How long should a business name be?
How long should a business name be? It’s a relatively common question for companies investing in a new name for a growing brand. The length of a business name can be tricky to master, as it involves walking the line between a descriptive, meaningful title, and something easy to remember.
In a world where being memorable is key, long company names aren’t quite as popular as shorter, snappy titles. However, this doesn’t mean there aren’t situations where a longer name might make the right impact.
As with most branding tactics, the right strategy is dependent on your company.
Today, we’re going to look at the factors influencing how long the average business name should be, and consider what may convince you to choose a longer name.
Can a business name be long?
Conventionally, most expert articles and blog posts about the naming process recommend keeping your name as short as possible. Shorter names have a lot of benefits for any company. They’re easier to remember, spell, and share with people both online and offline.
A shorter name is more likely to look good as part of a domain name or a logo for your website, and it can scale down to tiny sizes. Plus, shorter names are usually easier to pronounce, meaning people can start talking about you and generating word of mouth.
Of course, if you dive deeper into the naming process, you’ll discover an effective name depends on more than just whether you choose something long or short.
Some of the points to think about when wondering “how long should a business name be?” include:
The number of words: How many words should a business name have?
The more words included in your business name, the more complex it’s going to be for people to remember. Imagine if Instagram was called “Instant Telegram” for instance. Numerous words strung together can make your title look complex and convoluted.
It’s also worth remembering too many words makes it harder for people to find your company online. They may end up misspelling something when entering your domain name into their search bar.
For companies with more than 2 words, it’s usually a good idea to cut down your title as much as possible. For instance, Toys R Us uses an “R” to replace the word “Are”, and simultaneously show the youthful fun of the name.
The number of syllables: How many syllables should a company name have?
Syllables are another concept to consider. You could have a name that’s all one word, but it still be extremely complicated due to the number of syllables. Think about how many different sounds your customers will need to remember when hearing your name spoken out loud.
Although there’s no one-size-fits-all rule for choosing the right amount of syllables, less is often more. For a one-word name, you shouldn’t go over 4 syllables. Similarly, if you have two words in your name, try to stick to the same four syllable rule.
Don’t forget, a short name can sound long due to syllables, just look at “IKEA”.
A company name doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it’s part of the comprehensive strategy you use to build your brand’s identity. When questioning “how long should a business name be?” think about how your title is going to look when displayed on your website or implemented into your logo.
LawDept, for instance, looks more symmetrical than Law Department. Sometimes, constricting one of the words in your brand name can be an excellent way to create a sense of balance between the different parts of the title.
How many characters should a company name have?
Within the context of the brand naming process, the “characters” in your name are the individual letters, as well as glyphs like an ampersand. You’ll need to think carefully about the number of characters which make the most sense for your specific company.
The type of brand name you’re using, and the kind of company you’re trying to name will have a direct impact on how many characters are suitable for you.
For instance, if you’re using a made-up name, it’s going to be harder for your audience to remember than a word they’re already familiar with, so it’s best to keep things simple, like “Google”.
Alternatively, if you’re going to be naming a law firm, it’s often common to use eponymous names (naming the business after yourself). In this case, it’s standard to see a number of characters in the title spread across the surnames of different partners.
A descriptive name can often have more characters than a non-descriptive name too, as it’s attempting to convey more information. “Burger King” is naturally longer than “McDonalds”.
When deciding on the number of characters for your brand name, it’s worth writing down multiple versions of your title and seeing what they look like on paper. You can also test what the title might look like as a domain name.
Long business names and creating cognitive fluency
When you’re naming a business, your focus should always be on creating an impactful and memorable title. For the most part, this usually means choosing a shorter name, because short titles are quick, easy to remember, and convenient.
When choosing a name for any business, the focus is also on creating a sense of “cognitive fluency”. Cognitive fluency is a measure of how easily your customer’s brain will be able to understand the information presented to them.
Certain words like “Stop” or “Help” are easy to understand.
Notably, cognitive fluency can also differ depending on where you are in the world. If you sell to customers across the globe, a term which seems quick, simple and impactful for a Western audience wouldn’t necessarily be the same for an Eastern audience.
According to research, a good level of cognitive fluency can often change our perspective on a company. The research found companies with names easy to pronounce were more likely to perform well in the stock market than alternative options.
However, there are exceptions to the rules.
While most companies will benefit from cognitive fluency, others could make more of an impact by going in the opposite direction and exploring “disfluency”.
It’s a good way to separate yourself from the competition in the right circumstances, and even create a specific emotional response in your audience.
When do long company names work?
Although the majority of businesses will benefit from choosing shorter, more memorable names, there are cases where this isn’t always true.
Longer names are more commonly associated with out-of-the-box thinking, and luxury. In certain situations, a long name can also seem exotic and unique.
Look at Häagen-Dazs, for instance. It’s a far more complex name than most ice cream companies would choose. Yet, the title makes the perfect impact on the intended audience.
The name seems somewhat exotic and unique compared to choices like “Walls”, and helps you to imagine a distant land, where you perceive your luxury food to be coming from.
Similarly, Harley Davidson is a relatively long name compared to a lot of other automotive companies, like “Ford” or “Porsche”. But, the use of a personal name in the company’s moniker has a valuable impact.
The name helps to create a sense of humanity for the brand, which has also been excellent for the purpose of developing the Harley Davidson community.
While shorter names are often considered fun, simple, and friendly, longer names can be more meaningful, interesting, and exotic. If your product is a niche or luxury item, or you want to suggest a specific heritage or origin, then a disfluent and longer name might be the ideal solution.
For instance, many luxury scotch and whisky brands take this approach (Glenmorangie, for instance).
Choosing the right name length
Answering the question “how long should a business name be?” isn’t always as simple as it seems. At first glance, it seems most companies will benefit more from a shorter, more compact name with fewer words and syllables.
On the other hand, you may find there are situations where you’re more likely to make an impression with long company names.
A good way to determine whether a longer name is suitable for your business, is to take some time to evaluate your target audience and marketplace. Consider the kind of names your customers already like, based on the competition in your area.
Alternatively, if you’re struggling with naming, you can always reach out to an expert for help.
Fabrik: A naming agency for our times.
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