logo as vector art, the better to infinitely scale (and minimize file size, for what that's worth). The same vector art logo can be printed 1" high or 10' high, without pixellating.
* Be prepared to make a full-color logo AND black-on-white and white-on-black versions. This provides maximum flexibility for printing and displaying, but it means you have to really fiddle with a logo to get to one that works in all three modes.
* On that note, I favor one-color (plus grayscale) logos, the better to contain printing costs (in web press environments--POD color printers cost the same per page whether spot color of four-color process).
* Personally, I avoid serifed fonts, again for best-printing practices. That said, there's a tone of serifed fonts used in professional logos, so your mileage may vary. I just find that serifs, if scaled WAY down (like, to fit on a normal 12 point line, say) become very hard to print cleanly, unless you are dealing with 1200dpi+ web press printing onto high quality paper.
* On that note, I also favor bold (or "black") fonts, with heavy stroke weights, whether serifed or not. Again, it's a scaling thing.
* Similarly, avoid light line weights in any graphics: they can disappear at small scales, often with unfortunate side effects (like making the logo look like something totally different... or another company's logo).

Quote
The issue now, if I drawing proper conclusions from your suggestion, is to choose something which doesn't call to mind too many genre or game format trappings, while still making it obvious that we produce the kind of thing you'd find in stock at your local game store.
Yep, you've got to balance the general scope of your gaming products against the specific scope of "we do game products." Tricky one, that. Of course, Steve Jackson solves it rather neatly; and I, for one, emulate him with "david artman designs" - d.a.d. - which I also like because it's active sounding and prefaces all kinds of stuff; e.g. "david artman designs... games" or "...products" or "...toys", etc. That said, I am also leaning towards naming MY company "Zero Budget Books" with the logotype of "0BB". I can do a LOT with the orientation and positioning of a numeral and two Bs. :)

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Dan Maruschak
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« Reply #5 on: August 20, 2008, 10:04:53 AM »

I don't have much practical experience, but I thought I'd add a few thoughts I've had based on reading a bunch of books about marketing.
Quote
Ease of use. Try saying the would-be name of your company out loud. Talk about it in a sentence. If its difficult or challenging to say, folks will either not bother or they'll brutally hack it, neither of which works well for you in the word of mouth category.
To add to this point, make sure that the spelling is obvious from the way it's pronounced. After hearing the "word of mouth", people need to get to your website either by typing your company name in the address bar of a browser or by using google, and in either case they'll need to spell it properly.

Also, you may want to make an effort to make sure that your company will be highly ranked on google when people search for it. There's a whole field of search engine optimization that I don't know too much about, but at the very least you want to avoid names that already have strong associations with someone or something else (which is a good idea from a branding perspective, anyway), whether it's a company or not.

Quote
How about an abbreviation?
On the topic of initials and abbreviations, I find this article by Al Ries to be interesting: http://www.ries.com/iframes/articles-read.php?id=57 It's not perfectly on point (it's about companies officially changing their names to initials, but it has some interesting thoughts, such as whether the initials are actually shorter when pronouced). Personally, from a marketing perspective, I dislike initials. You're probably better off having a short name or one that can be shortened by chopping rather than initializing.

On the issue of logos, I'd suggest including the full name of your company in the logo, if you can. It's taken Nike decades and millions of dollars to associate the "swoosh" with Nike to an such an extent that they no longer need to use the word "Nike". You're unlikely to have decades or millions of dollars to work with, so you may as well make it unnecessary. Logos are a customer expectation in this industry, but you really want to fix your company name in people's minds, so I would combine them if you can.

Quote
Further, I feel a good logo sticks in the head FAR better than even the most evocative names.
I would disagree with this point, but maybe it's a personal preference thing and some people remember images better than words, and vice versa. But in the internet world, nobody can search on your logo, and in the word of mouth world nobody can talk about your logo. Of course, if you can get a great name and a great logo, more power to you.
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David Artman
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« Reply #6 on: August 21, 2008, 09:52:58 AM »

Quote
Further, I feel a good logo sticks in the head FAR better than even the most evocative names.
I would disagree with this point, but maybe it's a personal preference thing and some people remember images better than words, and vice versa. But in the internet world, nobody can search on your logo, and in the word of mouth world nobody can talk about your logo. Of course, if you can get a great name and a great logo, more power to you.[/quote]TO clariffy, I was speaking in terms of a buyer looking for additional works by the same authors/publishers, NOT the initial buy only. Looking at other companies with largish product lines, a good logo is clearly not a hard-and-fast rule to aid finding additional products--it's less effective than a consistent book design style; viz HERO and D&D lines. I guess it's just my own taste and preferences from a marketers perspective: all collateral should be "of a piece" and that includes logos, logotype, mailing materials, receipts, invoices, letterheads, cards, etc.
-----
MU, as a learning exercise, check out your current employer's (or get a friend/spouse to take you in to check out) marketing guidelines--I'd show you mine, but that stuff is usually internal-only. The last one I really dug into was GSK's, and they had a TON of rules about usage of the logo versus the name versus the abbreviation and how they had to be oriented and scaled relative to each other; plus black on white and white on black and how THOSE would work; plus rules for which fonts must be used, where, for any and all external publications... there's quite a bit to unpack, when you get down to it; and it's rarely a good idea to sort it out "on the fly"--you get inconsistencies across your brand, that way (which can range from minor oddities to amateurish-looking).
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: August 21, 2008, 10:42:53 AM »

Hi there,

Here are some older threads on this topic which present a different viewpoint from posts so far in this one. However, I think that all of it is valuable food for thought, in combination, especially since the points arise from actual experience. Please note the dates on these threads (they're in order from oldest to most recent).

Game company: why?
The Something-Something Press
Name for company
How did you come up with your name?

Best, Ron
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Steve Segedy
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« Reply #8 on: August 21, 2008, 10:56:02 AM »

One last thing that I don't think has been mentioned yet- see if the name of your company (or some reasonable variation of it) is available as a domain name.  If so, register it!  Even if you don't want a website now, your customers will expect to find one if your business is at all successful. 

Along those lines, make sure your name as a URL will be easy to spell (as mentioned earlier) and not misunderstood.  Be careful with hyphens and so such (indierpgs.com?  indie-rpgs.com?).   Run your domain name by somebody else, just to be sure. 
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marsuniversity
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« Reply #9 on: August 27, 2008, 02:27:58 PM »

Thanks again for all your help on this issue, everyone.  With your suggestions in mind, we were finally able to sit down and decide on a name for ourselves that we believe will work out much better than our original selection.
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