What’s in a Name? Ideas to Jumpstart your Company’s Naming Process

What’s in a Name? Ideas to Jumpstart your Company’s Naming Process

We’ve all got our favorites – those company and product names that are memorable, creative and make you think “Why didn’t I think of that?” Because naming is a complicated and time consuming process (there’s a reason there are entire agencies devoted to this), in this post we’ll focus on company naming only (product naming has many other nuances and considerations) and look primarily at B2B company naming, adding in a few ‘scrappy’ methods for ideation.

Before you even enter the chasm that is brainstorming, you should have a clear idea on a number of things:

  • What types of customers are we going after and what will resonate with them?
  • What brand personality do we want to convey?
  • Who are the top competitors?
  • What is our unique value proposition and what are the words associated with that? (This can be related to your product, service, company culture, industry etc.)
  • What is our longer term roadmap? Are we likely to grow into other product/service areas or serve additional types of customers? Will the name still be applicable?

Tips for Getting Started

  • Don’t limit your thinking in the initial stages – the “whittling” occurs downstream in the process.
  • Make it a collective effort. The more “brains” in the brainstorming, the more likely you’ll generate a longer list and new ideas (some of the latest thinking on innovation is related to unleashing the creativity we had as kids, so ask some kids too!)

Five Types of Names

In general, there are five types of naming classifications (tied to trademarking), and of course the issue of trademarking will come up as you zero in on your top choices.

  1. Generic: Essentially a noun directly related to what you do. Generic names cannot be trademarked, so it’s best to bypass this category.
  2. Descriptive: These are often the first ideas that pop into people’s minds, but they are very difficult to trademark so it’s best to stay away from descriptive names unless you do not intend to pursue a trademark.
  3. Fanciful: This is a “made up” name (think Kodak or Exxon)
  4. Arbitrary: Word (or words) with a common meaning, but completely unrelated to the goods or services the firm offers (ex. Apple)
  5. Suggestive: Sometimes referred to as allusive, these marks indicate reference (mostly indirect) to what the company does, its products or services. (ex. Greyhound, Jaguar)

All of the above examples are single word marks, but the same categories can apply for multi-word marks. Try to generate ideas across categories. Sometimes we enter into the process with preconceived notions of what we like (i.e. “I only like one word names that are descriptive”) and end up in a very different place at the end.

Fuel for your Brain(storm)

Hey! Roget…
It may seem obvious, but good old Roget is a great place to start, and if it seems tedious to continually click through synonyms, try a visual thesaurus – it’s a great way to see associated terms in one place. Don’t limit yourself to what your company does, but expand to how it may make people feel, what problems you solve etc.

Widen Your View
Look at glossaries of terms related to a (seemingly) unrelated field – like math or oceanography. Often the definitions can be suggestive of exactly what your company does.

Perform Random Acts
Random name and word generators are great to explore, although time consuming. While not recommended to actually name your company, they can feed the creative process (or maybe you’ll be lucky and land on a winner!) Some sites also allow you to also search for domain name availability.

Study the Pieces
Look at Latin prefixes and suffixes to see if any of them mesh with your strategy. If you are trying to create a new word by combining two words, search for words that start or end with specific letters.

Animals, Vegetables & Minerals
Think about what you want to convey and then craft a simile or analogy to something else – then find lists or types of those things. Often many of them are obscure and therefore unlikely to be used by someone else in your space.

Alliteration and Opposition
If you are considering two words, see if you can utilize alliteration or connect two words that are opposite or unrelated (ex. New Relic).

These are just a few ways to ignite your creative side. Often the best ideas come when we are free thinking and free associating (on a long commute or on a run, for example) – or even when we sleep. The best advice is to seek out both help and knowledge from multiple resources (like this one from The Naming Group) to aid in your understanding of best practices. Also be aware of any restrictions in regulated industries that preclude utilization of specific words.

Once you’ve whittled your list down to your favorites – here are five more bits of advice from years of experience:

  1. Don’t forget to vet your top choices from a competitive and trademark standpoint.
  2. Check that people can both spell it and pronounce it if they just hear it or see it.
  3. Test it with a wide variety of people – including potential customers.
  4. Check the urban dictionary usage to avoid potential issues.
  5. Quickly run it through translation to avoid any proverbial faux pas.

Finally…Don’t be married to your own ideas – recognize when there is a better choice and allow yourself to be talked into it!

Magnetude Consulting provides outsourced fractional marketing department services to B2B tech-sector SMBs, bringing in a team of marketers who specialize in marketing strategy, content development, inbound marketing, digital marketing, SEO/paid search, influencer & media relations, event marketing, channel marketing, graphic design, and web development. 

NOTE: Magnetude Consulting is not affiliated with any of the sources provided in this post.