Choosing a company image or brand’ for your new start-up business could almost be a disingenuous statement, because often a company image or brand – or whatever you want to call it – is not ‘chosen’, instead it is made or created following numerous considerations.

These considerations do involve personal preferences and choices, but often these reflect a myriad of other factors.

A company image is about everything. It is about the product or service, its cost, the customers or clients, staff and suppliers, the experiences of those customers, the medium by which the product is bought and sold, geography, personality, even the competition. The considerations are endless and they all contribute to defining an overarching ‘image’.

Here we look at two of the most obvious – and necessary – areas in helping you define a company image for your new SME, namely:

  • The company or business name
  • Supporting logos or symbols

Firstly, we need to dispense with the term ‘image’. In its place should be used the word ‘brand’. A ‘brand’ is symbols, images, words, experiences and associations linked with a product or service – and even people. A ‘brand’ has a value all of its own and is vitally important, as often it is the ‘brand’ customers and clients buy into – just think of Apple, Nike & Innocent Drinks.

For most people ‘brand’ is reflected in a name or logo: the identity of the business – and because this is likely to be all a new business has to start with – it is the naming of a company and its logo this article will focus on, whilst also touching on a few other areas.

Naming your company

A company name will not tick all the boxes you may want it to, but you should try and have it achieve one or two of the following, detailed below.

Firstly, you have to decide whether the name you want will reflect you (your name), or your company’s product or service, or neither and it is to be another name altogether. If you are to be ‘the business’, perhaps offering your skill or expertise as a service, you might want your name for the company. This is quite common with professional services, such as accountants or solicitors.

However, if you plan on having an internet-based company for example, it may help if the company name contains a word or phrase relevant to the product or service. There are a number of reasons as to why this is the case. Internet users wanting to find, buy or sell a product or service, will often type in whatever it is they are looking for i.e. ‘shoes’ or ‘cheap children’s clothes’. Having a company name containing the word ‘shoes’ or ‘children’s clothes’, will help grab their attention quickly and may assist the success of your website in other ways (if the domain name is the company name). Again, there are reasons for this.

This doesn’t stop you using alternative ‘keyword rich’ (a term used by internet marketers and internet search engine optimisation companies to describe valuable words or phrases relevant to both the product and the customer) domain names for your business, however, you want to try and avoid confusing customers with a different company name to your internet domain name.

So, you could have a company name reflecting who you are, what you do and how you do it. ‘Quick Fix PC’ says exactly what the company does – and how it does it: The company fixes PCs fast.

If you are setting-up a new company in a crowded or competitive sector – and even if you’re not – you will need to try and differentiate your company from the competition. You can achieve this by using a company name that highlights your uniqueness or what makes you special or different from your competitors. Again, this might be reflected in what you sell or how you provide a service – or it might be your location. Selling surf boards from a unit at the end of the pier, or a financial services firm with its office based in the remains of the castle walls, might both be the starting points for a company name.

Arousing interest in your potential customers and making them feel the need to take a closer look at the products you sell or the services you offer, can be triggered by your company name too. For example, using humour, quirkiness and even candidness, can all have different effects on your customers.

Invariably, naming a company is an intensely personal matter and whatever you name the business it should mean something to you. By having a name you are passionate about, customers will sense your enthusiasm and it will be easier for you to enthuse others.

Your company logo or symbol

Logos and symbols related to a company or its product can be just as effective as the company name in defining your image or brand and need to be memorable as they will be appearing on your letter head, business cards and the name badges for any events you attend to market your business. Many companies’ logos are simply the name of the business in a particular font and colour and this is fine. However, others feel the need for a graphic logo – a good logo can be as effective as the company name in helping identify you or your business.

Consideration should be given to the logo’s relevance to you, your business or the product; its simplicity (is it easy to reproduce and identify); colour (too many colours cost more money to reproduce on letterheads for example and certain colours create different emotions in different people) and; size – does it need a lot of space?

Finally, whatever you name the company and if you use any supporting logo, check first the name is available and you’re not infringing any copyrights or licenses by using it or the logo.

This is just the start of the process of determining the ‘image’ of your company. Everything associated with it or experienced by its customers, staff and suppliers for example, will have a bearing.

It can take time, much effort and even money to create and maintain a successful image and brand and you might want to consult a specialist brand management company.