As Facebook Rebrands with Name Change, a Look at Naming Businesses

an alleged name change follows a long string of bad press for social media giant

By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer

Facebook hopes to mitigate its recent bad press with a name change. Whistleblowers, server outages, and more have damaged the company’s reputation. Picking the right name is vital for a business.

Close up of woman using smartphone to use social media
Photo By Billion Photos / Shutterstock

After an exceptionally difficult stretch of bad press, Facebook is reportedly undergoing a name change as part of a rebranding effort. Just some of the information about the company that has come to light in 2021 has involved the company’s role in coronavirus misinformation, stoking political partisanship, banning researchers who were studying the social media giant, and hiding research results about social media’s negative effects on adolescents and teens.

And that’s besides an all-day server outage and a series of whistleblower complaints about user safety, both of which have sent Facebook stocks plummeting.

All these news stories have left a sour taste in the public’s mouth when it comes to Facebook. Can a name change fix any of it, let alone all of it? The company is betting plenty on it. In his video series The Entrepreneur’s Toolkit, Dr. Michael J. Goldsby, Stoops Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship in the Miller College of Business at Ball State University, explained what a good business name can do.

That’s What’s in a Name

Branding companies can charge anywhere up to $80,000 to come up with a good name for your company, but according to Dr. Goldsby, there are certain guidelines that can help point you in the right direction.

“Pick a name that gives some kind of clue as to what you do,” he said. “For example, if you had to guess what 1-800-FLOWERS does, what would you guess? You won’t always have the luxury of making it so clear, but it’s a good idea to do this, if you can.”

Of course, there are exceptions, such as Yahoo and Google. They offer no clues as to what they do. However, Dr. Goldsby said those are rare exceptions and a risky venture, overall.

“Some businesses have had great success merging two words together in a way that creates a new word that’s simple and informative,” he said. “Like Geeklist; this is a social network for techies. Or, they’ve added prefixes or suffixes to a word like Shopify. Some companies have even chosen to use misspelled versions of words; that might be websites like Tumblr or Xoom.”

At the same time, there is the question of language barriers when it comes to naming a company. When starting a new company, the international market may be far from your mind, but it’s an important thing to think about. The Chevy Nova may have been a popular car in North America, but in Spanish, “No va” means “It doesn’t go.” That’s only one unfortunate coincidence.

“Nokia’s smartphone, called ‘Lumia,’ translates to ‘prostitute’ in Spanish,” Dr. Goldsby said. “And the word ‘gift’ means ‘poison’ in German.”

If you make this mistake and pick a bad name, he said, you can always pick a new brand name, despite the cost. Hanging onto a bad name could just weigh on your business.

This year, Facebook is experiencing this first-hand.

Edited by Angela Shoemaker, Wondrium Daily