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  1. Top 11 Company Naming Tips From A Business Naming Expert

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    Laurel Sutton, Catchword

    It is a mistake for businesses to leave naming to the end when starting a business, says Laurel Sutton, principal at Catchword Brand Name Development. (Photo: Laurel Sutton)

    From researching web domains to avoiding made-up words, follow this expert’s advice.

    When it comes to naming their small business, many owners think all they need to do is jot down a few ideas on a napkin.

    “People leave the naming to the end or don’t put enough effort into it,” said Laurel Sutton, principal at Catchword Brand Name Development, a business naming agency with branches in Oakland, California, and Tenafly, New Jersey.

    The process of creating compelling brand names is not always as easy as you wish. Don’t go with the first creative and witty name that pops to mind. Consider the below 11 tips from Catchword’s Laurel Sutton before you even start brainstorming.

    Tips For Naming Your Business – Insights From A Naming Expert

    #1. Keep it simple

    Zappos, Skype, Google — these are some businesses that come to mind when we think of brands with made-up words as names. Some names are derived from real words (Zappos is a play on zapatos, the Spanish word for shoes), while others are totally random.

    Should a small business follow the lead of these successful brands? Sutton says no, and here’s why: Small businesses lack the marketing dollars to turn these words into household names.

    Instead, she recommends choosing a name people can easily pronounce and spell. “If your customers type things in on Google and can’t get the spelling right, they won’t always find you,” she said.

    #2. Make the name connect to what you do

    Sutton said a common mistake small businesses make is choosing a name that’s a little too creative. The goal, she said, is to pick a name that suggests what the business is or does. If you’re going to open a restaurant, for instance, pick a name with some connection to the kind of food you’ll be serving or the ambiance you’re striving for.

    “It may be less creative, but it’ll help people understand what your business is and does so you don’t have to keep explaining it,” Sutton said. “It’s all about using your marketing dollars most efficiently, and the way you do that is to get people to understand what you do as quickly as possible.”

    #3. Brainstorm, then brainstorm some more

    To come up with a good name, Sutton said, you need to spend a lot of time making lists of words. “People should treat brainstorming as a job.” She recommends setting aside one to two hours a week to do nothing but research.

    According to Sutton, the best brainstorming involves figuring out what you want the name to say to customers before you hit the dictionary.

    “You need to first figure out what you want to push to people,” she said. “Is it the atmosphere, food, drinks or you as the owner? Figure out what makes you better than the competition and that will help you find the message you should focus on.”

    With that in mind, you want to make lists upon lists. Ask friends and family for ideas. Check the dictionary and thesaurus. Research what names your competition uses. Think of places, things, colors, foods and other ideas that are related to your business.

    “The longer you keep listing, the more interesting the names become.” – Laurel Sutton

    “The first 20 names you come up with will be boring names everyone has heard of. Get them out of your system, then keep listing.”

    #4. Try crowdsourcing

    Not a whiz with words, or hitting a mental roadblock? Sutton recommends trying a few crowdsourcing resources, some of which are free or low cost.

    Wordlab, for example, allows people around the world to chime in with suggestions. Squadhelp lets business owners solicit ideas via a contest. You pay the inventor of the winning name for his or her idea (usually between $100 and $300).

    You can also crowdsource with your friends, family, and community. Ask others for feedback on potential names. If they can’t spell or pronounce a candidate, or if they point out negative connotations with the name, scrap it.

    #5. Evaluate trademarks

    A search on the U.S. Trademark and Patent Office’s website or through a lawyer will reveal whether a name has been trademarked. Avoid trademarked names entirely or you may face cease and desist letters or worse.

    Also, search for your state’s corporation and business entity databases to see if there is a company registered with the name you want.

    Small businesses typically don’t trademark their names, but Sutton said if you have plans to expand or franchise, it’s worth the time and money to file early on.

    #6. Check the web

    When you’ve settled on five to ten top options, Sutton advised checking social media and search results pages.

    “If you’re in California and there’s a restaurant with the same name in Georgia, that’s probably fine,” she said. “But if it’s in the next town over, that will be confusing.”

    According to Sutton, a lot of small business owners get caught up trying to find a domain name and social media handles that are not already taken. These days, it is fine for URLs and handles to include a descriptor or location. That is, if you want to name your restaurant Ravioli and you’re in New York City, or is a great domain.

    “It will help your SEO for those trying to find you, and it’s a cheap way to maximize your marketing,” Sutton said.

    #7. Name like you’re the “Amazon” of your industry

    When naming a product it’s oftentimes acceptable and even desirable to key the name on a single feature or customer benefit. For example, a software product that mines customer data and provides insights about purchase habits might appropriately be called “PurchaseIntent” or “InHabit” (to suggest insights and habits). However, you are not a single product. You are a company, and your “features” and the benefits you provide to your customers are broad in scope and may change considerably over the years.

    In general, it’s a good idea to think more expansively about your company name and avoid pigeonholing yourself with a name that may tie in well to your flagship product or service and your current business focus, but risks becoming restrictive as your portfolio grows and diversifies and your business interests evolve. In addition to Amazon, which is a great metaphor for an expansive portfolio of product offerings that don’t limit the direction in which the company can go, here are few recent examples of great company naming from Catchword’s portfolio: Asana (read the case study), Sunbird (read the case study), and Clover Health (read the case study).

    #8. Avoid common words or word parts in your name

    Most markets are saturated with company names that are so similar it’s hard to distinguish between the different brands. Before Catchword opened its doors in 1998, we did a thorough audit of the industry and discovered, not surprisingly, that the vast majority of naming agencies incorporated the words “name” or “brand” in them. We won’t list them all here because, if you’ve done a Google search on naming agencies and landed on this page, you’ve probably already discovered most of them.

    We knew that to stand out from this pack, to distinguish ourselves and our brand, we would need to avoid these terms in our name, and think of a more creative, unique way to express the business we’re in and the value we provide to folks like you. The name “Catchword” is a great company name because it’s unlike any other name in our space and still a logical choice for a naming agency. It balances distinctiveness with industry and business focus. On top of that, it implies that the names we create (or catch!) will become popular pieces of language and household names. In other words, catchwords!

    #9. Descriptors or taglines can contextualize company names and set you free

    During almost every company naming project we reach a point in the name review process when we have to remind folks that names do not exist in a vacuum. They are supported by many other brand communications, including visual identity, marketing, and sales copy, website, and, if appropriate, descriptors and taglines. One of the greatest values that a descriptor or tagline provides is freedom. Specifically, freedom to expand the range of name styles you consider for your brand.

    In general, a company name that’s more suggestive of a specific message may allow for more aspirational taglines. And a name that’s more abstract may benefit from a descriptor that alludes to the industry in which the company competes or the nature of its business. In either case, it’s important to remember that these complementary pieces of brand communication are available to you, and should free you up to consider a much broader range of brand names for your company.

    #10. Your name is a reflection of you, your creativity, and how thoughtful you are

    It’s not something that everyone thinks about, but your company name is not just a reflection of your positioning or corporate mission or industry focus, it’s a reflection of your thoughtfulness and business intelligence. The name you adopt for your company says oodles about you, your personnel, and the way you conduct your business. Are you a company of creative and innovative thinkers? If so, your name should reflect those qualities, and an uncreative or unoriginal name will fall short. Do you consider yourselves diligent, dedicated and hardworking? If the answer is “yes,” then a name that seems it took no time to imagine will quickly betray those attributes.

    At Catchword, we put a lot of careful thought and creativity into our names because we appreciate that a name is not just a mirror for your positioning or mission, it’s a mirror for you, and more than any other brand element, it provides insight into who you are as individuals, including how smart and creative you are.

    #11. Choose wisely because name changes are quite the bother

    This may be less of a tip and more of a reminder for most: you don’t want to have to change your name, so choose wisely now. Changing a company name is an enormous inconvenience and has tremendous business implications, including, and most importantly, the loss of valuable brand equity. There are various reasons why you might have to change your name, and the most common are:

      • your company name infringes on a pre-existing trademark (note that a good naming agency should guide you toward names that stand the greatest chance of legal clearance and trademark protectability)
      • you’ve outgrown your name – i.e., the nature of your business has significantly shifted and your name is no longer consistent with the new business direction
      • you’ve merged with another company and need a new name that reflects the cultures and business objectives of both organizations
      • you’ve been acquired by another company and for legal reasons or for purposes of portfolio fit you have to change your name
      • umpteenth other reasons why you might be in a position to have to change your name!

    When it comes to naming their startups or small business, many owners think all they need to do is jot down a few ideas on a napkin. “People leave the naming to the end or don’t put enough effort into it,” said Laurel Sutton, Principal at Catchword.

    Need help naming your business? We’ve been doing it for over 20 years. Contact us today to see how we can help.


  2. Get your pencil ready—it’s the Catchword name game!

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    Hello everyone, and hope you are staying well!

    Andy Chuang, principal at Good Characters and long-time partner and friend, sent us a delightful surprise—a word-find puzzle of 21 brand names developed by Catchword—and we thought you all might enjoy a little word-nerd distraction.

    Andy used the Puzzlemaker tool from Discovery Education. I’ve tried it myself. It’s easy and quick, and especially helpful these days—a personalized word find makes a perfect thinking-of-you gift. (My son and I made three for my crossword-loving dad!)

    Thanks a bunch, Andy! Super fun!

    (Click to enlarge.)



  3. Top branding agencies

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    image from PixabayWe at Catchword like to keep an eye on our fellow naming and branding agencies in New York, the San Francisco Bay Area, and worldwide. Whether colleague or competitor (or both!), these folks share the branding lens through which we view the world, and truly get why we love what we do.

    Clutch, Agency Match, TopBrandingCompanies, and others rank and review creative agencies, saving clients a lot of legwork and agencies a lot of SEO effort. (We’d much rather be developing an awesome name for you than studying SEO.)

    Most of these rankers enable you to search for a creative partner right in your back yard. TopBrandingCompanies, for example, has put together a list of the Best Branding Companies in New York.

    Or you can search by specialty. Here is the TopBrandingCompanies list of Top Naming Agencies.

    Check ’em out!


  4. Catchword named top naming firm by Clutch for 4th consecutive year

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    Clutch, the leading provider of creative agency ranking and reviews, has once again named Catchword as the top naming firm in the world. For the past four years, Catchword’s expertise, brand presence, award-winning portfolio, and consistent 5-star reviews have placed the agency in the top spot in the Naming category of Clutch’s annual Top 15 Branding and Naming Agencies Report.

    “Branding agencies nowadays must help their clients stand out in an increasingly information-heavy world,” said Clutch Customer Experience Analyst Marcos Soto. “These agencies have been committed to creating the best results and the highest-quality customer experience for their clients.”

    Clutch collects in-depth reviews both online and over the phone. Phone reviews allow Clutch to learn deeper insights than other review platforms.

    “We’re delighted, of course,” said Catchword principal and co-founder Maria Cypher. “When we opened our doors 20+ years ago, there were only a handful of firms that offered naming. Now, the competition is fierce, and Clutch’s continued recognition of Catchword’s excellence is especially rewarding.”

    With 51 reviews from well-known brands such as Corning, NBC Sports Group, PwC, and Plantronics, Catchword averaged a perfect 5 stars across the four categories: Quality, Scheduling, Cost, and Willingness to Refer. These consistent high marks, together with the company’s significant market presence, maintained Catchword’s lead in the burgeoning field of 2,775. (By comparison, last year 1,366 agencies were listed in the naming category; the year before, it was 615.)

    What is Clutch?

    Clutch is the leading ratings and reviews platform for IT, marketing, and business service providers. Each month, over half a million buyers and sellers of services use the Clutch platform, and the user base is growing over 50% a year. Clutch has been recognized by Inc. Magazine as one of the 500 fastest growing companies in the U.S. and has been listed as a top 50 startup by LinkedIn.

  5. Catchword’s Maria Cypher does the math on “+” brands in Time Magazine

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    Time Magazine tapped Catchword cofounder and executive creative director Maria Cypher to offer expert insights into the plus sign’s rise to power in brand names and beyond. From entertainment and social media (Disney+, Google+) to fashion (Foley + Corinna, Mizzen+Main) to plain old PB+J, the plus sign has supplanted the ampersand, “‘n,” and “and.”

    “’The value of + is that it implies more, better, premium,’ explains Maria Cypher … , ‘without being specific as to content, scale, or degree of premium-ness.’ It suggests customers will be getting something extra without making it at all clear what that extra thing might be.”

    Read the full story at Time.

    And for a broader exploration of the appeal of “X and/&/+ Y” brands, check out this analysis by Alex Kelley, 10 reasons there are so many “X and Y” brand names these days.

  6. What’s in a Name?

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    There’s a lot more than you might think behind those whimsical insurtech identities.

    In the early days, Jason Keck, CEO of Broker Buddha, came across it often: “Oh! I’ve heard of you! I have no idea what you do. But I love the name.”

    It didn’t bother him one bit.

    “As a startup, brand awareness is your biggest problem,” Keck says. “Nobody knows who you are. But even getting the tip of the spear in there, being able to stick in their minds, is super important.”…

    There is, perhaps, a bit more: Laurel Sutton, a linguist, strategist and co-founder of the naming agency Catchword, points out that recent years—and recent recessions—have taught us that even lofty institutions with names built to inspire trust for generations are not necessarily more trustworthy than anyone else. Those of millennial age and younger have grown up in a time when the perception of friendliness, accessibility and a dose of fun are equally—if not more—important.

    “It’s entirely a generational thing,” she says. “Over the last 30 years, people have really played on that idea of, ‘Hey, don’t trust the big institutions. Trust the friendly, small entrepreneurs. We’ll take care of you. We’re real people.’” Why not, then, engage with a financial services app called Albert or a protection plan platform named Clyde? …

    Full story

  7. From Disney+ to PB+J, how the plus sign took over the world

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    When Andrew Goetz and Matthew Malin set out to name their unisex beauty brand 16 years ago, they decided to follow in the tradition of successful companies like Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble, with one pointed exception. They linked their surnames just as those firms had, but they used a plus sign. “We didn’t even consider the ampersand,” the latter half of Malin+Goetz says.

    The plus sign spoke to everything on the duo’s mood board, from an apothecary concept (echoing the crosses that mark pharmacies throughout Europe) to their balanced partnership both in business and in life. And it was the antithesis of &’s old-timey excess. “The plus sign is very modern,” Goetz says, “and it was very important for the brand to be minimalist and contemporary.” It was also important for the brand to stand out, which the symbol helped do back when Facebook was headquartered in a college dorm room.

    That, however, has changed. “Now it’s everywhere,” Goetz says of the plus sign. “It’s literally all over the place.” …

    For companies like Disney and Apple (which also tacked the symbol onto a new media product, Apple News+), there is a different kind of functional appeal. “The value of + is that it implies more, better, premium,” explains Maria Cypher … , “without being specific as to content, scale, or degree of premium-ness.” It suggests customers will be getting something extra without making it at all clear what that extra thing might be.

    Full story



  8. Hitachi Vantara and Lumada in Automation World

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    Positioning itself as a major supplier of digital transformation technologies to companies such as Ericsson and Logan Aluminum through its Hitachi Vantara business, Hitachi also highlights use of its Lumada IIoT technologies at its Omika Works factory.

    In the world of automation technologies dominated by well-recognized names, the name Hitachi Vantara may not ring familiar. You’re likely aware of the name Hitachi from its many consumer technologies and the fact that it is the 24th largest manufacturer in the world with 140,000 employees and 193 manufacturing facilities in 21 countries. …

    James Destro, general manager of Hitachi Vantara’s manufacturing digital solutions practice, said the company’s Lumada software is designed to address: data integration and analytics; predictive and prescriptive maintenance; and inclusion of customer feedback into the improvement process. …

    Full story


  9. Dunkin’ Croissant Stuffers: Tasty’s baked into the name

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    Catchword is delighted to report that Dunkin’ has launched its new (and incredibly yummy)  hot sandwich: Croissant Stuffers!

    Dunkin’ engaged Catchword last year to develop names for a few new products. The first was a flaky croissant with savory favorites like bacon and cheese baked right inside. We know folks on the go don’t have time to guess what a menu item is, especially while rushing to work or school or looking for a satisfying snack. The name Croissant Stuffers immediately lets you know you’re in for some hot, savory goodness that will fill your belly.

    According to Dunkin’ fans, the portable breakfast is now available in Florida, which Dunkin’ South Florida confirmed on Twitter. Lucky Floridians can choose from Three Cheese, Turkey & Cheese, or Chicken, Bacon & Cheese.

    Croissant Stuffers may be our cheesiest naming project yet! Can’t wait till they make it to the Bay Area. Yum!


    Interested in naming a food or beverage product? Catchword is happy to help! Or if you’d like to check out some other naming partners, has put together a list of the Best Food and Beverage Branding Agencies of 2020.


  10. Top 10 traits of great namers: Do you have the right stuff?

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    So you do Friday’s NYT crossword puzzle in ink, no one in your family will play Boggle with you, and you’re the first one asked to define a mysterious word. . . . Does that make you namer material?

    Here’s the truth behind what it really takes to succeed as a professional namer.


    1. A Way with Words

    You may love words and frequently fall down etymology rabbit holes, but do you have a natural command of language? Strong namers not only love words, but they know how to wield them. If you’re an eloquent orator, a journalist or poet, or a story-creating powerhouse, this could be the right job for you.

    2. A Good Ear

    Naming is not just about semantics; the sound and flow of a name can also evoke feeling. On any given day, you might be called on to create euphony through alliteration (think: Firefox), establish a technical feel through hard consonants (like Zyrtec or Optane), or make a name feel more friendly (see Mochidoki). Having a good ear surely helps!

    3. A Brain for Business

    You might think the best namers are English or Linguistics PhDs, but those distinctions aren’t enough. A good namer adeptly maneuvers in any business setting, and frequently pitches and presents to CEOs, CMOs, and technical product managers. Must-haves in the naming toolbox? An understanding of competitive space, differentiation, the environments in which a client’s brand will live, and the ability to talk the talk.

    4. Killer Curiosity

    Curiosity might kill cats but it surely drives namers. You might be naming a line of beans one day, a highly technical application suite the next, and a jetliner in the days that follow. Being excited to learn about all these innovations is critical to success.

    5. Serious Stamina

    Many people believe namers huddle in a room (possibly with alcohol) and volley ideas back and forth till they land a few winners. Many people would be wrong. At Catchword, we believe quantity and quality are tightly correlated—not just because of the many messages, styles, languages, and constructions that can be explored, but because names must clear the countless hurdles of trademark and domain availability, cultural and linguistic appropriateness, and human subjectivity. We create well over a thousand names for a typical project.

    6. Creative Flair

    Do you see ideas—not storefronts—when you walk down the street? Are you constantly pushing the status quo? That ideaphoria that keeps you up at night will come in handy as you’re called upon to name another Product X in a seriously saturated category, Naming calls for daring (think Virgin or Vudu), out-of-the-box thinking (see Monster or Asana), and serious word play (visit our game PopNamer to see what fun can be had).

    7. Thick Skin

    A name might remind Client A of his dog’s rash, or Client B of the restaurant where she ate bad tuna in 2004. And why can’t these names—immediately, without any context or marketing support—seem as clever as Google or Twitter? As strong opinions fly in meetings and names get crossed off for less-than-solid reasons, namers need to keep emotions in check and calmly guide their clients to more objective and reasoned choices.

    8. A Mediator’s Mindset

    Part science and part art, naming can—at times—be incredibly divisive. Clients evaluating names oftentimes find themselves on different sides of the fence: she says Apple, and he says Oracle. As a namer, it’s your job to reconcile these differing opinions and to provide the necessary tools for decision-making.

    heart pages from PickPik royalty free images

    9. The Right Resources

    Did you know that there are multiple dictionaries dedicated entirely to slang, and Merriam-Webster admits hundreds of new words, pronunciations, and meanings to the dictionary each year? In today’s industry, it’s critical to know not just words but where to find them. From traditional dictionaries and glossaries to obscure resources like Foyle’s Philavery to newer sites like Wordnik, having the right tools can get you halfway there.

    10. Love for (Pop) Culture

    When showing a restaurant chain names for its new bone-chilling drink, you need to know that Ice Age shouldn’t make the cut because of the movie franchise’s marketing tie-ins with another well-known restaurant. Namers need to always be up on news and pop culture, watching language emerge and evolve, cheering it on…and keeping tabs. At Catchword, The New Yorker sits alongside People, and we’re enthusiastic consumers of Netflix, live music, and TechCrunch, and keeper-uppers on politics, world news, and all things media.