the oxymoronic business: how to create an instantly memorable, attention grabbing business name that gets people talking

Oh man.

I’ve been wanting to write this blog for so long.

It’s about what to name your business.

Your business name matters. A good name is memorable and easy to repeat which gives you good word of mouth. A good name can help identify your niche (or at least resonate strongly with it).

Now, this isn’t what I suggest for every business. But I think it could be useful to a lot of businesses.

It started when I began to notice a pattern in some business names that grabbed me.

I noticed that certain business names contained two contrasting elements that you normally wouldn’t put together.

In my case, ‘marketing for hippies’.

Now, that has only been my official business name for two and half years. But I’ve been doing it for almost 12 years. So, what was my business name before that?

. . . Exactly.

No one can remember.

It was ‘Radical Business’. But my website was www.tadhargrave.com (and contained the worst picture of me known to man (and no I won’t show it to you)).

But, when people would ask me, ‘So, what do you do?’ I’d always joke that I did ‘marketing for hippies’. (Actually, I used to joke that I was a drug dealer or a shepherd or a high society jewel thief at first . . . #entertainingforme).

When I’d say, ‘marketing for hippies’ I’d get a few consistent reactions. The first was that they’d laugh. The second was that they’d say, ‘isn’t that kind of an oxymoron?’ or ‘Boy. They sure need that.”

And then I began to hear other names that had me give a similar reaction. A sense of surprise at two contrasting elements together that I wouldn’t have expected to find together. I noticed that those names felt like they had some real energy to them. Some fight. Some vim and vinegar. They gave me a really clear overall feeling of what this business was about. Often in two or three words. So, I started keeping track of them when I heard them.

And I noticed that when a colleague was thinking of naming himself the ‘hippie healer’ that I didn’t like it. It seemed flat. Why? I expect healers to be hippies. There’s no surprise there. It goes with my expectations not against them. It didn’t make me pause or think. Same with ‘heart-healing’ or ‘conscious-healing’. It’s two similar notions. So it feels repetitive. They both disappear.

It can be fun to see if you can weave contrast and conflict into your name. Here’s how it relates to Niche. If a niche is your place in the world . . . and if we all act as a kind of bridge between different communities and worlds – then sometimes that is our niche. We bring the best qualities of each world to the other. Marketing World + Hippie World.

Just food for thought. But you might ask yourself: what are the seemingly contrasting worlds I love being a part of? And could my niche and role be to bring them together?

What follows is the list of business names I collected. Not all of them are real businesses. Some of them are just names I wish I could have given someone’s business (not even saying my idea is a good idea in their case but noticing that this is what I would call it). Where possible, I’ve linked the name to the website. Notice which ones grab your attention.

*

The biker shaman is the name I wish I could have given to http://prismhealing.com/ as homeboy used to be a hardcore biker for like four years. And now he’s a shaman! Holy shit.

Kris Karr created a powerful documentary called Crazy Sexy Cancer. I don’t think anyone would ever normally associate sexy with cancer.

Even though I really hate the notion, I saw a group on facebook about the ‘enlightened billionaire. You wouldn’t expect spiritually enlightenment and financial opulence to go together. I personally hate everything about that idea but it’s a good example of what we’re talking about.

Met a fellow in Calgary who used to be a wrestler and now he does meditation trainings and his business name? Wrestling with Consciousness.

One of my pals in Edmonton runs an amazing non profit that brings people powered music and immense, people-engaging creativity to live community events. The Project name? Music is a Weapon. Music + weapons? I’m interested! I like the controversy and conversation this starts. So much better (in my mind) than something like, ‘the community based music project’. Boooooring. As Lucas Coffey, one of the group’s founders puts it, “We never get sick of watching people’s minds twist into knots when we tell them we are “music is a weapon”, then give them a big hug!”

What if you’re a hardcore feminist but you actually love the idea of being a stay at home mom? Well then you’ll love The Radical Homemaker. Or what about the notion of ‘urban homesteading‘. I just saw someone with the twitter name ‘bitchin’ housewife‘.

I like this one too – ‘The Socialchange Diva‘.

Or how about Burlesque Church?

Ron Berezan does permaculture and landscaping based on growing food in cities. The natural name? The Urban Farmer.

Want a meditation and mindful living path but find most teachers too dull? You might enjoy www.zenbitchslap.com or Buddhist Bootcamp

Love yoga but tired of going to yoga classes that don’t accommodate the fact that you’re not thin as a twig and have you feel like you don’t belong? Enter Tiina Veer’s amazing Yoga for Round Bodies. But there are so many other interesting examples with yoga too that I’ve heard of: yoga for . . . rednecks, cowboys. Dubstep Yoga. Ganja Yoga. Yoga for Heavy Metal Rockers. Yoga + Chocolate. So many surprising things yoga can be combined with.

The whole Slow Food movement is a mild version of this. We’re a society raised with ‘fast food’ so it can be surprising to hear the words ‘slow food’ together. But it immediately, as a contrast to ‘fast food’ let’s you know what it’s about.

Oxymoron – yoga niches and slow food

Edmonton just got a great new local food restaurant that combines the best sensibilities of the city and the country. It’s called The Prairie Bistro.

Visionary activist Caroline Casey often speaks about the importance of wedding these contrasts in life together. An example she often gives is of becoming a ‘disciplined wild person’.

What about a course called, ‘Dating for Nerds.’

One of my colleagues in Winnipeg just sent me word of a course she was running, ‘Divorcing with Dignity – Learn How to Mindfully Separate and Maintain your Integrity’. When’s the last time you heard of divorce and immediately had the word ‘dignity’ come to mind. Never. That’s when. “We had such a dignified divorce!” said no one ever.

In fact, most of the “_______ for Dummies” books embody this oxymoron principle in a way. The thought is, “I’m a dummy. I could never do or learn this.”

My friend and colleague Jeff Golfman is a passionate raw vegan. He wanted to do some kind of project around that but couldn’t figure out what. We were sitting in his car one day and he said, “I don’t want to write another recipe book. That’s been done. I don’t want to write about the science behind it. That’s already done.” What struck me was that Jeff has one of the coolest lifestyles of anyone I know. He travels a lot. He meets famous people. And it struck me that he had something to say about how to not just be a raw vegan but also how to bring the cool lifestyle piece into it. How do you travel and be vegan? How do you deal with thanksgiving? How do you deal with all the lifestyle issues? How do you not come across as a judgmental prick. “Why don’t you call it something like the cool vegetarian?” And The Cool Vegetarian video blog was born.

Kris Ward runs a business called Abundant Yogi. Simple. Brilliant.

Another colleague has a business called Healers Who Prosper.

I met some young people from Asia who had a project called Peace Revolution. Peace + Revolution? Tell me more.

One of my colleagues toyed with the idea of creating a business called Yoga Tramp because she loved yoga but she also loved partying, sexuality and having fun.

I heard about a website called www.grittyangel.com. That has my interest. I normally don’t associate angels with grit.

One of my dearest colleagues in the world’s websites name says it all www.heartofbusiness.com. Most people see business as heartless. Not Mark Silver. Or what about Enlightened Marketing? Or my colleague Lynn Serafinn who wrote a book called The Seven Graces of Marketing. Or what about www.consciouscorporates.com

I really love the name Selfish Goals that one of my clients was considering for her coaching practice. Most of us are raised to think selfishness is bad. So, to have a website endorsing this idea? Cool. And what about Selfish Giving? Selfish Contribution? Those could work as provocative names too.

And who wouldn’t love a website called Chocolate for Breakfast – Where Pleasure Meets Permission? Choocolate + breakfast? Hello!

Or how about The Blissiplined Life? Bliss + Discipline.

And what about http://www.roguepriest.net. Doesn’t that name immediately give you some ideas of who this priest is what they’re about? You immediately get that they aren’t the usual priest.

The wife of one of my clients had an idea for a business called Compassionate Rebels.

In London, England, there’s a coffee shop called ‘Ethical Addictions‘. The name says it all.

What about the Health Glutton? Or the boxing school in Brazil called Fighting for Peace?

One of my clients had the idea to call her nutrition business The Healthy Hipster. It’s two bits of contrast (party hard hipsters with their tight jeans, penchants for local beer and late night shows) + health. And the name mentions the target group too! #winning

Oakland has City Slicker Farms and The People’s Grocery.

Charles Eisenstein wrote a book called, Sacred Economics.

Dike Drummond burned out years ago as a Doctor and years later has created a business coaching MD’s on how not to burn out called, The Happy MD

Ottawa has a project called Hidden Harvest.

After I published this blog post I began to get some responses with even more ideas.

Karen Bray wrote: “My field is conflict resolution and star mediator Tammy Lenski has already bagged the best name ever – Conflict Zen. I saw what she did there, but it took this blog to realise I could use a similar technique to create something unique for myself. At the moment I’m conflict calming (cos people tell me conflict is scary). But I’m going to play around with some rebranding ideas. The Harmony Warrior, anyone?”

Aruna wrote: “I’ve always liked my business name without really understanding why. Young Yoga Masters is the opposite of what most imagine a yoga master to be. Thanks for the insightful post. I’m going to try this technique in my blog post titles too.”

Bianca Filoteo wrote: “Great post! And I loved that you shared so many other examples niche-focused business names. I came up with mine a few years ago: Video For Shy People. The funny thing was that I was really struggling what to name my business and as I was free-writing about what it would be about “video for shy people” just suddenly appeared. Everyone I’ve met so far has really loved the name :)”

Jaime wrote: “I think I got another one for you. Krister is in the process of changing his blog to www.dancingphysicist.com.”

Tea wrote: “My business name isn’t exactly oxymoronic, but it does bring together two unexpected ideas. The Word Chef was born from a realization that while I would never be a “real” chef, I was certainly someone who could cook up a pretty good marketing message. Words (and pictures) are the ingredients I play with. I think a lot of folks could discover a metaphor for what they do professionally inside of what they love to do for fun.”

Nicky wrote: “And I’d like you to know that: I read your article on Oxymoron’s for names and since them I’m thinking about the name: “Grief Guru” for my program. My friends have been jokingly calling me that. HA! But the premise for me is that each person can be their own Grief Guru as Guru simply means someone who brings in light where there was once darkness. Also toying with GrieveHappy”. I love grievehappy.

Marianne wrote: “My website is Peace Is Sexy; and the sub-categories I’ve got on there are Peace Is Possible, Peace Is Profitable and Peace Is Fun. I always great reactions from that. I just didn’t realize it was also my niche!”

Want to try this with your own business?

Ask yourself . . .

What durogatory and negative qualities are most often associated with the topic you talk about? What qualities do YOU seek to bring in place of that?

Do you bring your boat to a different harbor/community? Do you bring your work to a different crowd who normally isn’t associated with this?

What are the two different worlds you’re trying to bring together?

If you have any other examples of contrasting business names, write them below in the comments.

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Want Help? If you’d like some more direct guidance and hand holding on figuring out your niche then go and check out my Niching for Hippies coaching program http://marketingforhippies.com/niching-for-hippies/

About Tad

  • Allegra Stein

    This is awesome — has definitely given me some food for thought. My business is in coaching women through travel and relocation; not quite sure how to find the contrasting, negative/positive elements in that. Will have to sit with it a bit! :)

  • thanks so much for the comments. this way isn’t always the best way for a lot of businesses. but sometimes it is. good luck :-)

  • Tad, I love this! I think it’s very smart conceptually, but then you went the extra mile and a half to share all those examples to really prove your point. I will definitely keep this in mind for future naming efforts.

    Oh, and thank you for including us, although I owe that name to Phillip Kotler, Granddaddy of Marketing. ;-)

  • thanks! i think my next post on naming will be about the power of naming things based on the results you offer (e.g. Sold Out Seminars, or Get Known Now) which i think can also be super effective.

  • Jeanette Gardiner

    This definitely got the wheels turning! I have such a yawn, ho-hum, business name and have been dying to change it for years. I’m not quite sure how I’ll make it work, but it certainly has me thinking in a new direction. Thanks, Tad, for sharing this (and to Samantha for the mention on Facebook – not sure I would have found it otherwise!).

  • thanks jeanette! if you come up with something along these lines let me know :-)

  • Karen Bray

    My field is conflict resolution and star mediator Tammy Lenski has already bagged the best name ever – Conflict Zen. I saw what she did there, but it took this blog to realise I could use a similar technique to create something unique for myself. At the moment I’m conflict calming (cos people tell me conflict is scary). But I’m going to play around with some rebranding ideas. The Harmony Warrior, anyone?

  • Aruna – Young Yoga Masters

    I’ve always liked my business name without really understanding why. Young Yoga Masters is the opposite of what most imagine a yoga master to be.

    Thanks for the insightful post. I’m going to try this technique in my blog post titles too.

  • Bianca Filoteo

    Great post! And I loved that you shared so many other examples niche-focused business names. I came up with mine a few years ago: Video For Shy People. The funny thing was that I was really struggling what to name my business and as I was free-writing about what it would be about “video for shy people” just suddenly appeared. Everyone I’ve met so far has really loved the name :)

  • Great post, Tad, and thanks for the props! You are so right, the oxymoron is SO totally grabby. The words “Zen Bitch Slap” are engraved now in my brain forever, that is the awesomest name ever, and I’ll never forget it. It works.

  • Yes, For Dummies does that. But I’ve always wanted to start a publishing house that focused on management and leadership topics for those of us who aren’t perfect. Like, “Motivating Your Employees For Assholes,” “Effective Negotiation For Narcissists,” etc. Of course, you’d need to reconfigure Myers-Briggs or DISC to include some truly useful and relevant categorizations…

    Great post. Makes me sad about just about every business name I’ve ever come up with…

  • My website is Peace Is Sexy; and the sub-categories I’ve got on there are Peace Is Possible, Peace Is Profitable and Peace Is Fun. I always great reactions from that. I just didn’t realize it was also my niche!

  • My business name isn’t exactly oxymoronic, but it does bring together two unexpected ideas. The Word Chef was born from a realization that while I would never be a “real” chef, I was certainly someone who could cook up a pretty good marketing message. Words (and pictures) are the ingredients I play with. I think a lot of folks could discover a metaphor for what they do professionally inside of what they love to do for fun.

  • ha! you’re funny.

  • My primary blog is The Practical Dilettante. I like to consider the implications of a lot of things… I’m trying to envision (and live) a life that is informed, integrated, and… practical. My last post combined kittens and math. Which is typically not typical. :)

  • Katherine Macomber Millman

    My business has been named “Insight Bodywork” for 26 years. I don’t know if it’s as flash as some of the ones you’ve come up with, but it seems to grab the attention of people I love to work with! (Website finally on the near horizon, as I ramp up to share the gems far and near…)

  • Katherine

    My business has been named “Insight Bodywork” for 26 years. I don’t know
    if it’s as flash as some of the ones you’ve come up with, but it seems
    to grab the attention of people I love to work with! (Website finally on
    the near horizon, as I ramp up to share the gems far and near…)

  • Jenny Glick

    I am a new subscriber (about 2 weeks) to your newsletter/blog and am loving these ideas! I am a marriage and family therapist in the midst of redefining my business model and have recently added “walk and talk” therapy to my offerings — I live near a beautiful downtown Denver park…so my thought was…Take your therapy hour on a walk! Your post got me thinking about contradictions…and now I am thinking “Walk in the Park Therapy”. :-) Thanks Tad for the inspiration!

  • Claire

    Not sure it’s an oxymoron but my business is called ‘Happy Homeopathy’ – judge your health by your happiness. No one seems to forget the name!

  • I’ve been using Green And Profitable for a few years–and before that, several other oxymoronic names: Principled Profit, frugal marketing,etc.

    I’m going to tweet the link to this page.

  • Melodee Lucido

    Tad, this is brilliant as is everything I’ve known you to write. I am a real estate investor who helps people get rid of their property headaches while making a profit. Is the oxymoron that i am a “compassionate real estate investor” orrrr ? ? ? Any ideas?

  • compassionate doesn’t grab me. but i’d invite you to make a list of all the negative connotations of realtors (e.g. slimy, pushy, dishonest, greedy etc). and then come up with the opposite. and keep chatting with people about it. something will feel ‘right’ eventually. keep me posted :-)

  • Melodee Lucido

    WHOA! You’re like the marketing God Tad ; > I commented and wondered if you’d even see it since it’s been a while ago that you had posted this. Within minits you answered. You are soooo great Tad. I always look forward to your delightful goodies in your blog—-and I so don’t dig the huge majority of blogs.