NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Did you know what's in a name could make or break your business, especially for small, emerging companies? "The natural tendency on the part of small-business owners and large-business executives is to do one thing: Play it safe. Playing it safe does not work in business," says Mark Stevens, a marketing and branding expert and author of Your Marketing Sucks, and Your Company Sucks: It's Time To Declare War On Yourself. "If you're caretaking an old, established brand like UPS ( UPS), that's one thing, if you're trying to grow an entity to the next level, in a world filled with competitors, whatever industry you're in you want to do things that make people stop in their tracks," Stevens says. "Although a name is not an end-all-be-all, it's very important to come up with a name that is one of two things -- highly intriguing or shocking." That's because on a very basic marketing level, the name is a starting point for customers. "You're natural instinct is to name the company based on the products it sells," like Grandma's Cupcakes, for instance, Stevens says. Instead he suggests doodling on a piece of paper or Googling ideas that have nothing to do with the product and see what you come up with. He says the goal is to come up with a sort of "wild connection" to the product or service. "Don't be afraid to take chances," he says.
Having a unique name can also become a financial asset to the company if it is sold, licensed or expanded, says Erik Pelton, a trademark lawyer in Falls Church, Va., emphasizing the need for small-business owners to register a company name with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. "A very creative, a very unique name is an asset to the business -- not just in how people find it and remember it, but actually a tangible asset that has a value," Pelton says. Protecting the name also limits a growing company's susceptibility to copycats.
"You're in a much better position to deal with it quickly and more affordably if you have a registration. It's not terribly expensive -- the government filing fee is about $300" and the process takes about a year from start to finish, Pelton says. "If you have a really unique name, those are the easiest to register. You're least likely to encounter a conflict in the application process." TheStreet talked to four companies that wouldn't have had as much success without their unusual names.