From The 32nd Floor: Business names hot commodity in global market

What do Enron, Arthur Anderson, and Worldcom all have in common? Well, yes they all had a little trouble with accounting, but think smaller. Ever notice the names have nothing to do with the business?

Think about companies that we hear about everyday. Verizon - what does Verizon mean? The company provides wireless phone service, long distance and Internet services. The word Verizon is not in the dictionary, nor is it a name of another country. It's just the name of a company.

Let's try another. Amazon - who, exactly, came up with Amazon? Think of rain forests, water, monkeys - the typical things come to mind. I never thought of books until Amazon.com built an inescapable brand name.

Companies are having to find crazy, obscure names because the Internet has become so saturated. All the cool names have been taken. Even worse, all the practical names have been taken. Every company needs a web site, and the site needs to mirror the company. So new innovators are scrambling to find something that works.

Xanga is a perfect example of making up a name to run a Web site. The company tries to help writers publish on the web. A technician who worked there from the company's beginning revealed the name was chosen because every other name the founders came up with was already taken. They had to create a word that could merit a web site and stick in the heads of customers.

Every year, Fortune magazine compiles a list of the 100 best places to work. As I was scrolling through the names I was laughing at how many companies have irrelevant names: Starbucks, American Century, Patagonia, Arbitron.

American companies also have this fascination of naming things after themselves. I don't know if it's a need to feel important, but it's become an epidemic. Edward Jones is Fortune's number one-ranked place to work. Frank Russell, Charles Schwab and Stew Leonard all have their names plastered over billboards, commercials and coffee mugs across the country.

Financial firms seem to be the worst at self-titles. The least the companies could do is include a word at the end to give us some idea of what business to expect. Why couldn't it be Charles Schwab Financial Corporation? See, that isn't so hard.

Why can't business be easy? The Container Store, number two on Fortune's list of best companies, tells us exactly what we need to know. It makes containers. It's a company for storage solutions.

Last week I talked about college projects becoming million-dollar companies. If you plan on starting your own business, you'd better start thinking about the company name now. It may be impossible to find a good one.

Write to Liz at eabaker@bsu.edu


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