Naming a business or product is a tough task, and well worth the extra time needed to think up and test out a good one.
A client recently called me for some quick feedback on a name she was considering for an offshoot brand for her main business. Her main idea fell flat, which got me thinking about the alchemy of naming a business or product.
There are some great articles out there on naming. Rather than reinvent the wheel, I’ve put together a few thoughts of my own – and a shortlist of some fantastic reading on the subject.
I should add that I personally am not one of those ballsy individuals who can pluck the perfect name out of nowhere, motivated by little more than a bottle of wine or the crack of a whip.
So if you’re after a quick fix, you won’t find it here. Instead, get comfortable in your chair, surround yourself with thesauruses and bookmarked reference-points, and prepare to do some long, hard thinking, scribbling, cutting and pasting.
- Stick with your first thought. Some people get that flash of inspiration immediately. The late, great Steve Jobs famously pondered several names for his fledgling brand back in 1976 and kept reverting to the ‘apple’ orchard of one hippie acquaintance. ‘If we can’t think of a better name by morning, we’ll just go with Apple,’ he told his founding business partner, Steve Wozniak. If your gut tells you a name is right, stick with it.
- Explore technical terms. Almost all industries have their own lingo, and these words emphasise how special these fields are. The textiles industry has lovely craftsy words like herringbone, indigo, argyle, gossamer, bespoke and patchwork. The computing industry is full of bright clashing sounds such as BitTorrent, boot loader, cygwin, pixel and googol. Just ask Pixar, Google and Gizmo what they think of tech-speak. Pull out your reference materials and get thinking.
- Play with exotic languages. OK, it’s been done before, so don’t just cosy up to the obvious ones like agora, chateau or shogun unless you have a good reason. Have a meaningful connection with that language or exotic locale (such as Patagonia or Amazon), or add some context – like the creators of Sumo Salad and Le Specs did.
- Mash words together. What does your brand’s main theme word look like spelled backwards? Or cut in half and fused with something? Or with the spelling altered? Memorable mash-ups include Adidas, Tigerspike, FedEx and PayPal.
- Fun with puns. Many smaller business names are goofy takes on everyday expressions, song names and other word association. It can be fun – like Hands On for a chiropractor, or Nail It for a handyman service. If you do want to go down this line, make sure the pun works on all levels: it’s true to brand and it doesn’t have an unsavoury side meaning.
And if your industry is already full of pun-laden competitors, take a different approach. In my area, Thai dining is rife with puns – Thai Foon, Thai Me Up, Thai-namic… You get the idea.
More useful reading:
- 9 memorable multinational company names: http://www.inc.com/ss/top-company-names
- Legal tips and naming approaches: http://www.shelcom.com.au/how-to-name-a-business
- In-depth insights into naming: http://www.inc.com/guides/2010/06/choose-the-best-name-for-your-business.html
- Background behind some famous names, from Adidas to Zuse: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_company_name_etymologies
- Tool for playing with words and sounds: http://www.naming.net/
- Find out if the name exists in Australia: http://www.abr.business.gov.au/