Naming. Fewer words is harder.

June 12, 2018

Naming. Fewer words is harder.

Naming is one of the most challenging and rewarding parts of business communications. It’s like hitting a home run; sounds simple (just hit the ball hard, right?) but in practice it’s there’s a lot more to it. How to put all that you want to communicate in a word or two?

So, for anyone who is embarking on a naming exercise, good luck and let me know if you’d like to bounce ideas around. I love to collaboratively ideate (fancy phrase for brainstorm).

Here is the process I follow for a naming project. It’s hard work and you’ll need to ask yourself some tough questions—but they are questions you need to have answered anyway, in order to come up with a good story for your company.

Sorry for the long letter, I didn’t have time to write a short one

First off, go back to basics. What are the primary attributes of your company? Why are you starting it and what good is it to anyone? For instance, are you saving people money, allowing them to connect (to someone or something) more easily, etc.

Position. Once you have the general most important aspects of your company, you need to work on the positioning. This means how does your company relate to the competition in the field? Are you offering a lower price, better value (e.g. more stuff for the same price as your competition), or something else? What kind of experience is your company going to offer that is better, different, less expensive, etc.?

Value Props. From here work on your value propositions. See if you can get the primary values you are offering the marketplace into a single sentence or, maybe, a couple of sentences (at most). “We enable people to monetize their Twitter posts,” might be one. Or, “Our service enables housewives to enjoy the luxury of a top-tier spa right in their own home,” is another. Keep it brief and completely free of any technical jargon. Your Mom needs to be able to read and understand it.

Brand Values. Once you have all this, you have defined your brand values; what are the key elements you need your name (in fact, your whole brand, once you have that worked out) to communicate.

Using that as a platform, decide what type of name works best. Is it going to be made up? Is it going to be something constructed from ancient root languages (e.g. Latin)? There are benefits and detriments to all of them. A really good resource for ideas on this is a naming company a client of ours is using, Igor ( They have a couple of white papers on naming (one wayyyy too long and the other long, but not too bad) that has a great explanation of what names are good and why, and what problems each type of name may have.

Brainstorm enthusiastically. From here, just start throwing things out. I use a large (2m) white board for this, because it helps me to see all the names written large in one place. In fact, sometimes I take up all the white boards in my office. Give yourself some time here and don’t just hide in a room and do it (although you may have a couple of sessions like that)–get out into the world with this process in the front of your consciousness—it’ll open you up to seeing things through this looking glass and stuff may pop out at you. It could be anything; a flower, a radio commercial, anything.

Bring those back to the process and add them to the set of possibilities. After a few days (or a week or two or three) some names will start to pop out at you. Take those and live with them for a few days—some fewer of them will still pop out. Choose one of them. For now, this will work. Once you get out to market and can really test the name you may want to review it but, for the moment, this algorithm should yield you a name that, if not perfect, will be something that everyone agrees is a good working title for the company.

No overthinking. And here is the best piece of advice I could give you: don’t over think it. A name needs to appeal as a blink moment (if you haven’t read Blink, you should do so as part of this process). If a name takes more than 2 seconds for you to be attracted to it, then it’s the wrong name. The reason this is such a challenging exercise is that a name is your 3-second elevator pitch. You can’t appeal to anyone’s intellect in that time, so you need to appeal to their emotions.

Once you’ve touched hearts you can talk to heads.

And don’t stop until you feel that it’s right. Your name will be a 3-second elevator pitch or…not.