Friday, June 19, 2009
The Mystique of Numbers in Company Names
Copyright (c) 2009 Marcia Yudkin
While visiting the House of the Seven Gables in Salem,
Massachusetts two weeks ago, made famous in the 1851 book by
Nathaniel Hawthorne, I mentally tried out other numbers to see if
they would sound as spooky and portentous.
To my ear, House of the Five Gables sounds all too ordinary,
while House of the Eight Gables lacks anything that would send a
chill up someone's spine. Both the sound of "seven" and its
properties as both odd and prime give it a reverberating ring.
I would go so far as to say that numbers have personalities that
you need to be aware of when using them in company or product
Motel 6: Here, "six" comes across as routine and humdrum, very
much like the rooms and prices in this chain.
Super 8: If this motel chain was trying to convey higher quality
than Motel 6, it works. Note too that with two long and one short
vowel sounds to its competitor's one long and two short ones,
the name Super 8 commands more attention while taking up no more
Heinz 57: Company founder Henry John Heinz engineered the
company's address at PO Box 57 in Pittsburgh in addition to
using this number in the corporate slogan ("57 Varieties") and
in the name of its steak sauce. I doubt it would have lasted
since 1896 as Heinz 28 or Heinz 91 or even Heinz 37.
Note that you don't have to provide an explanation of a number
you include in a business name. The Heinz company web site says
only that the numbers "5" and "7" had a special significance
for founder Henry John Heinz and his wife, not what that
significance was. Likewise, the bottle of "Formula 3" shampoo
that my hairdresser recently sold me says nothing about what the
Just be mindful that certain numbers carry heavy baggage to
members of some ethnic and religious groups. For instance,
"four" is unlucky to many Chinese because in their language
it's a homonym for death. And to Christians, the sequence
"666" signifies the devil. "Thirteen" is shunned in many
cultures for reasons unknown.
Be mindful also that for a local business, people don't know how
to look up company names starting with numbers. If you heard the
name "18 Candles" for a party products company, should you look
it up in the telephone directory under "E" for "eighteen" or
in the front of the book, before the A's? When the number comes
after a regular word, as with Studio 54, you avoid this problem.
Finally, when it comes to web domains, most people hearing a
company name with a number in it will assume it's written with
the numeral rather than in words. They'd look up motel6.com
rather than motelsix.com. Even so, you'd be smart to reserve
both versions. Motel6.com indeed corresponds to the motel chain,
but motelsix.com goes to a site for finding a cheap motel room.
Likewise, the founder of fivethirtyeight.com, a political web
site referring to the number of seats in the U.S. Congress,
thought the written-out-words looked more elegant and neglected
to reserve the domain 538.com.
Marcia Yudkin is Head Stork of Named At Last, a company that
brainstorms creative business names, product names and tag lines
for clients. For a systematic process of coming up with an
appealing and effective name or tag line, download a free copy of
"19 Steps to the Perfect Company Name, Product Name or Tag Line"