I’ve been involved in some naming projects recently and I thought I’d share some of the strategic learnings. There’s been plenty written about naming. Most of it turns the process into nothing short of brain surgery–which it isn’t! But many companies are also oversimplifying the process and attempting to “follow their gut” which isn’t the right way to tackle the job either.
Below, I have listed five simple rules for naming your brand or company that apply pretty well across the board of naming projects. This is a good middle-ground that will help you put the job of naming on the right track without suffering the 9 months and half million dollars that branding and naming agencies will try to convince you are necessary.
1. Decide On A Direction
This is the first step and unfortunately the one that most companies skip. What do you want the name to communicate? Without this strategic direction you and your team will be floundering in uncertainty. Take the time at the beginning of your naming project to write down the primary messaging goal for your new name. For instance, if you are naming a new whitening toothpaste your name should obviously communicate white, shiny, glistening, beauty etc. If you’re renaming an investment company your task is a little tougher. Do you want to communicate safety, know-how, international scope, or something niche, like environmental finance? Pick ONE direction, rather than three of these and your naming project will go much smoother.
2. Know Your Competition
Don’t come up with 100 names and then see if any of your competitors are using them. Instead, research your competition first. See what’s out there. Then attach a competitive landscape and name list to the strategic messaging your wrote. This will provide those brainstorming names with immediate parameters of where they can and can’t explore. I’ve seen companies skip this step, pick URLs and get all the way to the trademark office before realizing the name (or a close variant) was already being used.
3. Be Creative
Ok, so maybe this one is obvious. But creativity isn’t just a good idea — it’s absolutely necessary today. Unless you are a creative naming professional, there is a very good chance that your first 10-30 names are going to be taken or unavailable in URL form. Today, companies need to expand their name boundaries and the lexicon itself (create new words) to really succeed and stand out.
4. Don’t Ask Your Best Friend’s Sister’s Mother’s….
If you have a good direction and you have smart, knowledgeable and professional people developing names (whether internally or through an agency), you don’t need your sister’s, wife’s or secretary’s opinion. Focus on your direction, and goals, and leave this decision to the experts.
5. Realize That You Are As Important As Your Customers
If the Marketing Director, CEO or Sr. Sales Manager doesn’t like the name, they might not work as hard to back it up and support the brand around it. That may sound petty, but it’s reality. Make sure that all the key influencers and stakeholders (not everyone in the entire company) are onboard with the new name — especially if it is a new company name. Once everyone is singing the same tune, ask them to go out and sing it to the rest of the company, their subordinates, customers etc.
Finding the “right” name isn’t easy. It’s a very subjective thing. By following the five tips above, some of that subjectivity can be mitigated, making the process a whole lot smoother.
Good luck and good naming.