Name tag

Creating names for companies, products, services, and features is a component of branding most take for granted. Ask someone who’s gone through the process and you’ll hear it’s anything but simple and often rife with issues. Let’s just say, few to no successful names came from an ad hoc group brainstorming over pizza.

To ensure a name is created and protected properly, hire an experienced namer (yeah, it’s a profession) or marketing agency well versed in brand strategy. It is not a project you want to take on yourself… unless you’re naming the business after yourself. Building consensus within your organization is among the toughest parts of the process. There are also trademark implications, linguistic considerations, and design ramifications.

Let’s start with the basics. How would you describe what a good name is? Some clients say short names are best. What about Orville Redenbacher or Thomson Reuters? They’re both successful brands. Others say the name must be unique. How about Delta Airlines, Delta Faucets, and Delta Dental? And many clients declare the name’s got to describe what the product or company does. Really? Google? Virgin? Not descriptive at all.

You get the idea. But, really… What does constitute a good name?

First there’s the objective side to this. A good name is usually easy to pronounce, especially when reading it for the first time. Ecoxgear? Xyzal? Good luck with those. And, yes, those are in-market names.

A good name does not infringe upon the trademark of another brand in the same business category. See Delta, above. And it shouldn’t sound related to another company’s name. All those names that begin with “i” and are NOT part of Apple’s portfolio are problematic.

Now for the subjective side: Yes, the boss has to like it. But the boss should not decide from her gut. A naming pro will develop a creative brief based on your business strategy and goals and agreed on by all stakeholders. This is your best chance for owning a suitable name. The brief provides clear criteria for evaluating names. And after several viable name candidates are agreed upon, you’ll send the names to a trademark screener to verify what names are available and how much infringement risk is associated with each. It’s not black or white, which is inevitably a pain point. Eventually you’ll enlist a trademark attorney for protection of the go-to-market name.

A final word: Even the best-run naming projects are tough. There are several potential reasons why that is. Some are mentioned above. But the universal reason most naming projects are difficult is because nowhere in the process will you say, “That’s it! That’s the name for sure.” Without design and marketing context, without reinforcement of public messaging… each name will just appear to be a word on a page. And that’s why you’ll have a naming consultant objectively guide you through a tried-and-true process and why the creative brief will always be there for your team’s reference.