The Psychology Behind Great Business Names


By Graham Jones

Getting the right name for your business and your domain is clearly fundamental. All words have a psychological effect. They have shapes and sounds that trigger emotional responses. If your business or domain name has the "wrong" sound or visual shape, it can lead to impacting your customers psychologically in ways that you might not have considered.

Kodak: A perfect brand name

One way of thinking about the impact of the words you use is to first consider what is widely regarded as one of the best brand names ever created: Kodak. This word starts and ends with the same letter, so it gives our brains a sense of completeness. The hard consonants at each end of the word also suggest a solid shape.

When people are asked to say what shape sounds make, hard consonants are associated with straight lines. The straight line association and the sense of completeness appear to suggest a rectangular shape or squareness of the word. For Kodak, that's great because cameras are rectangular, so the word's shape, which we subconsciously sense, is the same shape as the company's products. Not only that, the quick way we say "Kodak" is similar in sound and speed to the the shutter of a camera.


The shape and sound of words are part of Gestalt psychology, which is the basis of how we sense shape and form. So, when coming up with your domain name, you would do well to consider the shape and sound of the word before making a final decision.

Use psychology to choose the right domain name

One of the fundamental psychological principles to consider when naming a business and searching for a domain name is the issue of "working memory." We can only keep a few things in our head at once. That means we cannot really store complicated domain names in our minds.

We need simple, short domain names so we can type them in easily, or so we can pass them on to others without having to search for the URL. The problem is, short domain names are not widely available. Almost everything worthwhile that is short and easily memorable has been taken.

Thankfully, the era of "not-com" domains solves that problem. If you wanted to find a job involved with the world of tennis, you'd only need to remember "jobs" and "tennis" to get to "" or "" Or if you were searching for an accounting position, you would only need to remember two words: "" or "," etc. That is so much easier than having to remember some long domain name and then a "forward slash" followed by something complex involving the website structure ... and on and on. "Not-com" domain names provide a substantial psychological benefit with regards to your customers' memories.

Additionally, Gestalt psychology applies to many "not-com" domains, such as 'dot-buzz' (.buzz): They create a sense of sound in our minds. Many of these options also put images in our minds, making us associate things with them -- for example, 'dot-party' (.party) or 'dot-house' (.house).

Choosing the right domain name for your business is two-fold. Get the right business name so the shape and sound fits with what your brand is all about. Then choose a "not-com" domain name so you can further enhance that psychological impact, while at the same time making your website more memorable.

To choose the "right" words relevant to your business, check out the Claim Your Domain page on Name.Kitchen for ideas.

Graham Jones is a psychologist and provides consultancy services on web psychology to businesses eager to understand their customers in more depth. Jones, B.Sc., B.A., Adv.Dip.Ed., MBPsS, M.Ed. M.Sc., also teaches at the University of Buckingham and The Open University in the U.K.