What’s In a Name? More Than You Think

The naming process should never be a casual exercise. If you have kids, you know this all too well. You go through a very specific process to choose your child’s name. It needs to have meaning and/or history. It needs to be unique, but not hard to communicate. Above all, it needs to be based on values and attributes you support.

In a business setting, the same rules apply. After all, your company or your product is your baby. Whether you’re naming a life science organization or a diagnostic kit, there are basic principles that everyone should follow. However, more often than not, the basics are dismissed and the name simply misses its target.

If you’re struggling to find a name you love, or if you found one a bit too easily and are wondering if you did enough due diligence, here are some tips that will help.

Write all the options down on a sheet of paper. Anytime you think of a name, jot it down before the voices in your head attack it. Seeing all the names visually helps with the filtering process. Next, say the name out loud. Hearing it, is different than seeing it on paper.
Do not approach naming from a logo mark perspective. Any art elements you add will bias the name. Finalize the name, and then explore visuals and colors.
After you’ve identified your top three prospects, develop a two-sentence description for each name. Take these three names with the descriptions and test it with a handful of prospects or customers. Beyond providing quick market feedback, inviting your partners into the naming process also helps to build greater loyalty.
This is really obvious, but needs to be said: Do a wide Internet search for the name to ensure it’s not taken. Generally, adding a “.com” to your chosen name will give you an answer. You might find that it’s trademarked, within your industry. Or, it could be trademarked for a completely different application in a different industry. But the last thing you want to do is choose a name that garners a cease-and-desist order a year down the line.
On a related note, don’t forget to search Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The rapidly growing social landscape is allowing organizations to connect with customers outside of traditional online channels such as websites. There could very well be a thriving Facebook community that uses your chosen name. Social marketing isn’t going anywhere, so try to avoid future confusion by researching and reserving the relevant handles early on.
Trademark it! Your name is an asset, or will be an asset. It needs to be protected. It’s a pretty simple process through the USPTO website and relatively inexpensive, given its value. As you’re going through the registration process, add a TM to your name. It sends a message to your customers and competitors that you mean business and have rights to this name.
Always approach naming from the context of a defined scalable formula. Specifically, always ask yourself, “Self, how will this name scale as I add on additional product lines? Self, does my corporate name need to be incorporated in my division’s name?” You want the entire brand experience to be consistent. Choppy naming schemes play an adverse role in creating a cohesive brand experience.
Remember that a name is just a bunch of letters. Not a brand. It takes years to develop a solid and reputable brand, to create a “household name.” However, it does start with a name, which brings me back to my first point: naming shouldn’t be taken casually. It needs to be put in the context of your target audience and your brand.

So, there you have it. My thoughts on “naming.” Want someone else’s thoughts? For some added insight, here are a few others who’ve taken a crack at solving the naming challenge.

Fast Company: The Eight Principles of Product Naming

Inc.com: Three Simple Principles of Naming Your Start-Up

About Murad

Murad Sabzali is a founding partner at Chempetitive Group, where he’s spent more than a decade applying his extensive marketing communications experience to solve problems for both start-up and established companies. Have a problem he should tackle? Let him know