(May also be helpful when choosing a baby name)
Creating something new by carving away at infinite possibilities in your own unique way can be fun—especially for a creative type like me. And when that creation is something as important as a company or product name it can be that much more invigorating. But also, unsurprisingly, terrifying.
Our team at d.trio has had the pleasure of leading many company/product naming projects, so I’m taking a moment to share the highs and lows of the process. And also to let you in on a few tips we’ve learned along the way.
Resist the temptation to jump right in by mashing words together or looking at dictionaries and thesauruses. This is the fun part, but first, ask yourself (and answer) some questions: Why do you need a name? If you already have one, why do you need a new one? Who will care most about the name and why? What aspects of your company or product do you want your new name to convey?
If you’re thinking about a new name, you’ve probably already answered most of these questions as part of your branding or rebranding process. And ideally, you’ve assembled a messaging and positioning document that answers these questions. This is your operating manual. If you ever find yourself unsure of the direction you’re heading with a name, look to this document and remember you’ll have to justify your ideas to the people who wrote it.
Step 1: Vomit ideas
Let loose. Concoct as many names as you can. Most of us aren’t asked to think creatively with words in our everyday lives unless we’re writers, poets, singers, or speakers, so don’t be too critical of any ideas. Just get them out of your head. Use the words in your messaging and positioning document as inspiration if you’re getting stuck. Grab those dictionaries and thesauruses you dropped earlier. Check out other languages for words that translate in interesting ways.
Step 2: Organize your vomit
Organize all those words into nouns, verbs, adjectives, pronouns and try mashing them up. There are a variety of naming exercises you can find online, and they all start with formulating as many ideas as possible. Put them on paper, or a virtual whiteboard like Miro, or an actual whiteboard like 3M, or wherever you can see them all together in all their glory.
Step 3: Whittle it down
The fun ends here. Just kidding. But it does get harder at this stage—way harder than you might think. But it’s got to be done. Start by removing the names you know you can’t use for copyright or trademark reasons. Check to see if the ones you really like are already being used by your direct competition or if website URLs are unavailable or too expensive to purchase. You may think all the good names are taken (many are), but the possibilities really are endless. Don’t be afraid to cut out anything that doesn’t resonate with you or someone else on your team.
Step 4: Discuss, discuss, discuss
This is where your team might start getting on your nerves. You’ll probably disagree on your favorites. And you’ll be disappointed that some people aren’t as excited about “Conglomarama” as you are. But if you feel truly passionate about it, then go to bat for it. Use your operating manual to explain why you think it works. Don’t be shy, even if you’re the shy type.A name is all about communicating your identity to the world. So it stands to reason that a certain amount of discussion is necessary. As is a certain amount of compromise. Because a discussion without compromise is a dead end.
Step 5: Decide already
Pretty self-explanatory—just pick something. Again, it might not be easy. Until this point, we’ve assumed you’re collaborating with your team on this effort. After all, they need to live with a name that’s meant to be a catalyst for engaging long-lasting dialogue with your audience (and all the other reasons you identified in step 1).
But if you’re having trouble agreeing, somebody may have to play the “I’m in charge” card. And that’s okay if the decision can be backed up—by whoever makes it—with your messaging and positioning document. If it can, you’ve got a winner.
Step 6: Lawyer up
This stuff is out of our jurisdiction, but it bears mentioning that creating a new company name or trademarking a new product name can make for a bunch of legal work. That’s just part of the game so it’s best to just plow forward and get it done.
Naming or renaming is a lot of fun, a lot of work, and invokes a lot of emotions, but if you do it right, you’ll find the next steps of the branding process will be much easier.