Naming a client’s organization or product is one of the most significant services we provide and we’ve been entrusted with this responsibility with many memorable clients including EPIC, Fuse, jorg&olif, Modo and Odd Society Spirits.
In the past few weeks we’ve found ourselves doing more naming than ever. This work has helped us cement a fairly rigid process from something that was once a bit more organic. Meanwhile, we’ve been reading countless articles about the best practices for picking a good name. Some were good. Others were terrible.
And so, as to not be left off your holiday reading list, here are Cause+Affect’s Top 10 Naming Tips.
1. Don’t tell us what you do.
The purpose of a name is NOT to tell people what you do. Your name will never appear in a vacuum – there will always be other supporting information around it to fill in your story, whether in print, on the web or just in conversation.
The purpose of your name is to begin a larger story and anchor the relationship that it forms with your audience.
2. Be emotional to be memorable.
Names that are descriptive of a service or benefit tend to register with the analytical left side of your brain. Meanwhile, names that lead with feeling activate the right side of your brain, which connects to a deeper, more emotional response that tends to be much more memorable. Compare ABC Window Cleaners to ‘Clear Skies’ Windows.
3. Name yourself, not your sector.
Stay away from names that describe your sector. You want to isolate what sets you apart, not what makes you the same. Tying your name to the larger industry gets you membership in a crowded club, not an individual brand. Again, it’s about standing out.
4. Don’t be scared off by the negative.
One of the most common tendencies in a naming process is to point out all the potential negative connotations associated with a word. But if you rule out every name that could be twisted into a negative, you are left with the bland and banal. The first thing to recognize is that your brand story will give the name a new meaning when used in your context.
Consider this – when you think of Virgin, do you think inexperienced? Do you think of malaria when you order from Amazon? Does the brand Caterpillar make you think of squishy garden pests?
5. Tell a story.
Your name should be the first step in a larger story. This story doesn’t have to be the core story of your brand, but it needs to be an integral and unique aspect of who you are. Having a story connected to your name imbues meaning in everything you do. It gives you an opening for an elevator pitch and its allows your audience to advocate on your behalf.
A good name and brand will make its audience proud to tell your story. All you have to do is give them the tools to do it.
6. Be wary of simply making it up.
Choose carefully when inventing words. Make sure people will pronounce it consistently. Keep it simple: people can remember short weird ones (Modo), but long ones end up lost or garbled in translation.
And whenever possible, try to put some meaning behind your made up name, even if it’s a few steps reserved: Skype is a mashup of “sky” and “peer-to-peer.”
7. Don’t sweat the URL.
Don’t decide on a name solely based on URL availability. The days of a perfect, one-word URL are over for most of us. And that’s fine – when’s the last time you typed in a complete URL to access a site? We’re much more likely to follow a link or just google something to find a site now.
8. Your name can’t do everything.
Names are important, but don’t ask your name to do more than it can or should. It can’t possibly represent all your unique brand attributes or tell your entire story. It’s just one word. But a good brand will surround its name with other touchpoints to create a complete brand experience.
9. Ensure you can own it.
Don’t fall in love with a name until you have done your homework. Check URL availability and trademarks online. Get to know all the other groups out there that share your name or parts of it. Research any possible regional and cultural sensitivities regarding your name: the last thing you need is to find out your name means something terrible in another language.
And lastly, protect your name through hiring an intellectual property attorney and go through the correct ownership procedures.
10. Stop dropping your vowels.
This is just lazy. And annoying. We’re looking at you, app developers.