Brand names: Why, What, and How
Translate this page to your native language with deepL or google translate. Just copy and paste the whole thing!
1:30 total time
30 Why and What of brand names
5 Short break
30-45 How to create brand names
~15 minutes for questions
My name is Ben Foden. It's nice to meet you.
You can get a link to my slides, my speaking notes, and my name tools at this link *add to chat*
If you are not a native speaker of English, I recommend you translate the notes to your native language so you can follow along. Just copy paste into deepL.com or google translate.
This session is about Brand names.
The session will be an hour and a half.
In the first half of the session I will talk about the "why", and the "what" to give you all the background information you need to know.
Then lets take a short break. Grab a drink, grab a snack, stretch, and then continue.
In the second half, I will explain the process of HOW to find a good name.
It takes more than just writing a list of names on a notepad.
A little about me.
I work at Nota here in Kyoto, Japan. You can learn more about Nota, a sponsor of KS3 at https://notainc.com
I am originally from Mountain View in Silicon Valley and I've been here in japan for four years now.
If you would like to know more about my background, visit myname.com or read my profile on the KS3 program page (password required)
Now, if you're able to, I want you to stand up.
Come on, stand up. Let's do 10 squats together to get our body and brain moving. Ok? Now put your hands up high and stretch for 5 seconds. 1 2 3 4 5
Do you feel a little more awake now? Wonderful.
This sessions will be part talk, and part demo.
If you want to talk today, answer questions, and maybe join a demo at the end, then please type an O in the chat. Just the letter o.
I may call on you at any time, so please be ready.
Let's get started!!
Why do you need a good name? What are good names? and How do you find a good name?
For this talk, every time I say 'names' what I mean is brand names.
I'd like to share some stories about really bad brand names, and how they were fixed.
How many of you have heard of Panasonic? (Previously named Matsushita electric)
People pronounce foreign words in a way that is familiar to them, not to the origin.
In english there is a bad word in the middle of the name! Maybe you can guess which one.
This is why you should always consult with a native speaker for each target language you want to use.
Google? (Previously named Backrub)
They called it this because the program analyzed the web’s “back links” to understand how important a website was, and what other sites it related to.
Backrub is just wierd and creepy in this context. It explains the tech, in a way, but nobody understands or cares about that. They don't see or imagine any benefit unless the are deep into web tech.
Google is short, sounds simple and friendly, and has a nice deeper meaning of a big number: 1 with a hundred zeros.
7-Eleven ? (Previously named Tote'm)
It was called tote'm because customers would 'tote' their purchases away in a plastic bag. Tote means carry. Tote'm doesn't sound bad, but toting or carrying your own bag is not a benefit!
No thank you.
7-11 the name came from their store hours which were much longer than normal stores. This is a clear benefit for customers, and it's got a great rhyming sound and simple image.
I think they would not be half as successful if they had not changed their name.
A bad name can kill your project all by itself, or make it MUCH harder to be successful.
By now, you might think 'ok At least I need to avoid a bad name.'
Why invest in a good name?
So, clearly you want to avoid a bad name. Why should you work hard for a good name?
A good name multiplies the speed you can build relationships with customers, with team members, investors, partners, fans, influencers, and news people.
Good names do a lot of jobs for you. They work hard.
The first job of a name is to improve relationships with your stakeholders.
1. Customers want to buy, create positive reviews, and share word of mouth
2. Staff want to join and work hard
3. Partner companies want to partner and promote collaborations
4. Investors want to invest and use their network to support
5. Influencers, content creators, and media want to write about you and share your story
A bad name can hurt every relationship and a good name can make them all much better.
This is why you need a good name.
How does a good name help you build key relationships?
A good name invites people to connect with you from the very first impression to the very last.
If you have a good name, people are more likely take the next step, to learn more, and to take some action you want.
People want to talk about good names with their friends, their coworkers, their boss.
People remember good names.
Do you know the finance idea of compound interest?
A good name compounds actual interest in your project.
Here I mean interestingness, not money.
Imagine if you could increase interest in your project by just 1% ?
Multiply that 1% millions of times and you can see that it a name that is even a little bit better than another can transform your relationships and your final success.
Why spend more time naming?
So, clearly a name is worth investing in. But how much? Why spend more or less time?
Here you can see a chart with three ways to measure the impact of a name.
This is a comparison of two businesses, FANUC, a robot maker which is the green triangle, and Adidas, the clothing company which is purple.
How do you measure the potential impact of a name on your project?
visibility - How easy is it to see?
frequency - How many times do people use it in a week?
self-expression - How important is it for personal image?
Lets talk about the case of FANUC, a maker of factory robots for business.
Their robots live behind the closed doors of factories. The name FANUC is almost invisible.
They are bought and chaged very rarely. Maybe every 10 years. That is very low frequency.
They are selected by business people and engineers concerned almost entirely about the robot features and not their personal image. That is very low self-expression.
They score a 1 on all three points.
Now think about Adidas.
Their name and logo are worn on your body, visible to everyone around you. That's high visibility.
Clothing brand names make an important statement to everyone around you about who you are and what's important to you. Self expression is extremely important for Adidas.
People may wear Adidas every day or every week. That is high frequency.
Adidas scores a 2, 2, and 3 on these impact points.
Clearly, a clothing company needs to spend more time on naming than a factory robot maker. In all cases, a better name will help you build your relationships and grow faster.
Think about your case and these three impact points.
If you think, "hey, my project score a 3 on all of these points" then aim to spend one month, if you can.
If you have a score more like 1 or 2 on these points, aim to spend at least one week.
What are names?
Lets talk about examples.
You all know dozens if not hundreds or even thousands of names.
Music groups like the Wutang Clan, companies(and apps) like PayPal, Zoom, and Starbucks, products like Kleenex or Q-Tips, or company-product pairs likeToyota Corolla.
Sometimes people have brand names too.
Does anyone here know what Sushi's real name is?
Did you know Natalie Portman is a brand name? Her real name is Neta-Lee Hershlag
Ever heard of Stevie Wonder? His real name is Steveland Judkins
Brand names are a design product. Creating good brand names is part art and part science.
There are many different name styles that can be successful
PayPal - Clear, rhyming name that says what it does.
Zoom - Super short, strong Z sound, gives a feeling of simple, connection, and speed.
Starbucks - Very unique, nice positive feel, starts and ends with S. Easy to say and spell.
Toyota Corolla - A compound name joining company and product. Rhyming sounds. Repeating many letters. Corolla means a round part of a flower. But it sounds like Co + Roll or "roll together" which is great for a car.
What are some of your favorite names?
Lets break that down:
Names are Meaningful
Names have meaning. They mean something unique. Red is a name for one color.
Names are engaging.
Names engage your focus, your attention. Each is a point of focus, making you stop and think about something.
Names are symbols.
If you read your own name on a piece of paper normally, you don't think about the letters, or the sounds. You just see a symbol of yourself. This is the same for a brand name. It become an instant symbol of something, not just a collection of letters.
Conveys value of relationship
Should clearly say what you can do for the other person. What do they get? What will they feel?
Smallest unit of communication
Your project can't be expressed any more simply than the name.
It is the smallest single thing that can say who you are and what you do.
Works in isolation*
In general, a name doesn't need supporting context to communicate meaning.
Facebook, while a boring name, is very efficient because you don't have to explain what it is, what it oes. This means it gets shared faster and people decide to use it faster.
Nike, while it sounds good, doesn't mean anything by itself. It works in isolation only because they spent billions of dollars on one of the largest marketing projects in human history. Most startups don't have that kind of budget so a descriptive name like Facebook, or Dropbox, etc. is a better choice.
Made by you, not for you
How you "feel" about the name is not important. It's cold, but true.
Don't pick a name for yourself. Pick a name for your stakeholders.
You will be much happier with a successful project than just having a name you like.
Do not fall in love with any name during your naming process.
You will get used to any name over time, as long as it's a logically "good" name.
What makes a name good or bad?
Now you may wonder. What makes a name good or bad?
Is it science? yes. Is it art? yes.
Impute is a rare word so I'll explain. Impute means to give a meaning, a quality to something, or to credit something: For example, in this sentence: Graceful character is often imputed to cats. Because cats are thought of as graceful animals that can always land on their feet and the move carefully.
So, a name should give imput an emotional or descriptive value. For example, when people read the name they should hear "this will make me feel happy" or "this will save me time"
Less than 10 letters is a good target. If someone has to explain how to spell or say the name, they are less likely to share it and you are less likely to remember it. It must be easy to spell when someone says it to you, so they can search for it later.
Easy to pronounce is a bonus here. It will help with consistency.
Sticy means easy to remember, hard to forget. You can make your name easy to remember by using some writing tricks like these:
Think of rhyming sounds and repeating letters
Think Coca cola. Docomo. Kit Kat. Tik Tok.
Trochee or one long sound and then one short sound.
For example: Poet. Tiger. Highway. Google. Snoop Dogg.
Rare or strong-sounding letters like X, Y, Z, K, Q, etc.
For example, SpaceX, Q-Tip, Krispy kreme
A harmonious name matches with the taste and needs of your stakeholders.
Your customers must feel comfortable sharing the name with friends, coworkers, and their boss.
Your team must feel proud to say they work on your project.
Investors must feel confident to invest
News, partners, and influencers must look professional when they use your name.
It must match the culture of your niche. For example, twitch fits well in the gaming niche where fast reactions and quick movements are desirable. Young people don't want to drive an Oldsmobile car. etc.
What are some names you really don't like?
Now you know what makes a good name. A name without any obvious problems is a GOOD name. You should be happy with that, and it can give you all the branding power you need.
Here are some hacks to help you be more successful.
Use a process and use tools. Make it clear at the start. Understand the steps you need to take, and your team can spend the right amount of time and energy to get a good result. Using the right tools like a name generator, a thesaurus, and a spreadsheet will make a big difference.
If your project provides a specific thing that people search for, such as 'Storage' then you might try to find a name and domain name that has 'Storage' in it. For example, 'StorageForest.com' That way you may get a boost in search results.
The next point is an old marketing idea, but very important.
Don't focus on the details, focus on the outcome. People don't buy plane tickets. They buy the promise of a nice vacation on a beautiful beach.
Here's a quote from Antoine de Saint—Exupery, author of The Little Prince, which illustrates that nicely: If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.
Always be naming. Finding good names requires writing a lot of names. Inspiration can come at any time.
It's very hard to find a name all in one session, so keep a notepad or note app ready at all times.
Think about names in the shower. When you wake up after a nap. While exercising. Anywhere.
Write more names at more different times and it will be much easier to find a good name.
Now, lets take a break for 5 minutes
Go to the bathroom, grab a drink, grab a snack, and come back.
Let's do some squats and stretch again! Come on. Stand up.
How to name your project
If you have never thought about it, creating a name sounds simple. Just write a word, right?
Well, actually no. It's a process.
By following these how to steps, you can always get lots of high quality, high value brand names that will help you grow your projects in the future.
For this how to part of the talk, I will use an example of an app which makes small payments and go step by step through the process, to show you how it works.
I will switch between my slides and naming tools so we can try it together in a real example.
I will put the link in the chat once again so you can see the tools in google drive.
When you use these for your own project, be sure to copy the folder for your own project.
How to prepare
Lets talk about the process of naming, including the all the steps and tools.
Ok, so if you've never done this before you may have some questions like how do you find a good name? What is a process you can use to find a final name? How do you agree as a team?
Before you start any name project, you need to get everyone who has a vote on the final name to be involved at the beginning, middle, and end. If you don't do this, you might spend a month and then never be able to decide at the end.
Who would like to join me for the demo as my naming team on this micro payments app? Please raise your hand and I will pick two people at random.
Now I've completed the worksheet steps already to save time.
Let's look at it together.
First you need to complete the lean canvas or at least have a business plan.
You must know what unique and clear value you provide. If not, you have much bigger problems than finding a good name.
There was an earlier session on this which should give you everything you need to know.
We will skip it for now.
Define your 3 core brand values if you haven't already.
You may have a meeting for this where everyone puts sticky notes with different values like "fast" "saves time" "friendly" "high tech" etc. and then collect them into three main ideas. These will also help you create a logo and other brand assets.
You can see a link to more information about this on my naming page.
Finally, write about all the concepts related to your project.
Think about use cases for your project, feelings and emotions, how it connects with people's lives and work, metaphors, customer wants and needs, etc.
What are some concepts related to this project? Type some ideas in the chat.
List competitor names and other names in the space so you can be sure to avoid them.
You don't want to sound similar to your competitors or anyone else, so it's important to research these first.
Think about your customers core desires. What do they REALLY want?
People often do not say what they really want. It takes emotional intelligence to understand what they are after.
Human drives are fundamentally unchanged for all time. People want to:
Acquire (Make money, status)
Bond (have relationships)
Feel (feel moved, laugh, nice smell, nice sound, etc.)
For example, when interviewed about a support app, a customer support manager may say they want to "save costs" and "retain more customers" but what they really want is to feel "helpful".
This is part of the inspiration for the name I created for Nota's instant FAQ search, which is called "Helpfeel."
Now, with this part done, lets start the main task, the main focus of the naming process! Writing names.
How to write 500+ names
Why write a LOT of names?
The first names you write are probably going to be bad. Usually you need a lot of tries before you get some good ones.
Also, new ideas will develop as you review your list, and you can recombine and remix your earlier names to find something good.
Many ideas will be filtered out later, so you need a lot of options to start.
Review some creative exercises and try some to get your creative start. Storyboarding, mind maps, word association, etc.
Stand up, stretch, go for a walk, drink something. Have a snack.
Start working when your brain is fresh and alert.
Use a thesaurus and name generator (included in the spreadsheet I will share later) to combine rough ideas and quickly explore combinations.
Use lateral thinking and improvisation to explore and combine adjacent and surprising ideas related to your project.
Mix idea A with idea 1,2,3,4,5. Then, mix idea 1 with idea a, b, c, d, e. Notice what comes to mind as you do this and branch off further.
Example: Apple butter. Apple spread. Pear spread. Peach jam. Grilled Peach. Peach butter. Apple each. App grill. etc.
In the beginning any concept, any word, any idea is ok! Never say NO or Im not sure to an idea. Always say "Yes and.." to explore and open more ideas. Do not filter at all right now.
Inspiration comes in surprising places and at surprising times. Carry a small notepad or open note app on your phone. Think about names at different times of the day, over several days. Always be ready to write.
Write lots of names and add them to the first column on your master spreadsheet. As a team your target should be to get 1000 name ideas before you start filtering.
How to filter names in steps
The naming process is a cycle of writing name ideas, then filtering, then writing, then filtering, until you get names that are good.
1. After you have 500-1000 names, everyone votes with a 1. Create a new column on your sheet, and just put a 1 next to names you think have something good or interesting. They don't need to all be good names.
Copy any name with at least one vote to the next sheet and keep the original list.
2. Check domain names, trademarks, and search results for each name. If there are no good domain names available, or the trademark is taken, or the search results are too busy, or if they contain a competitor, then the name doesn't pass. Write the status of these checks on this sheet.
Sidenote here. Domain names can cost a lot of money. For the right domain name, this can be a good investment, but it's also a risk.
I am not a lawyer, but I know that trademarks must be available in your target markets. You can do a quick search by yourself to check on the website for each country or the EU, but if you are working on a big project you will need to hire a lawyer to review the trademark status and file a new trademark for your name.
3. Look at the list of names that passed with your team and ask how people feel. Do people feel confident there are good names here? If the answer is no, then go back to your writing process and write more names.
4. Now that you have a list of names that are in some way good, and they are available, create a spreadsheet column for every team member, and invite them to vote on each name from 1 to 3.
3 is an excellent name. 2 is great. 1 is good.
Total the score for all team members and order the list from high to low. The top 10-30 names pass to the next step.
5. Using the name criteria, score each name and sort it from High to low, including the status of the domain names.
You might find a great name but the domain costs too much money compared to a similar name with an available domain.
You can consider creating mockups of the name in context to help with the next step, which is deciding on the final name.
For example, create a mock landing page, business card, twitter page, search result, blog post, etc. Or any other context where your name is likely to be used. This can help people "feel" how the name works instead of being so logical. This is also a chance to play with fonts, colors, and logos, but don't spend too much time on that now.
Brand names: Review
Why? Compound interest in your project. Grow relationships with every stakeholder multiple times faster.
What? Good names are meaningful, engaging symbols of who you are and what you do. They help people understand, feel comfortable, and get motivated.
How? Prepare and write creatively, filter objectively, and repeat as much as necessary. Finally, decide based on a process you have agreed before starting.
What are your questions?
You can ask about your own project names and we can talk about them if you are comfortable to do so.
This is the end of the talk. You can read on below for more details about names!
some name styles will work better in certain contexts than others
InfoSeek, Burger King, Healthy Choice
National Semi, United Airlines, Alamo
Nordstroms, Dell, Kellogs, Cadillac, Disney
Rolex, Avis, Inktomi, Akamai
Alta Vista, Lycos, Cadence
Coined - abstract
Pepsi, Sony, Verizon, Acura, Nyquill
Coined – descript.
Cingular, Motorola, Compaq, e*Trade
Google, Nvidia, Volvo, Tivo, Snapple
AOL, SoBe, AT&T, AMD, CA, SAP,
Cisco, Intel, QualComm, Gatorade
Microsoft, FileNet, Dreamworks
Lancome, Guidant, HaagenDas, Nintendo, Uber
Tivoli, Texas Instruments, Amazon, eBay
Cyprus Semi, Adobe, Jaguar, Visa
Redback, BlueFish, Green Giant
Yahoo, FatBrain, Raiders, FogDog
Sprint, Always, Go, About
3Com, 7Eleven, Phase4
Quark, Quasar, Panasonic, Infiniti
Great names live forever
What are some people's interesting brand names?
Someone raise your hand if you want to share and I'll go over what makes them good.
Apple, Coca Cola, Nike
Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, etc.
What makes them great? Repeated letters, trochee, rhyming.
Use literary devices
These may be hard to use directly, but you may get inspiration in the middle of your brainstorm, or after reviewing your name list.
Rhymes - docomo
Alliteration - cocacola
Trochee - nike
Special characters and syllables - SpaceX
Humor - Just Falafs
Boil it down.
You don't have the space to say everything, so you have to pick one arch allegory, one base-level belief, one core concern that the name addresses.
Instead of capturing a range of emotions and ideas, your goal is to boil the total user experience down,
Crystallize and extract a strong meaning, locked on your stakeholder's true desires
Why are these factors important?
What do you think makes some of these important?
Short and easy to spell names have less friction in communication so they are more likely to be used and shared.
Easy to remember and unique names are simply more likely to stand out among all the other thoughts in a person's head when they think about the niche you're in and the needs that you serve.
Names that convey clear emotional or informational value help to encourage people's decision to choose and continue choosing your product or company.
How are names for products and companies structured?
Companies with large product lines may develop many brand and sub brands
Ex: Toyota and Lexus, Toyota Corolla, Lexus LS300, etc.
Product and company names are used interchangeably by some customers.
For example: You might refer to Nike shoes as "Nikes" or "Air force ones"
Websites often use the same name for their company and product, because they only have one product.
If you plan to have a single major product, it's best to use the same name for the company.
If you plan to expand in the future, consider using separate names and let the company name be more abstract or general.
General notes on names
whats the value of a name? (how much time and energy should you spend on a name?
good names make all the things your project needs work better and faster
bad names slow everything down and make your project less likely to be successful
few things have such a wide impact
good names are quantifiable, objectively
peak names are art. they are subjective
names are a tool first of all.
they have a job to do
let go of your pride. do. not. get. attached.
analysis paralysis is real
if the name doesnt create enough value it should be fired
To achieve a peak name, you must engage all your literary, creative, business, and design sense.
I'm Ben Foden.
I'm the Head of Growth at a rapidly growing startup based right here in Kyoto.
I've worked on successful naming and branding projects internally at Nota and other startups. I also worked as a naming consultant for product and company naming together with my father who has been a branding and naming specialist for over 20 years. So, essentially I am an expert in Naming. But, please don't just take my word for it.
Try to listen, take notes, and understand what I'm about to share with you and then decide for yourself.
So, today I want to talk with to you about names in general, and i'll cover three main topics
whats the value of a name?
tips (and challenges) of deciding on a good name as a team
a repeatable 10-step process for finding good names
A note about me and my personal style
I am american, from silicon valley, and to me it's a sign of respect to ask direct questions and challenge assumptions.
I love to teach but I need your help to know if you don't understand something.
So, please interrupt me and ask questions at any time.
Whats the value of a name?
What are brand names? They are the public names for products and companies.
What makes them valuable? How valuable are they relative to the product value? Does anyone have an opinion?
How do you make a good name?
What do you think? A quick brainstorm and write some ideas, then try to get the domain?
Why might you want to do a little more and go deeper..?
What are some possible problems of a bad name?
How would a good name help you?
What does a good name do for you?
It's easier to...
gain and keep customers
hire new staff
get articles written about you
get influencers and fans
get partners and distributors
If you’re selling industrial pumps, your customer may only very rarely see your name and it will not be the most iimportant point. If you’re selling clothing, it’s literally written on the chest of your customer, or on the side of their feet. They become like a walking advertisement for you. They’re only going to wear your clothing if they like your name and feel it gives them a good image.
Think about how a name is used in every web search, web page, link, tweet, phone call, meeting, email, business card, resume, pitch, news article, etc. etc.
If you’re creating a video sharing website, and people share the links to their videos on your website, your domain name is super critical to their confidence and positive feelings. It’s a statement about who they are.
Consider a brand name like Louis Vuitton it’s a public status symbol for its customers. It’s an essential part of the purchase decision. It may be seen every day. The customer is savvy about luxury goods. The brand is well-established and it enjoys strong word of mouth. It puts out lots of traditional advertisements. It’s part of the parent company LVMH. It’s sold primarily through retail stores. It’s a family name with a long history, which is basically a requirement for their industry. These all affect how good of a name it is.
The other extreme case for a name may be more like a simple label to tell two companies apart.ABC Industrial Pumps is not a symbol of its customers worth. The engineer that buys the pump looks at its specification, price, service, and the company reputation.
The quality of the name is MUCH less important to this kind of business, although still important.
depending on the business, customer may see the names a few times in their life, or hundreds of times per day
following that, for some businesses they are simply important and for others they are critical to success(visibility chart)
its likely to be used in every web search, phone call, meeting, email, etc.
A word about marketing
WIIFM Radio --> What is in it for me? What do I get? This is often the only thing customers think about.
people want to go to a destination (emotion), not a ticket (feature)
the name is a promise about where customers can go with you, how you keep that promise is your brand
A good name can add to and multiply product value. for businesses that rely on word of mouth, virality, and sharing at scale this value can be exponential
at the same time, a bad name can be a continuous brake on growth and even lead to a business or project failing
Name value by stakeholder type
for partners Confidence, company image
for customers, it's the value they get, the affect on their self image (or their company image), and how it makes them feel
for staff, it's a sign of the prestige of their career (and their self worth). it may appear on their resume for the rest of their life
for investors, its confidence in the management and the company's future
for press and influencers, its a reflection on their taste or sense, and their public image
some businesses license just their brand for use by other businesses. a brand (and name) by itself can literally be a valuable business asset
ex: Victorinox (swiss army knives) licenses its brand for other manufacturers
the cost of labor and parts of a BMW
a name is the leading element of any brand, and the first impression most people have of you.
however its just one piece of the overall brand, and is supported by every other element of the business and your customer's experience
a name like BMW has almost zero meaning at first-- until you see a commercial, watch a race, talk to a car enthusiast, or drive one of their cars
a name like "oishii gyunyu" (literally "delicious milk") has a totally clear meaning before you ever taste a drop. the milk still has to taste good, of course, but the way the meaning is delivered and the initial impression of the product is totally different.
these are two of many styles, and both can work well in the right case, but you always need a good product and strong overall marketing
a name by itself cant make your business succeed, but it can help or hurt it a lot.
Team naming Tips
Think about who in the team actually makes the decision to choose a final name? (who can veto a name at the last minute?)
Its critical to get all of the key people involved at least once at the beginning and ideally more often. If they dont get involved early, they will probably not "buy in" to any name you suggest later.
Find at least one person who is a native speaker of any languages you plan to do business in, and ideallythat also has some experience with your product and target customer that you can ask for advice. You don't necessarily need to know these people personally but it helps if you do, and if they can join the name process periodically.
Remind your team: do not "fall in love" with any name. a business or product name is a design elememt. it has a job to do.its not your baby's name.
names are emotionally charged and this can quickly cloud judgment.watch out for this!
over time people can become extremely attached to names and this can cause serious difficulty if you need to change the name or if not everyone agrees
also lnow that any name will take time to become familiar to you and a first impression can be totally different than seeing the name on the tenth or hundredth time.
New name inspiration and disqualification can come at any time and any phase in the name process until the final name is decided. Allow new ideas to be added until the very end and dont be afraid to try little changes or improvements throughout.
AKA a name without problems is a good name
Creating a name without problems is a science. It’s a repeatable process anyone can follow. It provides clear criteria a team can agree on.
Creating an excellent name is an art, which is of course largely a matter of opinion in the judging, and of great skill in the execution. Searching for a perfect name is a recipe for lots of wasted time, sadness, tears, and loss. It’s totally unnecessary and one of the key reasons naming projects fail.
Many businesses with problems that have names are still very successful. Having a name with no problems and some good properties will put you ahead of most of your competitors.
Unless you hire a name expert, its probably better to be realistic about your expectations and know that a name without any problems is a good name and can certainly allow you to achieve all your business objectives.
The team naming process
1. Host a kickoff meeting
Share the reason for the chang
Outline the process and timeline
manage expectations and educate
After getting support....
2. Have everyone fill out the naming worksheet
One line pitch
Customer profile (and their customers if a business)
Ideally, you would do customer interviews and review actual data.
What are your customer's motivations? what core emotions or thoughts do they want to have from using your product?
3. Start your brainstorm!
Copy and distribute the name worksheets to everyone working on the name project (or share with your naming / branding consultant)
Add name ideas, one per row, to a sheet.
Your target at this phase is to have about 1,000 name candidates collectively, but you could go up to 3000 or more depending on how much time you have
At this phase, do not filter your ideas at all. Anything and everything is game! Write it ALL down. if it pops into your head, write it without another thought. any little piece of a word or random word might become helpful so reallllllllly get creative and free.
Ok, thats the mental frame you need. Now, how to find name ideas?
Review the worksheet results. What words or concepts come to mind? Start by writing a list of related concepts and ideas, and maybe some name candidates.
Add terms or concepts that describe what you do, and that customers might search for.
After or while making a short list of concepts (about 100 or less) check the name criteria in the next step, keep the worksheet handy so you can review it, and start writing name ideas
So, what are some ways to start building a name candidate list?
Recombine and reconfigure words and word roots. Play with the order of the letters or syllables, add exciting sounds, remove bad sounds. Try to make new words no one has heard before! Deleting the start, middle, or end of a word can make a good name. delete half of two words and then put them together.
Boom! Pokemon, microsoft
Think laterally. Its a powerful brainstorm tool. Do people using your product want to feel a sense of speed or saving time? What feels fast and focused? How about a cheetah? From a cheetah, think of the excitement of the chase, then you get words like "chase" or "agility" or "acceleration"
Ex: If you take the piece "accel" from acceleration, it contains the meaning of speed. You can combine that with another word to make something unique. Sometimes it's as easy as a single letter or syllable.
Accela is a rapid test sample input machine that I named.
Think about how you can use sounds to make the name memorable. A name that rhymes or has alitteration (repeated first letter of the words) will be easier to remember.
KrispyKreme, SquareSpace, Coca Cola
Rare and "strong" sounding letters also can be good, if they fit well. How about adding a Q, X, Z, K to one of your concepts?
SpaceX, mac os X
You can consider a totally new (or very rare) word as a name. If this word doesnt hold or suggest any meaning, that can be good and bad. The good part is that it should be very easy to find on google, and they can be almost like a white piece of paper, totally open to any business direction or desired meaning. The bad part is that it wont carry any meaning by default and people might not know how to spell it when they hear it the first time. These name will require more time and money up front because you have to educate customers about what they mean / what your brand image is.
Common words can be great clear names but it is almost always extremely expensive. The word may also be trademarked already by a competitor ( or it simply cant be trademarked), and all the good domain name variations are taken or for sale for $100,000+
Apple, Fast, Zoom, Square
4. After collecting a master sheet with about 1000 names,
hold a quick vote with the core team. put a 1 by any name with potential, a 0 if the name is clearly bad
copy all names with at least 1 vote to a new, second round list. target is 300-100 names
5. Revise, iterate, compare, vote again
Review your second round list and write in any new name ideas or variations that come to mind. Repeat the name brainstorm as necessary.
This is a good time to review the list of concepts and the worksheet
List up any known direct competitor names and for the next vote, consider how these names will fit (and stand out) in that list
Now, hold another round of voting, this time vote 0-3, and involve every team member that is involved, or who has veto power over the final name.
target is 30-10 names
6. With a third list of all the names that werent vetoed in the last round, vote for each name with the ten essential criteria of good names, using 0-2 where 2 is the best score. Divide the total by 2 to get an overall score for each name.
You can do this together inside a meeting where you talk about the scores or separately, and average the scores later.
This a more objective, scientific part of naming.
The ten essential criteria of good names
Imagine you are the customer!
Strong first impression?
Good sound? Good look?
Easy to read & say?
Use it in different example sentences. Does it feel right?
Are quick associations positive?
Does it relate to the primary benefits of the service? (what customers want to feel)
Does it sound credible?
Can it work well in all target languages?
Is it memorable? Rhyming, alliteration, etc?
How closely does it relate to the positioning / core concept?(will this limit expansion the future?)
7. Order your list and make final checks
Check uspto.gov and any other relevant trademark searches
if there is no "alive" match in the same industry then its clear
Check domain names (yourname.com is king, but not critical)
add "get" "go" "try" to yourname.com
.net, .org are kind of mediocre
for tech customers you might use .io or .app
.co can be a good alternative for company names
if the domain is for sale, add the price to the sheet
Check google search results, add the apparent difficulty of ranking high, the number of results, and of course if there are any competitors or not.
if developing a mobile app search the app store too
target : 3-6 names that are good, tm clear, google clear, domain available or affordable, look good in context
8. prepare for the final decision
for your top names create mockups such as: google search results, links in a tweet, landing page header, logo / wordmarks, app store listing, etc
you dont need to spend too long on this. go to a page--> inspect element --> search and replace text --> screenshot or just do a quick edit in photoshop
write a little about each name and what it means / why you chose it. you may also add some example taglines or other copywriting
survey your target customers on your top names
be careful! its time consuming and easy to become biased / not get clear results if not done right
depending on your needs and circumstances you may choose to skip it
9. hold the final decision meeting.
review the process you followed and show the work youve done so far
present each of the top names without saying which is your favorite
compare and contrast the pros and cons of each name.
at this point, if the decision is made by the group you can simply count the votes for each name and select the winner with the most votes
if the decision is made by a single person, like the CEO, or by the board, etc then your work is done
even if you have a clear favorite, dont push for it unless its actually your choice
if its hard to decide, the vote is tied, etc you can go deeper on the mockups, customer feedback, etc. or ask for votes from more team members.
in the end, there are many businesses that succeed despite having bad names, and having simply a good name is a great thing.
if youre lucky, extremely creative, a name expert, or all 3 you might find an exceptional name but its not by any means essential
youre ready to move on if youve got a really good name
10. implement the new name
introduce the name to the whole team
prepare implementation timeline including any necessary technical, design, marketing, and PR preparation
if transitioning from an established name this could take 2-3 months or more
alert customers repeatedly before and after the change
names are stories, names are branding. your name is a single word that has an amazing impact on your success, because they are in the middle of every relationship, all the time.
names are worth investing in because the benefit is large and repeats forever. getting it wrong is a disaster that can kill your project all by itself.
who is your core customer
your core usecase
your core promise --> name
a good name can convey your story around the world and across millennia