Company Naming Toolkit
Like all deliverables in the creative field, there is no definitive way to go about naming a company. In fact, to a certain degree, we tailor our process to the client and their unique needs. However, there is a consistent set of digital tools we rely on, a list of filtering questions that we run every name through, and a reliable format for concept presentation. In this blog, we’ll be introducing you to all of the aforementioned aspects of our naming process.
These tools help us take an idea for a name and refine it into a presentation-ready concept. This list is far from exhaustive as the unique nuances of each naming process lead us down different paths and to different tools, but these four are used in every single naming project.
The thesaurus, along with the tool we’ll discuss next, is often the starting point of a concept. A naming project always starts with a mental list of unique descriptive words that encapsulate a brand. However, it’s rare that these words are interesting enough or available enough to be the name themselves. So, we begin our naming exercise by turning a list of 10 or so descriptive words into a list of 100 or so synonyms. From there, we take a holistic view of our phrase list to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Just like our friend, the thesaurus, Google Translate allows us to take a list of high-level concepts and radically expand it. By taking words or phrases and playing around with their translations, the concepts begin to take on a new life. A word that isn’t terribly attractive in English may be beautiful in French. If we’re naming a restaurant that’ll serve West African cuisine, we’re going to see what that area’s languages have to offer. In other words, non-English languages not only expand our concept list; they can also allow us to better-tailor a name to a company’s culture.
We have also found that clients and consumers alike are very attracted to names built around Greek and Latin roots. It’s amazing how often we go back in time to establish a brand or product name fit for the future.
Instant Domain Search is the first tool we use to cut down our list of concepts. A great name is nothing without an available URL. The great thing about Instant Domain Search is that it not only tells you whether or not your desired domain is available, it also shows you what’s available with every other possible domain suffix. More than that, it’ll provide some suggestions for alternate URLs that are available.
Believe it or not, this tool has actually sparked new ideas just by showing us the domain landscape in an industry. It’s an invaluable tool, and its ease of use is second to none.
The U.S. Trademark Electronic Search System
While a basic Google search is always our starting point when researching what names are taken in an industry, the only way to know for sure is to check with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Luckily, they have a fairly simple digital search tool that takes the guesswork out of this process!
By searching a name or phrase, you’ll see all of the registered trademarks related to it. You’ll learn what industry each company is in, what they’ve specifically trademarked, and whether or not their trademark is still active. This is a vital tool because, believe it or not, some brands through a registered trademark symbol on their name or logo even though they haven’t taken any legal steps to register them with the government. It happens more often than you’d think!
You can search for yourself at http://tmsearch.uspto.gov/.
5 Filtering Questions
This short list of questions is the final test that all of our name concepts have to pass. Each name concept MUST pass the first two questions to be considered at all. Then, it has to pass 2 of the last 3 questions.
Does the name sound good?
Desired answer – Yes. This is a pretty obvious one. If the name sounds strange in an unintentional way, it certainly should not be considered.
Does the name look good?
Desired answer – Yes. This is Question One’s less obvious counterpart. A brand/product name doesn’t exist in a vacuum where it’s only spoken aloud or written in Times New Roman. We have to consider how the letterforms will look in a wordmark. Does it look better in sentence case, caps case, or lowercase? These are worthy naming considerations.
Can it be pronounced phonetically?
Desired answer – Yes. This is the first question where we don’t have to get a yes to include the concept. While we certainly are striving for concepts that are pronounced correctly on sight, it’s simply not possible 100% of the time. We won’t throw away a great concept if it doesn’t pass this question, but we will spend extra time deliberating.
Can it be pronounced in numerous ways?
Desired answer – No. One of the worst feelings in naming is selecting a name, feeling great about the choice, and then hearing someone pronounce it differently than you intended. To combat this, we try to approach each name agnostically and actively try to mispronounce it. We also make sure we present all final concepts to a team member who hasn’t yet seen them to get an outside pronunciation perspective.
Does it mean something undesirable in another language?
Desired answer – No. There is a naming parable that easily explains the danger here. Research has shown that this story isn’t based in truth, but it still illustrates this point well. In the 1970s, Chevrolet tried to introduce its car line in Latin American countries. The Chevy Nova, in particular, fell short of sales expectations because No Va in Spanish roughly translates to No Go or Won’t Go. While this story isn’t actually true (the car sold fine in Mexico), the lesson certainly is. We never want to put a client in a Nova situation.
There are 5 pieces of information we include when presenting a name concept that we believe are of value to the client. We keep each element short and sweet so the client can focus on how they feel about the concept, rather than reading a novel about it.
The Name Concept Itself
There wouldn’t be much to talk about without this.
The Concept’s Meaning
This can be the literal definition, how we arrived at an invented name, the foreign translation, or simply what the name means to us.
The Best Available URL
Instead of providing a laundry list of available domains, we provide the client with what we believe the best URL to be. Typically as short as possible without leaving much guesswork to a potential website user. We also include cost when relevant.
The Concept’s Greatest Strength
If we can sum up what’s great about a concept into one or two compelling sentences, it probably isn’t very strong.
The Concept’s Most Concerning Drawback
We never pretend that a concept is perfect. Language is limited, so we stay realistic about any potential negatives to a given concept.