Check it out: Here are last year’s top names for kids and dogs, along with some common financial company and product names.

  • Boys: Noah, Liam, Mason, Jacob, William
  • Girls: Emma, Olivia, Sophia, Ava, Isabella
  • Dogs: Charlie, Max, Coco, Bella, Buddy
  • Financial firms and products: Allied, Apex, Pinnacle, Global, Community

A quick scan of these lists proves one thing: Every name has important and lasting consequences.

Consider this example of a dog. One named “Tiny” will be perceived in a different way than a “Bruiser.” Tiny could be a far better watchdog than Bruiser, but will have to overcome a lot of pre-conceived notions for someone to come to that conclusion.

The situation is similar for financial companies, products and services. Compare your impression of a firm named "Apex Investments" versus "Green Leaf Funds." Or one known as "Global Bank" versus "Community Bank." Is your perception of these companies, what they do and offer, and how they conduct business different?

The concept of “first impression” is the reason why it's important to take time and care when selecting names. A bland name will not stand out from the competition. One that’s too colorful could turn off conservative prospects. It’s critical for a name to immediately communicate all the right things about a company, product or service offering. The key to success is understanding your target audience and what they respond to. 

Here are five steps to help you pick perfect names:

1. Understand your brand, what you do and how you do it. Any name you select should clearly reflect your firm, product or service and all the factors that make it unique. Do you offer “green” environmentally-friendly investments? Then select a name that reflects the specific niche segments your funds invest in. Are you marketing a REIT? A name that conveys strength and stability is appropriate. Maybe you have a unique, more intensive investment vetting process than other firms. Find a way to convey your “knowledge” and “process” in branding your offerings.

2. Consider your target market. Ask yourself: Who do you plan to sell to, how do they feel about your offerings and what do they know about them? Research shows Millennials tend to respond to names that express freedom and independence. Boomers and those approaching retirement prefer brands that convey safety and security. Financial intermediaries, who are exposed to a constant barrage of products and providers, find value in names that are clear and descriptive because they don’t have time to work through obscurity.

3. Get to know the competition. Knowing the names of the companies, products and services in your competitive set will help you select ones that will stand out for your firm. You can dial up and down your options based on how you want your offerings to compare. If your competition offers a Travel Rewards Credit Card, you may want to offer a Flexible Travel Rewards Credit Card or a Top Hotels Rewards Credit Card to help define it against the competition. 

4. Test it. In the same way you’d run a possible child’s name past relatives and friends to gauge  their reaction, you should test any firm, product or service name with your target audience. It's the only way to ensure it will get the response you expect. Testing options include using formal focus groups, online surveys or social media. Not testing a name is a key reason offerings fail. This is definitely NOT a step to skip to save money. What makes sense in a boardroom may not be clear or effective in the marketplace.

5. Be brave. If a name fails in testing — or the results are inconclusive — go back to the drawing board and try out more options. People are exposed to a vast array of stimuli today, and any firm, brand, product or service name that isn't received enthusiastically in testing won't perform any better in the real world.

Need help coming up with a name for a firm, service or product? Carpenter Group has worked with the leading brands in the financial and professional services industry for more than 35 years. Check out our perspective on this topic. We have the experience you need to help you find a name that will stand out and drive business results.