Focus on Reconditioning - October 2002

What's in a Name: It Not Only Identifies,
It Informs and Promotes

By Joe Sipowicz

The name you give your detailing business will have a huge effect on how the market responds to your business. To effectively name your business, you need to know exactly what business you are in. "That's easy," you say, "I'm in the detailing business." But, are you? Be cautious. You do not want to limit your opportunities for future growth by being too specific in your name.

A Name Should Be Broad...
A car wash that adds detailing to its list of services may run into this problem. Most car washes are called just that: Speedy Car Wash, Paul's Car Wash, Sparkle Clean Car Wash. How would consumers know that they can purchase detailing services from these car washes?

Even detail shops that call themselves "Danny's Detail," "The Last Detail," or "Details, Details" are limiting themselves by such names if they plan to offer, at some future time, more than detail services. These could include windshield repair, paint touchup, paintless dent repair, vinyl and leather repair and dying, etc. Calling your business a detail shop does not allow you to attract new clientele that would be looking for such additional services.

You must consider the long-term potential of your company and the ways in which it can grow in the industry. Once you have established a name it is very difficult and expensive to change it.

... and Narrow
Your name, on the other hand, must not be so broad that you fail to establish a clear niche for your services. Specialization is the watchword and the companies that cater to specific market segments are most successful. You must be specific enough to clearly convey to customers that yours is the company they are looking for.

A more narrow name, like Danny's Detail, can be okay if you know that you will be serving only the detail market, and do not want to expand beyond that niche. Many restaurants have done just that. Pizza Hut and Kentucky Fried Chicken are two examples of limiting names.

Does It Sound Right?
Keep in mind that the name you choose will be used in a number of ways: on your sign, in print advertising, billboards, on radio or television. It will certainly be used verbally in word-of-mouth exchanges among potential customers. How the name sounds, then, is of critical importance.
When we read, we also "hear" in our minds the words we're seeing. We respond to business names that "sound" good. Many companies will use their family name for nothing more than ego gratification. This is not necessarily all bad - if the name is easy to pronounce.

Simple names tend to be more memorable than complex ones. Don't try to get too cute; keep it simple. Also consider how the name will look on a letterhead, and what type of logo can be designed around the name. Don't "carve your name in stone" before talking to a graphic designer, whose services, by the way, really doesn't cost much.

No one can predict the future, but some consideration should be given to the longevity of the name. Consumer perceptions change over time. Consider the growing health concerns about eating fried foods. It's no coincidence that Kentucky Fried Chicken has shortened its famous name to KFC.

Bottom line: You must be somewhat forward thinking as you consider names for your detail or cosmetic car care business. We are part of an ever-changing industry that is trying to find its identity. Don't name your detail shop in a vacuum. Talk to a lot of people - friends, acquaintances, suppliers, and business associates - before making a decision.

Keep It Legal
Avoid legal problems. Even if your name is MacDonald, you can't put your name on a hamburger business. Before investing in a name, you must perform the necessary due diligence to find out if it has been registered. You must do a Federal Trademark/Service Mark search first to be sure the name is not registered federally. A federal registration gives the owner nationwide protection and supersedes any state registration if it was registered before the state registration. If the name is not registered federally, you must do a State Trademark/Service Mark search. If there is no state registration either, you are clear to use the name. A state registration gives protection on a statewide basis.

It is incumbent upon you to check out a name before using it. The owners of the trademark or service mark are expected to do their own policing and enforcement. Filing an assumed business name is not the same as a federal or state registration of a trademark or service mark. Such a filing does not provide authority to use a registered trademark or service mark. It can be expensive to do this search, but you must do it to avoid future legal problems and costs.

Finally, once you have chosen a name, stick with it. If you constantly change your name, you will lose name recognition. Take time to choose a name that you can live with and a name that will be memorable and meaningful.

Joe Sipowicz is technical services manager at Portland, OR-based Detail Plus. He has been involved in the detailing industry for nearly 20 years both as an owner/operator of detailing centers and as a manufacturer. Joe has written on the subject of auto detailing for over 10 years. He can be contacted at

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