So you've decided to start a franchise? Great! You'll need to contact a franchise attorney or consultant; get your Franchise Disclosure Document and operations manual in order; and top it all off with loads of research and other preparation. But before any of that, you've got one important question to answer: What will your franchise be called?
If you're stumped when it comes to conjuring up what you hope will become a household name, here are a few simple guidelines, courtesy of the franchises appearing in this year's Franchise 500©.
Make It Male
Want to lend some instant authority to your operation? Just take whatever service you offer and add "Mr." to the front. This practice is especially popular among repair and maintenance services; see, for example, Mr. Transmission, Mr. Sandless, Mr. Handyman, Mr. Appliance, Mr. Electric and Mr. Rooter--all guys who by their very monikers sound like you can count on them to get the job done. Weed Man and Rooter-Man can be found on our list as well.
Apparently women don't carry the same weight in the world of franchising. You won't find a single Mrs., Miss or Ms. among the 824 franchises listed in our ranking--though there is one Auntie. (That would be Anne, purveyor of those ultra-fragrant mall-kiosk soft pretzels.)
Give It a Doctorate
Misters are nice, but for a real air of expertise, nothing beats a doctor. Once again, you'll find this word particularly popular among repair and maintenance franchises, like Grout Doctor, Glass Doctor, Lawn Doctor, Duct Doctor and Dent Doctor. But there's also Tutor Doctor (which offers to heal children's grades?). And for a bit of a friendlier, country-doctor tone, you can always shorten it, as in the case of Doc Popcorn.
If doctors seem dull, you can knight your franchise instead. Grout-cleaning and printing may not be quite on par with dragon-slaying and maiden-saving, but Sir Grout and Sir Speedy are doing just fine all the same.
The few, the proud, the franchisees. Franchising and the military have much in common: strict systems to follow; the need for members who can be both leaders of their own teams and followers of those above them; and, of course, the uniforms. So it only makes sense that some franchisors use a military theme in naming their companies. Among them: Lawn Army, Maid Brigade and Squeegee Squad. All give the impression of highly trained teams ready and willing to make the world a better place by fighting the forces of weeds, dust and dirty windows, respectively.
And Today's Letter Is ...?
For a while, E and I were pretty hot when it came to letters, especially in their lowercase forms--for obvious reasons in our digital culture. But now youth sports franchise i9 Sports is about all that remains of that trend. So what will be the next hot letter for franchise names? The submissions to this year's Franchise 500© provide a few clues.
The next heavy hitter may be D--if D Pet Hotels and D-BAT Academies are any indication. N seems popular as well, thanks to its ability to stand in for multiletter syllables like en and even end. Case in point: N-Hance, NRgize Lifestyle Cafe and N Zone Sports. (Is there a new character limit for franchise names we haven't heard about, or is this all Twitter's doing?)
Then there's Z. You'll find it leading the way in zpizza and the brand-new Zloop Computer and Electronics Recycling Centers. But more often it seems comfortable bringing up the rear, just like it does in the alphabet--often standing in when S just doesn't seem quite edgy enough. Unsurprisingly, this tactic is most popular among franchises that aim to appeal to kidz.
Count On It
But maybe the next big letter won't be a letter at all. Numbers have become quite popular in franchise names, too.
Actually, numbers have always been popular; established franchises like Motel 6 and 7-Eleven cling to their names despite the fact that those numbers no longer represent what they once did. (When Motel 6 started out, its room rate was $6 a night; and 7-Eleven was originally open--you guessed it--from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.)
Following in their footsteps is Burger 21, which features 21 varieties of burgers. There's also the previously mentioned i9 Sports, as well as kickboxing franchise 9Round. (Apparently 9 is a particularly sporty number.) The number 1 is predictably popular; just ask Honest-1 Auto Care, A-1 Concrete Leveling, Restoration 1 and 1st Inspection Services. But it looks like 2 is done playing second banana, thanks to its ability to stand in for to in names like Games2U, Assist-2-Sell and Live 2 B Healthy Senior Fitness.
Show Some Enthusiasm
You want your customers and potential franchisees to be excited about your business, right? Well, it just takes one simple ingredient to show them that they should be: an exclamation point!
Perhaps because dogs respond positively when their owners show enthusiasm (even if they're enthusiastically saying, "Time for a bath!" or "Let's go see the vet!"), the exclamation point seems especially popular among pet franchises, such as Fetch! Pet Care and Dogs Love Running!
But there are plenty of exclamatory franchise names aimed at humans as well, especially when the services or products they offer just aren't that exciting on their own. Tutoring service Club Z! appears to hope that an exclamation point (along with the ever-popular Z) will make kids think tutoring sounds less like extra schoolwork and more like fun. Zoup! (there's that Z again) and Juice It Up! use exclamation points to lend intrigue to foods that might otherwise seem mundane. "Like watching paint dry" is a popular way to describe something boring, so it's no surprise that 1-888-Wow-1Day! Painting felt the need to spice things up a bit. And results, a fairly ho-hum word on its own, gains power through punctuation at Results! Travel.
Other punctuation marks aren't nearly as popular. You'll find only one question mark on this year's list, in the dare-to-be-different 1-800-Got-Junk ?
So, soon-to-be franchisor, we hope this look at some of the past and present trends in franchise names will inspire a few ideas for your own first important step in building a brand.
Just don't forget to pay as much attention to all the other steps that come after it. A bad name is probably the easiest mistake to correct when it comes to your franchising journey--dozens of companies change their names every year.
After all, a franchise by any other name would smell as sweet … especially one that sells soft-rolled pretzels.