Most business owners spend a lot of quality time thinking about what to name their company.
The name can emerge from something that's near and dear to the owner's heart, such as my client's dog daycare business, Dog Dynasty. They use a crown on a dog to reinforce the tag line, Where dogs rule!
For others, the name evolves from a philosophy the founder wants to convey — here's another client, The Monk Dude. He's a yoga monk who also plays a mean guitar (I'm biased, of course), and uses music in his meditation offerings and practice.
Given how important a company's name and brand identity are, I want to share with you this head-scratcher. Two San Francisco Bay Area companies have given themselves the same name: Imago. Both firms even chose similar butterfly logos, the icon being a nod to the final stage of insect development during its metamorphosis.
One may reasonably wonder what kind of name search these two biopharmaceuticals firms conducted before locking in their brand identities. One is Imago Biosciences and the other is Imago Pharmaceuticals
San Francisco Business Times biotech reporter Ron Leuty, in writing about the Imago duo, asks, What’s in a name? Look back to the opening of this post for a couple of ideas.
As of this writing neither of the Imago companies appear in the first 4 pages of Google search results. I did, however, find a recent news release about yet another company named Imago, though it’s a video technology firm based in Europe. No surprise, this Imago also uses a butterfly in its logo:
As Leuty asks in his report on the first two firms, is this a case of brand confusion? Absolutely it is. Imago Biosciences and Imago Pharmaceuticals are in a similar industry. And none of the three firms called Imago owns www.Imago.com — the URL belongs to an unrelated company.
Could one of them use www.Imago.net? No, because that URL is also taken. And think about it — when did you last have the urge to type “.net”? Don't add to the confusion by using an alternate domain extension (example, .net instead of .com). If you find yourself attached to a name and another entity owns either the name or the URL, let it go and come up with something else.
What if you’re an investor in one of the Imagos? You may want to have the company rebrand. Otherwise you risk a potential intellectual property kerfuffle that could negatively impact the company and the product.
The takeaway lesson for small business owners: be original when naming your company and branding your products or ideas. If you're not using your own name as the company name and brand, look to something personal or special in your life that you can present with words and visualize with a logo. Don’t use a name that’s taken, even if you're not in the same industry as the firm with the name you want to use. It’s not worth risking customer confusion and potential legal problems.
Do you think two companies in a similar industry can both have the same name? What would you do if you were naming your company, product or service, and discovered the name you thought had no equal and was the best in the world, was owned by someone as a website URL but didn't appear to be trademarked?
Roberta Guise, founder and principal of Guise Marketing & PR and Thought Leading Women Initiative, advises small business owners, nonprofit leaders and experts on how to create an enduring brand and be ridiculously visible. If you'd like to know how to apply these concepts to your situation, ask for a complimentary 1/2 hour consultation. You'll be glad you did! 415-979-0611. www.guisemarketing.com