What's in A Name?

For those of you old enough to have watched the '70's television classic, "WKRP in Cincinnati," you will remember the straight-laced, bumbling and insecure newsman from the lowest-rated radio station in Ohio. In one episode, he is having a discussion with a man named Steel in which Steel makes the comment that he feels a man's name says a lot about who he is. He then asks the geeky, balding newsman what is name is. The reply: "Les. Les Nessman."

In the same way that "Steel" was a fitting name for the steroid-enhanced deliveryman, "Les" perfectly described the diminutive and incompetent news director.

Over the past two weeks, I've been wrestling with the significance of names from a business perspective. While my focus has been on the name of a new vertical ad network rather than a fictional television character, the primary question is the same. What should a name communicate?

With the proliferation of ad networks and online media companies, how does a company set itself apart in a crowded marketplace? With ad:tech and OMMA AdNets approaching in a month, I thought it would be interesting to look at the names of the exhibiting companies to figure out what their names communicate, or fail to communicate, about their respective companies. I've selected a handful of names and separated them into the following categories:

Obvious/Descriptive (Think of this like opening a shoe store, and calling it The Shoe Store)

  • AdBuyer.com
  • Advertising.com
  • Permission Data
  • Prime Visibility
  • ListMarketer

    Vaguely Familiar (Make up a word that sounds like a word, but isn't really a word)

  • Acquisio
  • Alterian
  • Atrinsic
  • Etology
  • Infegy

    Alternate Spelling (Take a word that you like, ask a 6-year-old to spell it for you, and presto -- you've got a name!)

  • Wyndstorm
  • Xtranormal
  • NeuStar
  • Personifi
  • Prospectiv

    ??? (Quick - you've got five seconds, tell me what you think these mean)

  • Goolara
  • Lat49
  • Tinbu
  • Jivox
  • mZinga
  • eZanga
  • Bango
  • Rextopia
  • xy7
  • W3i
  • IZEA
  • Qoof

    Naming a company is clearly an inexact science, and while a name may seem odd to some, it may someday become accepted as part of the culture like Google (not likely, though).

    As a professional in the online advertising, marketing or publishing world, what do you think a company name and URL should communicate, if anything? Should it be easy to remember, easy to type in the URL, short, descriptive, clever, unique?

    Does your company name make it help stand out in a crowd, or make those in the crowd scratch their heads? If you are attending either  ad:tech or  OMMA AdNets in November, take a few extra minutes to look at the names of the 300-plus exhibitors and let me know which names you think you will remember the week after the conferences are over. While you are there, make sure to look me up. I'll be the guy wearing the Les Nessman name badge.

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