Here at Catchword, we get a lot of inquiries from business owners of all types with one thing in common: they need a name. Whether it’s a name for their startup or their stethoscope, those in need of names are fed up with Googling “cool company names” and “product name generator” and are seeking the advice of professionals. However, the price tag for a professional naming service is usually beyond the budget of most small companies. Do not fear! Our Oakland roots have taught us that it’s important to stand up for the little guy. Let these naming strategy tips serve as a home base for your naming project. And after you feel good about your strategy, make sure to check out our naming guide and other naming resources.
1) What makes your brand tick?
From the moment you were conceived, all of your DNA was determined. Your DNA provided your body instructions for how to look, grow, and behave. Similarly, every brand has its own sort of DNA that defines it independently of all other brands. The first step to any successful naming project is to define this DNA with key stakeholders of the brand. What personality, values, and benefits are most essential? If you had to sum up the brand in only three words (no slashes allowed), what would they be? This will be the foundation upon which your name will grow. For example, Playstation came from the fun-loving jokesters, Xbox came from the sovereign outlaws, and Wii came from the innocent pleasure-seekers.
2) Who are you competing with, and what are their names?
It’s not always so easy to know exactly what industry or product category you will be competing in, but once your company has agreed on this, you can start exploring the competitive landscape to see what sorts of names are out there. Often, you will notice that there are trends. Most companies want a name that sounds familiar, leading to several companies choosing similar names. Go against the grain! Choose a metaphorical name to stand out from descriptive names or a one-syllable name in a land of two-syllable names. A good name makes you you, and not you them.
3) Who are your customers?
You are naming for your customers and you should be thinking about them while embarking on any naming project. Remember, there are many customers you don’t have yet. What language do they speak, what do they enjoy, who do they love? Your name can address some of these questions. Burt’s Bees is a great name for consumers who prefer natural cosmetics, whereas L’Oreal appeals to consumers who want beauty products with cachet status.
4) If you’re naming a product, how will it fit with your other products?
In the branding world, the way that one company’s products are named is called architecture. Professional namers probably chose the name architecture – it’s a pretty good metaphor for a strong product portfolio. Whatever name you choose for your new product should make sense in relation to your other products. Maybe this product is different from all your other products, or it’s your first product. Make sure that you choose a name that could be built upon if needed. Or, if this product will be part of a line of products that already has a naming protocol, do not stray from it. For example, some car manufacturers use alphanumeric names to identify a particular line of cars, such as Lexus’s IS, ES, GS, and LS sedans. Other types of architecture include structural consistencies, such as the ‘o’ ending in Kyocera’s Lingo, Deco, and Tempo, or the addition of descriptive terms to the end of an established brand name, such as the Kindle, Kindle Paperwhite, and Kindle Paperwhite 3G.
5) In what contexts will you use this name?
This last question gets down to the everyday experience in the life of your new name. Are you naming an App for which there is a strict character limit? Will your name appear on a tiny product, also limiting the length of the name? Do you anticipate that your customers will frequently say the name out loud, in which case you would want the name to be intuitive to spell? You should also consider that while your name may sound cool in English, its pronunciation in other languages could have negative connotations. The name Cosm sounds perfectly posh to us, but in German it sounds like kotzen, which means “to vomit.” Lastly, if your name will be used as an internet domain name, make sure that it makes sense when spelled out in all lowercase letters. Would you guess that penisland.com actually sells pens? Also, don’t get hung up on getting an exact domain name; this is extremely difficult these days. It’s really not a big deal to add a modifier to the end, like we did here at catchwordbranding.com.
Thinking about these questions and doing the soul searching before getting started with the creative naming process will help you yield a more robust and unique list of potential names. Remember, naming takes time, but it’s time well spent, as your consumers will encounter the name of your company or product before anything else. And if you feel like you’ve got your creative juices flowing, be sure to check our naming guide and other naming resources.