Do you provide non-naming services such as logo design?
As a dedicated naming firm, our focus is on naming, which allows us to be the very best at it. Our core services include company and product naming; naming strategy and architecture; tagline, descriptor, and name story development; trademark and domain prescreening; and linguistic and cultural name assessment. But we know very well that your fantastic new name will be supported by design and copy. We offer a full range of creative services in collaboration with our talented partner agencies in identity and design and copywriting.
For clients who are just beginning their brand journey or who need a fresh look at their brand, we provide brand strategy and customer research services through our partners. You need a solid brand foundation before you can create a successful name, and we can guide you there.
What are the advantages of hiring a naming firm, versus a branding agency?
Big branding agencies may offer naming (often as a loss-leader), but Catchword’s core business is naming. Faced with the daunting challenges of global trademark and domain availability, linguistic appropriateness, and alignment of disparate internal teams, clients see the value of working with naming specialists who can create vast pools of distinctive names, while clearing them legally and linguistically, and bringing teams to consensus.
It’s not just because they enjoy working with us that branding agencies often ask naming firms like Catchword to handle the naming part of their projects. We are the experts. And to become a naming expert you need, among other things, a deep understanding of brand strategy.
It doesn’t necessarily work the other way, though. An agency can be great at various aspects of branding without much knowledge of naming. At Catchword, we know what we don’t know and have developed partnerships with best-of-breed branding, design, web, advertising, and research firms to allow us to provide the seamless experience of working with a large agency.
What happens if I don’t have a name at the end of the process?
Our contracts are written around specific deliverables, such as rounds of creative, number of names created, screening parameters, and more. If project scope and direction change, we offer creative rounds at an additional cost.
Payment is not contingent on having a name at the end of the process, as this can be the result of factors outside our control (a new CMO entering the picture, a product not launching). In addition, such a clause can create the perverse incentive to not pull the trigger on a name, to alter one letter, and well, don’t get us started.
With that said, know that we’re perfectionists and people-pleasers who wouldn’t have the reputation and portfolio we do if we left clients in the lurch. We have a process that works, and we do everything within reason to get clients the name they need.
Do you collaborate with other agencies?
We love to collaborate with ad agencies, brand strategists, designers, research firms, and others, and this can take the form of working side-by-side or sequentially, white-labeling, or coordinating everything and everyone and running the show. Whenever possible, we prefer to be client-facing, as that allows us to run our process most effectively.
What is your view on research?
Naming research is … tricky. Some of the world’s best brands—Virgin, Yahoo!, Starbucks, Apple—surely would have died unceremonious deaths in a focus group, where participants gravitate toward the familiar and the expected.
To be used effectively, naming research should not be viewed as a popularity contest, with respondents asked to select favorite and least-favorite names without context or marketing. Better questions are whether a name is distinctive, strategically appropriate, expressive of the right messaging, and consistent with corporate values.
On the other hand, we highly recommend customer and market research to inform your positioning and linguistic and cultural assessments of potential brand names. For the latter type of analysis, native speakers in key markets are asked to identify negative or inappropriate connotations, similar brands, and pronunciation difficulties, and indicate whether they find names to be appealing and appropriate for the brands in question.
What should my RFP cover?
Well-crafted RFPs solicit information that’s truly helpful in comparing agencies and making partner decisions. They don’t necessarily include every imaginable question. In fact, soliciting responses to subjects that don’t factor into decision-making may only complicate the review process, not to mention agitate potential partners. Thoughtful RFPs strike the right balance of thoroughness and efficiency, ensuring you have the information you need to choose the right partner in a timely manner.
Here are the elements of an effective RFP:
- Agency background
- Summary of capabilities (creative, strategic, trademark, linguistic/cultural, customer research, domain-name acquisition)
- Relevant naming experience and ways in which the agency distinguishes itself in the naming space
- Process options, including recommended approach
- Team members
- Client references
- Questions about naming philosophy, such as:
- What are the qualities of a great brand name?
- When should a company and product share the same name?
- How do you reconcile differences of opinion across the client team?
- How do you allocate resources to a project?
Agencies will be especially grateful if you:
- Give ample time to respond. The best agencies are busy with existing client work.
- Issue the RFP after the budget has been set and the list of potential vendors reasonably narrowed.
- Focus on questions that really matter to decision-making
- Answer follow-up questions in a timely manner, and provide updates when things are delayed.
Why should I hire a naming agency like Catchword?
Naming is not for the faint of heart. In fact, most business owners and marketers greatly underestimate the difficulty of creating truly distinctive and memorable names that are registrable and protectable as trademarks. An experienced naming agency will dramatically increase the number of compelling name options, and through trademark prescreening, significantly improve the likelihood that they will be registrable and protectable as trademarks. Furthermore, a naming agency can provide checks of linguistic and cultural appropriateness among non-English speakers, name-validation research to assess fit of names to company positioning, domain-name negotiations, and comprehensive trademark evaluations.
How is Catchword different from other naming agencies?
With over two decades of naming experience and hundreds of successful projects, Catchword is one of the most seasoned naming agencies in the world. We’ve been ranked #1 by leading agency-review site Clutch since they began evaluating naming services (five years running).
Catchword does not subscribe to a specific name style—because clients are as different as the names they choose—or churn out me-too names using computer algorithms. We work closely with our clients to develop names tailored to their business and branding needs. Our extensive experience allows us to anticipate and avoid common pitfalls of naming and reliably guide clients to the most exciting, appropriate, and viable names for their brand. And unlike many other naming agencies, Catchword is both a creative and strategic firm. In addition to developing highly creative name solutions, Catchword offers brand strategy, naming strategy, naming architecture, naming protocol, cultural and linguistic checks, preliminary trademark screens, copywriting, and domain-name services.
Do you work with small companies?
We work with all sorts of clients—from the Fortune 500 to early-stage startups—in sectors ranging from F&B and consumer to B2B tech and automotive. Clients that benefit most from working with a naming firm typically require a name that appeals to a significant audience domestically or internationally, with all the incumbent trademark and linguistic hurdles.
Every client is unique, so we have processes designed to suit different budgets, timelines, geographies, and other needs. Contact us here to learn more.
Do you work for equity?
We do not work for equity, but we do have a variety of processes designed to suit different budgets, timelines, and needs. For pricing questions, contact us here.
Do I have what it takes to be a namer?
Being a great namer goes way beyond having a way with words. You’ll need a brain for business, insatiable curiosity, a love of pop culture, and much more. We’ve detailed the top 10 traits of great namers here.
Do I need to have my positioning set before I can engage Catchword? What work do I need to undertake before engaging a naming firm?
We highly recommend codifying your brand elements before engaging in the naming process. In our Naming Guide (see “The Naming Process”), you will find the type of information we will need from you to successfully build out a creative brief that aligns with your product and company roadmap; these include but are not limited to audience, key competitors, key messages, and preferred tonalities.
If you are at the beginning of your branding journey, we would be happy to help you develop your brand strategy, positioning, and messages.
Can’t I just have an internal naming contest to come up with a name?
You can, but don’t expect it to yield anything distinctive or registrable as a trademark. Your employees are busy with their day jobs and unlikely to think through naming strategy, consistency with company tone and culture, distinctiveness from competitors, and so forth.
Don’t get us wrong; non-namers can be very creative people. But most will generate the same kinds of names in their first hours of a creative effort—let alone the 10 minutes they’re likely to give it—resulting in a pool of expected names with almost no chance of legal survival. And in this environment, even moderately distinctive names will rise to the top.
Creating exceptional names requires deep immersion and brainstorming, meticulous development of vocabulary, constant iteration, input from decision-makers at key milestones, and, in the end, creation of hundreds, if not thousands, of names.
What are the keys to a successful naming collaboration?
A successful naming collaboration hinges on strong communication, respect for the process, and open-mindedness and positivity.
First, tell us everything we need to know, ranging from your goals for the project to previous branding roadblocks, including insights from failed naming exercises. Send us the strategic and marketing materials we need to see, and give us detailed feedback at every stage of creative development. Keep those lines of communication open.
Second, respect that this isn’t our first naming rodeo. We have a process that has been designed with great intention—and works. Avoid making arbitrary or non-essential changes.
Finally, be open-minded and positive. Choosing the right name can be a scary, subjective decision, and it’s easy to be that guy who pokes holes in everything: Virgin is kind of dirty, Flickr is hard to spell, Travelocity is too long, Starbucks has nothing to do with coffee. If you’re constantly pointing out every risk or flaw, you’ll overlook many interesting and memorable candidates.
What is the biggest mistake a client can make?
Lack of communication, a weak or unclear brand foundation, insufficient feedback, and giving too much weight to purely personal associations with a name are some of the pitfalls we’ve encountered over the years. But the biggest wrench in the name-development process—one which we see time and time again—is the failure to include the right client team in the naming process.
The story can take various forms: in one version, a name that everyone loves—legally and linguistically vetted after weeks or months of interviews, strategizing, and creative development—is presented to the CEO… and nixed on the spot. Lesson: Anyone with veto power should be brought into the process as early as possible, to ensure they are on-board with the strategic and creative approach.
In another version of the story, a client team that should be tight and focused instead expands to 20 people. Every employee and their Aunt Betty is interviewed in the hopes of making everyone feel included. While this is a noble objective, naming is strategic and subjective. Too much input from those without vital knowledge can muddy the waters. Lesson: Avoid including personnel without key strategic or creative insight.