Flip through this issue of IDEA Fitness Journal and you’ll be exposed to a wide variety of fitness business names and logos, each one telling a “story” about the company it represents. What would you like your business name and logo to convey about you? If you’re gearing up to create a name and logo for the first time, or you’re revamping what you’ve already got, this article is for you.

Making a Name for Yourself

Before you can design a logo, you must first come up with a business name that appropriately represents you and the products or services you provide. If you can match the name to an available website URL, all the better. “An effective business name is one that stands out, is easy to remember and inspires a response from people,” says David Tyreman, author of World Famous: How to Give Your Business a Kick-Ass Brand Identity (AMACOM 2009). “It should hint at what you do or what your market can expect to get by doing business with you.” And it should be available! “Check your business name with a trademark or business attorney, and have a few backups available just in case,” says Nancy Owyang, creative director at Eye 2 Eye Graphics in Mill Creek, Washington. (Hire an attorney and/or visit www.uspto.gov to search for previous trademark registrations.)

While it’s nice for a business name to hold personal significance, ultimately it must make sense to your target audience. So pick something that can be easily pronounced and spelled, advises Owyang. Also, pay close attention to what words members of your target market use to describe themselves, their interests and their goals. Take the case of the long-standing fitness company LivingWell Lady, whose core clientele is made up of fit women, ages 25–45, who juggle family and a professional life. According to the company’s marketing consultant, Denise Galvez, the word lady no longer meshes well with the business’s modern customers. “The name LivingWell Lady, which dated back to the early ’80s, gave [the company] a very dated and, quite frankly, old image. Meanwhile, their best clients were anything but old,” says Galvez, president of Go To Marketing Inc. in Miami. As a result, LivingWell Lady opted to undergo a rebranding.

Marsha Regis also questioned the name she first chose for her personal training business in Vancouver, British Columbia. “The previous name was ActiFitness as in active fitness,” she says. “The idea was that, as a trainer, I encourage people to lead active lifestyles as much as possible, instead of just relying on the gym. However, not only did people not understand the name or what it meant; it turns out that clients came to me mainly to train them at the gym anyway.” So Regis changed the name to Pulse Fitness Personal Training, to be more accessible and more reflective of her services. “Most of my clients come to me via the Internet,” she says, “so the first impression they have of me is my business name. It’s important for that name to attract the right kinds of clients and to reflect who I am as a trainer.”

Suzanne Gove-O’Rourke of Auburn, California, recently opened a facility called ProActive Personal Training & Fitness Education. For her and her business partner–husband, pinning down the right name was easy. “I have always believed it is essential to our well-being that we take a proactive approach with regard to our health and fitness. ‘Pro’ is also taken from professional. And ‘active,’ well, that’s what we all aspire to be. It was also important to me that the words fitness education be included [in our name], as I believe the educational component of what we do is paramount to the success of the client. If we had just called our studio ProActive, there might have been some confusion as to what we offered,” adds Gove-O’Rourke. “ProActive Personal Training & Fitness Education doesn’t leave much to the imagination for prospective clients.”

When it comes to naming a business, don’t leave the customer guessing. And if your business name doesn’t tell something about what you do, your tagline definitely needs to, says Owyang. A tagline is a brief statement that succinctly defines or represents the essence of your business. It should offer a promise or sum up how you help your customers. “This is why Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ is one of the best taglines in the world,” says Tyreman, who’s helped develop brand identity for top companies, including Nike, Polo Ralph Lauren and Disney. Don’t stress out over trying to
explain everything about your business
in a tagline, however. “[Instead],” says Tyreman, “give us a hint about how our world will be improved with you in it.”

Telling the Right “Story” With Your Logo

Like your business name, your logo must appeal to your customers and prospects. So avoid choosing an image based solely on your favorite colors or design preferences. “Your logo is visible 24/7—even when you aren’t there to tell your potential client about what you do,” says Owyang. Think of your logo as a salesperson for your company. “Along with your marketing materials, it is often the first impression people have of what you do and how well you do it,” Owyang says.

“The biggest mistake entrepreneurs make stems from lack of clarity about what a logo is for,” says Tyreman. “The goal of your logo is to resonate with and inspire your market. It also serves the purpose of helping people recognize you, remember you and feel safe and comfortable choosing you,” he says. To that end, Owyang advises creating a logo that effectively expresses the personality, or atmosphere, that your clients can expect when they experience your services. “Is your business playful, edgy, masculine, feminine, corporate, boutique, etc?” she says. “Your logo should evoke a similar feeling.”

And don’t just rely on your impressions. See what members of your target market think. “We ran the original five or six first drafts [of our logo] by a handful of long-term clients, family members and employees,” says Gove-O’Rourke, who used the Web-based logo design service www.thelogocompany.net. “Their feedback, while varied, really helped us select a logo that not only appealed to our eyes but would also attract the type of clients we were looking for.”

Overall, though, remember that you know your business best. “Gut reactions are something that you should ask for just to be sure that the logo doesn’t evoke any bad first impressions,” says Owyang. “But the final decision needs to be made by people who have a deep understanding of where the business has been, where it is currently and where it is going in the future.”

Hiring a professional designer can help with this process. “There is a lot of research and development that goes into creating the best logo solution to represent a company,” says Owyang. “It’s not just slapping something together.”

Finally, remember that a good logo is only a piece of the puzzle when it comes to brand identity, which is how you position and differentiate your presence in the fitness market. “Your logo is not your brand identity,” says Tyreman. “It’s simply a representation of your brand identity. The logo and any design work you have done are the icing on the cake. First, you must have a cake. The cake is your brand identity.”

Icing on the Cake

The business name and logo you choose won’t necessarily make or break your success as a fitness entrepreneur. However, a carefully planned name and logo will strongly contribute to your overall image and to customers’ first impressions of you. “Make sure that your business name is one you’re proud to say out loud and that it stands the test of time,” says Regis. “Changing a business name and logo is a lot of work. Do your best to do it right the first time.”