Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

Naming Your Business

Marketers cheer Apple for its branding strategy. But Apple’s approach to naming is sloppy and begs for lawsuits.

Only two years after its launch, Apple Computers was sued by Apple Corps for copyright infringement. In order to keep the name, Apple Computers paid $80.000 and agreed to stay out of the music business.

Back then, the only way to own music was to buy an LP, 8-track or cassette. But then Apple designed a computer that could play MIDI music. 

Apple Corps sued and Apple Computers settled for $26.6 million. 

Apple also has a bad reputation when it comes to naming its products. The iPad infringed on a Chinese trademark and cost the tech company $60 million.

Procter and Gamble, however, has been releasing and naming products for over 100 years. Tide, Pepto Bismol, Gilette, Olay, Pampers—all unique names that don’t violate copyrights.

So how do you come up with a good name for your business?

Seeing as 95% of startups in the Netherlands—where I live—are freelancers, let’s start there.

Most freelancers suffer from a multiple personality disorder. Despite being an independent professional, they pick a name that sets a big expectation.

John & Co. Management Inc. RBN. Or a made-up word like, Altria.

Those names don’t fool anyone.

Besides, who would you rather do business with?

Hilary Ouse, the driven designer who everyone keeps talking about, or Ouse Design, the pompous ‘office’?

A freelancer who pretends to be an organisation misses the point: freelancers offer services that an office can impossibly match.

Call an office and you reach the service desk.
Hand over your assignment to a manager and a consultant you’ve never seen or spoken to does the work.
Send an email to your consultant and get a reply from an intern.

A freelancer does everything herself. So you know exactly what to expect.

Choosing a fancy name for your business destroys the most powerful tool you have as a freelancer: your own name.

You’ve been working on your personal brand since birth. Your family, friends, former colleagues, classmates and countless others already know who you are.

And they are often the people who recommend you to potential clients.

So as a freelancer, stay away from posh and hard to pronounce names. Make it easy for your friends to refer you—use your name. 

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach