At d.trio, we love naming projects. They’re a fun creative opportunity, plus an exciting way to give life to a new brand and help build it from the ground up. But, at the same time, naming projects are not for the faint of heart. That’s because naming isn’t just hard. It might be, without exaggeration, the most difficult type of project a marketer could ever take on. If you’ve ever been through one, you know what we mean.
In the past few years, our agency has been hired to do projects that include naming new products and services, new companies, and even an industry think tank. Along the way, we’ve learned quite a bit about how to streamline the process, save time, and overcome roadblocks. Following are five tips for making your next naming project go a whole lot smoother.
- Know thy brand. One thing that makes naming so difficult is that you have to say so much with so little. Of course, realistically, there’s only so much that can be communicated in a word or two. So to make sure your name works as hard as possible, you really need to make those words count. How to do that? At d.trio, we start with research—interviews, polls and questionnaires, focus groups. The goal is to identify the qualities that define what the brand is all about. What are its strengths? Who is the primary audience? What makes it unique? Through research, we get to know the core essence of the brand. Then we narrow it all down to a few key, highly focused brand characteristics. The clearer you are on what you want to communicate, the more authentic and effective the final name will be.
- More is more. Once we know what to say about the product, service, or company, it’s time to generate as many names as possible. And by as many as possible, we truly mean as many as possible. Leverage all your resources and recruit anyone willing to lend you their brain cells. Look for ideas and inspiration from thesaurus.com, rhymezone.com, Scrabble word finder websites, and any other word-generating websites you like. Browse industry websites and articles for insider information and industry terms. It takes a ton of names to end up with a handful of viable ones, so the more options you have, the better off you’ll be later.
- Uniqueness counts. A challenging (and often frustrating) aspect of naming is that many of the good ones have already been taken. But there is a solution! Just add your own unique twist. A great way to do this is to add an adjective to make the name more specific, like a color, or a regional descriptor, or even a number that has meaning, like a street address or area code. You can also try a unique spelling of the name, combining the name with another word, or adding a prefix or suffix to it. Basically, anything you can do to make the name more unique will increase the chances of it being available. It also makes the name more memorable while giving it an extra dash of personality.
- Be critical. At the brainstorming stage, the more ideas, the better. But once you’re staring at pages upon pages of lists, it’s time to evaluate what you’ve got and narrow it down to the ones with the most potential. For us, that means considering which ones meet our particular objectives. Which ones best communicate what we really want to say? Is the name easy to spell and pronounce? Is the URL available? Is it memorable, descriptive, and catchy? If the name starts conjuring other aspects of the brand identity (messaging, logo designs, imagery, etc.), we know we’re onto something good. Be aware of the tone or personality the name conveys. Like, does it sound innovative or low tech? Formal or casual? Check out the competition to make sure the potential name isn’t too similar to something already out there. Ideally, a name will feel appropriate for the market it’s in, yet also feel fresh and unique.
- Give it the Google test. Before we take our short list to the client, we always do some preliminary vetting, starting with, you guessed it, a Google search. Often, even after we’ve come up with a one-of-a-kind combination word with a spelling nobody’s ever conceived of before, we consult Google only to discover that somebody has, somehow, beat us to it. However, that’s not automatically a reason to scratch the name from consideration. If, for instance, the name is being used by a company in a completely different vertical market in a completely different geographic location, it might still be an option. On the other hand, depending on the client’s tolerance, they may not feel comfortable knowing the name is being used by anyone else in any form.
Of course, a cursory Google search is just a preliminary step in the vetting process. But it’s useful for checking names quickly to help narrow down the list of contenders. Another useful place to search is at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website, which is a great resource, while not 100-percent complete. In vetting names, we also check each one to see if it’s a common Adwords search term or appears to be associated with something particularly negative. But overall, our tolerance at this stage tends to be somewhat loose, so as to not hamper our creativity. If a name passes the Google, Adwords, and Trademark test—and gets client buy-off—it then goes to the company’s lawyers for the final round of vetting.
Well there you have it—the d.trio naming process in a nutshell. So what do you think? Do you have any nuggets of wisdom to add? If so, we’d love to hear them. Or, if you have a naming project you’d like help with, just let us know. When it comes to building brands, we’re always excited to contribute our creativity and expertise.