Service Names

How To Name A Service

Many of the principles outlined on our company names process page are true for generating service names too, so be sure to read that page first.

Naming a service is a special case, sharing many attributes with the processes for naming both companies and products. This is because, for many services, the company, product and service all share a single brand identity. You see this most often in Internet companies such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yelp, Groupon, etc. In fact, thanks to our hyper-connected world, all brands are now services. Companies are no longer “manufacturers” of “products,” because a product is often just the catalyst for a service interaction with the customer. Even a company that we think of as very product-focused, like Apple, can be thought of in terms of being a service, or rather, a collection of unified services: online software services (iTunes, AppStore), cloud computing services (Mobile Me, iCloud), retail services (Apple Store, online and physical), and the ecosystem of third-party services opened up by Apple’s iPhones, iPads and computers. Physical products are becoming commoditized, and the true revenue generators and brand differentiators for companies will be their services. And no matter how great your products, if you choke on the delivery of quality services, your customers will drop you faster than you can say “BlackBerry.”

The process of naming a service can be roughly split into two broad types. One type is the Apple model, where most of the brand equity is driven to an umbrella brand (Apple), and the individual services have more prosaic, functional, descriptive names (iTunes, iBooks, iCloud, Apple Store). The other type is where the service, company and product are all one, such as the Internet companies listed above. So the first step in a service naming process is to determine which type of service needs to be named. If the service exists under an umbrella brand, it is probably a pretty straightforward naming process. If, however, the service is to exist as its own brand, then some other issues come into play.

A Domain Name at Your Service

The biggest issue for standalone service brands will be the domain name issue. Unless your service is a pure-play Internet service, you should be fine with a modified domain name: Acme Business Services could exist quite happily at acmeservices.com). Most pure-play Internet service brands, however, usually require an exact-match domain name: the social network Acme would need to be found at acme.com. Since requiring an exact-match domain name will make any naming project more difficult, expensive and time-consuming, make absolutely sure this is a requirement before you start.

If you determine that your service requires an exact-match domain name, be sure you have a process in place to generate a wide variety of possibilities–don’t get trapped in a narrow, preconceived range of names manipulated solely for the purpose of getting a matching domain name, either invented (Apsalar, Aqush, Tudou, Yodle) or a mashup of generic words (BankSimple, FanBridge). Try instead to create powerful names that have matching domain names potentially available for sale (Twitter, Yelp). This route will likely cost you more up front (for purchasing a good domain name), but the revenue generated from a strong brand over the years to come will repay this initial investment many, many times over. Remember, if you have a revolutionary service that will change the world, but it has a boring, forgettable name that blends in with thousands of other services also claiming to be revolutionary, then the public will see right through the hypocrisy and move on. You have to walk the walk.