The right name can make or break a business and you’ll have just one shot at it. Better make it a good’un.
An organisation’s name is the central element of its identity. As the venture grows, that name will be repeated countless times: and likely to be spoken, written, read, emailed, searched-for, hashtagged, quoted – even sung.
Names are assets which hold value on a balance sheet, which is why they are trademarked and protected – and why the shortest or most memorable domain names change hands for eight-figure sums. So identifying the right name for your new venture is critical. Once out in the open the chances of back-pedalling diminish quickly.
There’s a misconception that naming is an easy task, which couldn’t be further from the truth. One project I was involved in began with reviewing a list of over a thousand possibilities, and ended with a multi-page précis of the research conducted over two months, before the name was committed to and trademarked. On that journey, multiple areas were covered and questions asked, such as how would it be extended? Was it sustainable? Did it reflect the product? How would it sound to non-English speakers?
When approaching naming it’s easy to get blinkered into thinking that the most important output of the development is the ability to register it as a domain, and thus ensure your place on the web. But the fundamental question to ask is how does your name contribute to your personal or business story?
This is what people should come to know about you, above all else. Like a personal name it should be inspirational to you at the heart of the business, before it resonates with your people and customers. It should also be future-facing, and pull your venture forward.
So... if you are about to embark on a naming journey, here are a few steps:
Check the name against:
The business/personal story I am understanding
The positioning that is evolving
Vision and goals of the business
Existing products and entities Competitor names
Trademark and potential conflicts
Current search engine results
Define the name:
Primary Name and Secondary names
Meaning & Etymology
Cultural meaning: historic & present
Use in cultural texts
Use in historical texts
Use in religious texts
Use in myth, folktale & fable, novel, classical literature
Links to fictional, living or historical characters
Meanings in other languages
Representation in non-Latin characters
Check the name for:
Words within words
Alternative reading / spellings
Alternative hearings (inc. international)
Abbreviations / Acronyms
Use in urban argot/innuendo/ slang/racial/subtext/double entendre
Word design, shape and presentation
Placement of ascenders & descenders
Case and initialising
Apply the name in test applications:
On a business card
In a soundbite
In a headline
On a vehicle mock-up
In a voice message
In an email footer