A recent article in Adweek magazine highlighted the absurdities in a number of Internet start-up company names. These ran the goofy gamut from Qoop and Heekya to Fairtilizer and the surreal Doostang.

The crux of the article is that social media platforms are slowly coming to realize that company names should do more to reflect the power of individual and unique brands, rather than simply try to play off odd, made-up words.

This same tenet applies directly to financial institutions. As consumer demographics and population centers change, more and more banks and credit unions either have or are seriously considering changing their names. While these changes are for any number of good reasons, the end goal is the same — to increase brand visibility and consumer wallet share.

However, for banks and credit unions considering a name change, the road is steep and treacherous. Many decide to enlist the service of qualified vendor-partners to help guide them through this critical process. And while typically financial institutions can realize their growth goals with a comprehensive rebranding effort, from time to time a new name is genuinely required.

Keep in mind, a new name is simply the tip of the iceberg. The much larger (and more important) piece is the rebranding effort. What are a few basic guidelines to follow when looking at potential new names? Following are a few ideas.

  • Avoid unusual spellings. This is a pet peeve of mine. In every town, it seems like there is a restaurant named “Kountry Kitchen.” Why spell the word “country” with a K? If you’re going that route, since both words start with the same consonant sound, why not just call it “Country Citchen?” Because it looks ridiculous, that’s why. Stick with spellings that work in the minds of the majority of people.
  • Keep it easy to pronounce and recall. If your new financial institution name doesn’t immediately roll off the tongue, people are not going to take the time to learn how you think it should be pronounced. And if they’re not going to take that time, they’re certainly not going to remember it. Keep in mind — the biggest reason consumers don’t do business with you a second time around is because they simply forget who you are. A goofy name definitely hurts that recall effort.
  • Ensure the name is actually available. You’d be surprised how many financial institutions latch onto a new name only to find out later that somebody else has already trademarked it. A quick and easy search on the U.S. Patent and Trademark website will let you know if your catchy new name is legally available. You may also want to enlist he services of your own qualified trademark attorney.
  • Keep it short. Similar to keeping it easy to pronounce and recall, keeping your name short enables the average consumer to remember it. Some financial institutions are guilty of long formal names that they then turn into awkward and ugly acronyms. For example, if your new name is Greater Springfield Valley and East Mountains Federal Credit Union, no one is going to take the time to say it, let alone remember the “GSVEMFCU” acronym you slap on marketing materials.
  • Make sure the name you pick is available as a website address. Sometimes financial institutions find themselves in a pickle by selecting a new name and then finding they can’t get the website address. Your website is your brand’s flagship — make sure your new name is available as a domain, especially in the most common formats such as .com and .org.

Nobody is saying that going through a new name process is easy. Far from it. However, it just makes sense for financial institutions considering a new name to look into a few simple guidelines first. It can save major headaches later.