How to Avoid Having an Embarrassing Business Name

Looking to create an online business? No matter how innovative your business idea is, if you pick a cringey or embarrassing name for your business, you’re in trouble. A business name should appeal to your specific audience and help you succeed. Bad business names drive customers away, especially if they are offensive, dishonest, or embarrassing.

Your name sounds like its copying another, similar business

Infringing on another company’s brand, even if it was unintentional, looks bad. Customers gravitate away from dishonest and untrustworthy brands, so it is important to do your research before you settle on your brand name. If the name seems too perfect to be true, it might just be.

Hypothetically, let’s say you’re looking to open a coffee business. You want to focus on high-quality beans and expertly-extracted espresso. You decide that your shop will have a hunting lodge theme because your favorite time to enjoy a warm cup of coffee is after a long day of hunting; the perfect name will reflect this. In your head, independent of influence, “star” for number one and “buck” for deer are perfect. Star-Buck! What a great coffee shop name for your start-up!

The problem is that the name Starbuck is way too close to the global coffee giant “Starbucks.” If you had decided to move forward with “StarBuck,” you would run into a few problems. First of all, your audience would be puzzled, wondering if you were affiliated with Starbucks. Second, you might lose the trust of your audience because your name is misleading. And finally, you would run into legal issues with Starbucks itself.

Trademark law is a daunting subject but doing your research pays off. It’s quick and simple to go to the United States Patent and Trademark Office to run a trademark search on all the business names you are considering, or hire a trademark attorney to do a thorough check for you. That way, you can avoid dealing with cease-and-desist letters or other legal battles down the road.

Your name means something offensive in another language

In today’s world of a truly global market, you should always consider the possibility that your brand will reach across borders. Even if your business starts small, it has the potential to one day expand into other markets globally

For example, in 2011, Nokia released a phone under the name “Lumia.” If they had done more careful research, they might have realized that “Lumia” is a Spanish slang term for “prostitute.” This is a very negative association, and as such, the phone did not perform well in Spanish-speaking markets because of the name alone. In addition, Coca-Cola ran into a similar issue when their name translated to “Bite the Wax Tadpole” in China. They had to rebrand in the Chinese market, and Coke is now is known as Kekoukele, which translates to “tasty fun.”

Be sure to run your potential business name through translation software and do a quick Google search. Otherwise, you could end up driving away a potential demographic that would otherwise consider your product or service.

Long Names

Long names also present several challenges for businesses. The bulkiness of a long name is an automatic turn-off for many potential customers because long names mean long URLs. Plan ahead with your name to prevent it from being cringey. You should consider not only a URL but also any social media handles you may use. Twitter handles are limited to 15 characters, so make sure your name accommodates such limitations.

In addition to being heavy and clunky, long names are difficult to remember correctly. If there are too many words, your audience may accidentally insert an additional letter or leave out a letter when typing out your URL.

The longer your business name is, the more confusing and forgettable it will be for your audience. Try to shorten your ideas by cutting out any unnecessary descriptors, articles, and suffixes. If you still have not found a business name that has an available name, try browsing the internet for domains for sale – you might find that the perfect name does, in fact, come with a perfect URL.

Your name targets the wrong audience

Remember that your brand name is not just about you and your values. A good business name should also appeal to the values and needs of your audience. If you miss the mark on this one, you could accidentally drive your audience away the way Pepsi did with their 2017 Kendall Jenner commercial in which Jenner uses a can of Pepsi to resolve a riot. The ad sparked outrage among many millennials because the company came off as “fake woke”.

Think of your business name as an essential part of your branding strategy. If it does not fit into your desired presence, how will it fit into the lives of your target audience? Let’s say you’re building out a brand of headsets and controllers geared towards serious video gamers. Most video game gear brands have edgy names like Razer and Alienware, and that’s because the audience largely responds to these themes. If you decided to call your product line “Peace Valley,” you probably will not snag the gaming demographic. Maybe you love the name (and I do too), but just not for this audience and this brand.

Before deciding on a business name, take a look at successful businesses in your industry or some winning name ideas. Make a list of the best names’ strengths, then try to come up with original ideas that reflect the values of your audience.

Though you may believe that you have the ideal business name, more research and time will ensure that your name will not drive an audience away. There is little worse than coming across as underprepared or foolish in the business world. Rebranding is an expensive, time-consuming process, and being proactive about your brand pays off. If your name comes off as offensive then you will not succeed in business and likely won’t be able to find any business investors.

Difficult Names

The principal rules of naming are that your business name should be easy to say, spell, and remember for your potential clients.

If people have trouble saying a name, they will avoid saying it altogether. Avoid confusing intentional misspellings in an effort to be creative. More often than not, over-complicated intentional misspellings create more confusion than interest.

Apply the “crowded bar theory” to your brand name. If you were sharing the name of your business name with a friend at a crowded bar, would they understand it easily? Maybe a restaurant called Sam and Ella’s would sound like salmonella in a crowded bar, which is unappealing as well as gross. Make sure your name only has to be said once to be understood.

Names that are easy to say and spell are more likely to stick in people’s heads and help you with future customers. As customers share your business name, they become agents of your brand. Selecting a simple, clean name simplifies their sharing process.


Avoiding cringey and embarrassing names for your business is really important if you want your start-up to succeed. Although naming your business is a challenge, the effort you put into it will result in a strong, captivating name that draws your audience in. Following some basic guidelines of what to avoid rather than only what to do can open up your creative flow.

Grant Polachek
Grant Polachek is the Director of Marketing at Inc 500 company, the worlds #1 naming platform, with nearly 20,000 customers from the smallest startups across the globe to the largest corporations including Nestle, Philips, Hilton, Pepsi, and AutoNation.
Grant Polachek

Latest posts by Grant Polachek (see all)

Let's be inbox friends!

Let's be inbox friends!

Drop us your email to receive a weekly digest of our latest blog posts right in your inbox.

To confirm your subscription, please check your email.