An edgy brand name can be great in grabbing attention for a new start-up business but does it come with longer-term risks if franchise expansion is on the cards?

There are lots of quirky small business names out there. Fast food chain Lord of the Fries and homewares retailer Holy Sheet! spring to mind. Thai restaurants are also known to embrace pun names, such as Silk Thai, Thaitanic and Thai Me Up to name just a few.

The UK is also home to many humorous business names, with fish and chip shop The Cod Father, hairdresser Curl Up & Dye and florist Back To The Fuchsia among the best. In the USA, one of the cleverest hot dog stand names has to be I Dream Of Weenie.

While there is a lot of fun to be had in creating cutting-edge business brands from puns or a play on words, are there also longer terms risks at play?

A recent news report out of Canada concerning the seemingly innocuous business name of Moby Dick got us thinking about this issue.

The Moby Dick fish and chip restaurant has successfully operated in the coastal suburb of White Rock outside Vancouver for many years. Its owner was now seeking to open a second franchised outlet of the same name in downtown Vancouver.

According to The Washington Post, these plans ran into trouble with the strata corporation of property owners at the proposed new premises who refused to issue a permit because it found the restaurant’s name, specifically the word ‘dick’, offensive.

The strata believed that the restaurant’s brand name would harm the image and depreciate the value of other properties, even though the Moby Dick restaurant’s name takes its inspiration from the classic novel of the same name.

This dispute is still to play out fully in the courts, but it does raise an interesting issue surrounding brand names and the impact they can have on business expansion.

Even though the brand Moby Dick appears inoffensive, there were those in the local community in which it was seeking to expand who took exception and were prepared to fight its opening.

While it is not possible to please everyone nor to foresee all future risks concerning a brand name, do businesses owners need to afford the same level of due diligence to this part of their business as they do to others?

A brand name is undoubtedly a crucial component of business success and an important way to convey the personality of a business and its people, products or services.

An ‘out there’ or quirky brand may have a great initial impact in grabbing attention but owners should consider if it is sustainable and aligned to their long-term expansion plans.

A funny or irreverent brand name could potentially become a hindrance at some point, particularly if a business is looking to expand into new markets or seek investment from corporate partners.

These risks could be exemplified if expansion involves entry into more culturally-sensitive overseas markets that may not share the same sense of humour from which the brand evolved, or if investors are being sought from similar markets.

If the brand is to be franchised, will franchisees like and get the funny brand name, will they feel comfortable investing in it, or will the brand actually put them off?

Perhaps the question for business owners to ask is: just how far can a funny brand take them?

Will the novelty wear off and will it be ‘corporate’ enough in the long run to facilitate major expansion?

These are not easy questions to answer when starting up a new business, but just having the discussion could add a further valuable step to the due diligence process.

Workshopping the long-term strength of a brand and weighing up the pros and cons that come with it is a good place to start. At least then the brand name has been afforded some level of scrutiny, which will hold it in better stead for its future business journey.

We would love to hear your thoughts on this issue, including some of your favourite quirky business names and any experiences you may have had where such a name helped or hindered business expansion.