How Google Got a Cool Name and You Can Too

You have to hand it to the billionaires at Google. Everything they touch turns to gold. Just look at the skyrocketing value of the company. $160 billion in three years flat.

Now company founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page can afford to buy cool cars (Tesla electric roadster), hang out with cool friends (Bono), and fly around in a totally cool private jet (customized Boeing 767).

Even the name of the company is cool. It’s so cool, it became a verb. Today, everybody in the world is ‘Googling’ this and ‘Googling’ that. You’d think that a name as cool as Google must have cost a fortune. You’d be wrong.

In fact, the Google name didn’t cost Sergey and Larry a dime. That’s because, like many of the world’s best known brand names, the guys who run the company came up with the name themselves.

Funny Story

The story behind the Google name is kind of funny, actually.

As a couple of math dweebs, Sergey and Larry decided to name the company after a really big number called a “Googol” – which is the number 1 followed by 100 zeroes. It was a clever attempt to convey the humongous number of websites their new fancy new search engine could search in a flash.

With a great product and a pretty cool name in hand, they went in search of investors. One of the first investors they met loved the idea so much he decided to write a check on the spot. But when he wrote out the check, he made it out to ‘Google’.

The name stuck. And the rest, as they say, is name brand history.

Google’s Not Alone

The Google guys aren’t alone in coming up with their own billion dollar brand names.

Name a famous brand name and chances are it was invented not by a naming guru, ad agency or brand identity firm, but by an ordinary guy or gal with a great idea. Don’t believe me? Where do you think names like Kinkos, YouTube, and Crocs came from?

That’s right, they came from copy shop guys, internet guys, and shoe guys – ordinary Joes who took a great new product and gave it a great name of their own making.

You Can, Too

Is it easy for a business owner, a marketing manager, or a math dweeb for that matter, to come up with a great brand name? No it’s not. Trust me, it can be tough even for professional naming guys like me. But it’s worth a try.

Why? First, because history shows that most of the world’s best known brand names were created by the very same people who work at the companies behind those famous names. They did it, you can, too.

Second, coming up with a name yourself can save your company a ton of money. Big brand identity firms charge $100K or more to develop a new brand name. That’s a lot of cash. Even for big spenders like the Google guys.

That’s why I recommend that every company with a new product in search of a name take a shot at naming it themselves. You can always turn it over to the pros if you come up short.

But the truth is you have just a good a chance as coming up with that billion dollar name as they do. And for a whole lot less money.

Here’s How

Before rushing off to the nearest conference room to brainstorm new names, let me offer a few suggestions to help make your naming efforts a success:

1. Generate lots of names: Naming experts know that the secret to coming up with that one great name is to generate lots of ideas. In my experience, one in 20 is any good. So work on generating as many names as possible.

2. Make it memorable: Names like Google, Wii, and Altoids all have that certain something that make them stick in the memory bank. To make your new name more memorable, focus on names that look and sound unique.

3. Make it meaningful: Effective brand names convey a key feature or benefit. Some hint at an interesting story – like Google, for example. Make sure that your new name is more than just a pretty typeface. Choose a name that is both memorable and meaningful.

4. Use a naming system: Everyone has the innate creativity to come up with great names on their own. What’s missing is the ‘know-how’. A good naming system can help. You can find one at

That’s Cool

Not every brand name can be as insanely cool as Google. But every new product, service or company can have a name that is memorable and meaningful to consumers. If you can think of a name like that – and you can if you try – that will be pretty cool, too.