January 3, 2011

Romeo and Juliet and the Glass Industry

By Paul Bieber

William Shakespeare wrote this famous play around 1600. So 411 years later it still has legs. What will happen to names in our industry?

Let’s look at some glass names:

There are 34, 982 people in the US with the last name ‘Glass’, according to whitepages.com; most of whom live in California, Florida or Texas. Could one of them own a business called Glass’s Glass Shop? There are five towns in US called ‘Glass’. They are in Florida, North Caroline, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas.

Could we have Glass’s Glass Shop in Glass, Texas?

There are some famous Americans, who probably don’t own glass shops, but do have glass in their name:

  • Ira Glass, who has created a wonderful Radio Show called This American Life.
  • Ned Glass, a character actor who appeared in West Side Story, Charade and 50 other films.
  • Phillip Glass, a creator of many operas in the modern day.
  • Ron Glass, who played a detective on the TV show Barney Miller.

•Stephanie Glasson, who was the July, 2004, Playmate of the Month. Does that make it OK to put her picture up in your glass shop, in Glass, Ohio?

What does your name say about you? When someone looks up your name in the yellow pages or Google, does it tell the possible customer what you do? I know you can’t have more than one legal name, but you can have multiple listings in phone books and search engines, with a “DBA” name. (Doing Business As). You can have ten names in search engines, and just answer the phone with “Glass Shop, may we help you?” Most people look at a name in the yellow pages and make a quick decision…is this the company for me to take care of the problem I have right now?

If your name has roots in another language, and has more than four syllables, or silent letters, people will be hesitant to call. This has been proven. It is a great honor to have your name in the title of a business, and you shouldn’t change your own name for business reasons, but you can create a business name that will deliver more customers to you.

A decade ago the glass manufacturers in the US were AFG, LOF, PPG, Guardian, Cardinal and Ford. Three of the these don’t have the same name now. It is OK to change or improve on a name! When you think about geographically expanding your business, think about your name. If you expand with a new type of business, say adding windows and doors, think about your name. Some basic thoughts on naming are:

  • The shorter the better. Does the name roll off your tongue easily? Is it pronounceable by people who may not be strong English speakers?
  • Don’t be cute. No puns, no hidden meanings. Those names should only be on the corner bar and restaurant.
  • Plan for unintended consequences. Does your proposed name mean something in another language? Use Google translate to check this. Does your name use parts of another name, (like Cadillac Glass), and you will have legal problems at some point.
  • Do a web search on your intended name, and all the variations of your name that you can imagine.
  • Think about the future. Will your name still sound great in five years as your business grows or changes?
  • The most important point—your name should tell your story. You shouldn’t need a tag line after your name to tell potential customers what your business is.
  • When your register your name with your state, take with your attorney about getting a trademark from the Federal Government. This will cost about $2500, but can protect you as your grow across state lines.

Remember, just when you think your name is unique and few people pronounce it right, (as in Bieber), some cute singer from Canada will make you famous.