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3 of the Worst Business Name Fails of All Time

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A business name says everything about your brand. If done well a business name evokes emotion, stands out in the mind, is memorable, and reminds the customer of your business in a millisecond. But what about business name fails? What do you do when you have selected one of the worst business names possible?

Hopefully you are at a point in the branding of your business where you can stuff that name in a trash can and run away quickly before anyone remembers what you called your company. If you aren’t sure how to choose a good business name, we are here to help with that aspect of naming. Start with these three business names that rank high on the list of horrible picks. Learn from their mistakes so you don’t make them yourself.


How do you even pronounce this restaurant name? Q-doba? Que doba? Sure, the queso might be fine, and the take on Mexican cuisine is winning over Chipotle naysayers nationwide. However, when it boils down to it, the name of Qdoba misses on two accounts and ranks at the top of the list of worst business names ever.

First of all, customers aren’t even sure how to say the name. Secondly, the name Qdoba leaves a question mark in the mind, quite literally. Being a Mexican style cuisine, when you see Qdoba, if you know Spanish you might think of the word adoba, which is Spanish for marinate. Marinating meat makes sense, but why add the letter q before it? Is this a question of whether or not the meat at Qdoba is marinated?

Considering they specialize in marinated beef, pork, and chicken it would make sense, so adding the mystery only adds mystery to the meat itself. Not the smartest branding move for a restaurant chain.

Who knows the answer of where the name came from? From a Heckler, actually, Terry Heckler that is. He is the same person who gave the spectacularly successful businesses of Starbucks and Panera Bread the names as well. While those names work amazingly in evoking powerful and fitting emotions, Qdoba just leaves a question in the mind of the customer.

What they could have done:

  • Go with Adoba. A quick Google search reveals that there are no restaurant chains currently named this, and given the meaning and subtext behind ‘adoba’ it would make far better sense.


If you’ve never heard of this company name Cadabra you aren’t the only one. Yet Cadabra is actually the most popular online business. Confused? That was Bezos’ concern when he originally named Amazon as Abracadabra, then shortened it to Cadabra. For an entire year after what we now know as Amazon, the online book retailer was called Cadabra and had the URL cadabra.com. Bet you didn’t have that one bookmarked.

Now, what word does cadabra remind you of? Does cadaver come to mind? Cadabra also ends with a bra as in woman’s brassiere. Neither of these words really attract people to the online book retailer that Amazon started out being. Bezos realized that, too, and changed it to the business name of today.

As a side note, by starting with the letter A, Amazon would be easy to find in an alphabetical listing. That is, if we still used Yellow Pages…and these were filled with online businesses. All the same, Amazon is a far more powerful business name that Abracadabra or Cadabra.

What they could have done:

  • Amazon is a good example of doing what they should have done in changing their brand name early on. However, you want to make this kind of major change asap before your brand is burned or banished from the names of consumers.

Pho King

A name like Pho King sounds innocent to English speakers. But do you know how you are supposed to announce this type of Korean dish? Pho has the f sound for ph, but the o is actually an uh sound. That’s right, Fu King. Now do you hear the pho-dumental issue with this business name?

Pho King is a chain that has locations in California, and the reviews for this authentic Korean noodle soup are spot on. It’s just the name that makes you ask what the heck were they thinking? In this case the business name may simply be lost in translation, something you want to consider if your brand is a foreign-born entity.

What they could have done:

  • This is an example of cultural confusion, but the question begs to be asked: Did the business intend for the pun in order to attract more customers? In that case, this could be a one-off situation where a horrible business name pays off.

Other notable mentions for worst company names

Here are some of the other worst company names we came across that have vague meanings, can’t be pronounced, or are just plain rotten:

  • Amedisys: is this like amethyst or I am a diss?
  • Fifth Third Bank: too many numbers that don’t add up, not great for a business focused on counting cash.
  • Kids Exchange: check out the URL for this one.

Take action with your business name

Learn from the best and avoid making the same mistakes as these businesses. As you select a brand name take note of these words of wisdom:

  • Choose a business name that is easily pronounceable. If customers can’t say it, they aren’t likely to repeat it or remember it. Furtzii, anyone?
  • Consider how your business name translates into a URL. For example, Holland’s Hit Festival leaves a stinky thought in your mind when you read it out as a website name.
  • Avoid using punctuation in your name. It’s gimmicky. In “Eats, Shoots and Leaves,” the British pop group Hear’Say exemplifies the problems with punctuation. It’s difficult to recall, makes misspellers look silly, and is just bad branding.
  • Stay away from odd spellings including the use of random numbers like S8te. Failing to use proper spelling is not a good way to start business with customers.
  • Rather than choosing a made-up word or random noun, think about keywords related to your business. In this age of internet marketing, good SEO makes for a golden business name.
  • Avoid using your own name as your business name. It’s lazy. Plus you miss the opportunity to use your brand name to create a feeling or mental picture about your company. Unless your customers all know you personally, they are more likely to associate your first or last name with someone they know who shares it. That can’t always be a positive notion.

Choosing your business name is the first step in branding your company. Take your time, do your research, and don’t run headfirst into business name fails. Use these examples and tips to help drive your brand toward the best business name for your company.

> Starting the branding process? Make sure you create a great logo design to go with your new business name.