Finding a Name That’s More Than Just a Name

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Why is my brand or product’s name important?

How can I come up with a name that fits my brand or product?

How can I use naming to stand out in the marketplace?

Coming up with a name for your brand or product can feel really daunting. However, it’s an important process that you shouldn’t neglect.

Why? Because your name is your first opportunity to start telling your story and distinguishing your brand from the competition. In a crowded market, that’s invaluable.

Imagine Fanny owns “Fanny’s Fanfare,” which makes melodic fans. She’s about to launch a new fan that plays “Air” by Bach. She wants a name that tells a unique brand story rather than one that only describes its functionality. Can you help her pick the winner?
I’m ready

To pick a good name, you should know the 3 categories most brand, product, and service names fall under: literal, metaphoric, and fanciful.

Literal names describe a functionality or tangible quality of a brand, product, or service, like Baker & Daughters Breadmakers (located in Baker City, Oregon.)

Metaphoric names help people think about a brand or product in a way that goes beyond its everyday purpose, like MapMarvels – an app that helps you commute like a superhero.

Fanciful names don’t describe the brand or product’s functionalities at all. They’re usually made up to enable the brand to build an identity and story from scratch, like Impactor – a brand of computers made out of defunct rocket parts.

Fanciful and metaphoric names help build an identity, which is great for a new brand wanting to break through, but take a lot of time and/or marketing to establish.

More well-established brands usually opt for literal names for their products because their brand story is already known.

Let’s take a real life example and see how a fanciful name helped a digital marketing firm stand out from its competitors.

The founders of the firm originally named the company Fractal (as in fractal science) to represent how math and science could help people make better decisions.

But the marketplace was saturated with names alluding to a similar philosophy, so Fractal had a hard time standing out. After attempts to come up with a name internally failed, they hired a branding agency.

The agency asked Fractal for a list of all their competitors’ names to get a sense of the language already being used. They came up with a slew of names, and after multiple rounds of presentations, Fractal picked the name Accomplice.

Why Accomplice? Because it embodies “knowledgeable and confident,” and has a bit of edginess that makes it memorable – without conflicting with their story. It also has an air of agility – a quality the competitors don’t have.

Think you’re ready to come up with a name? Great. Here are a few preliminary steps you should take to help focus your search.

If there are similarities, is it a good or bad thing? A fanciful name can be a great way to set yourself apart from your competitors, but sometimes it helps to highlight similarities and pick a literal name that will quickly describe your services.

Know your market. Delaney, Donahue, and Dolberg is a good name for a law firm because it evokes a sense of tradition and gravity, but it might be too serious for your gardening business.

REMEMBER

Just because you’re operating in a certain market doesn’t mean you should only come up with options from that field. You can find inspiration in books, TV shows, and magazines.

There isn’t just one right way to find a name, but here’s a common practice you can try. (No, it’s not throwing a dart at an open dictionary.)

There isn’t just one right way to find a name, but here’s a common practice you can try. (No, it’s not throwing a dart at an open dictionary.)

First, gather 5 to 7 coworkers and friends for a 15-minute brainstorming session. Some should be familiar with your product, and some shouldn’t. Talk about what the product does, the story you want to tell, and what emotions you want to evoke.

Next, create a spreadsheet and give everyone 20 minutes to write any name they can think of that’s related to the conversation. Focus on quantity, not quality (repeat these sessions until feel you have enough solid options).

Have the participants mark their favorite options and take 15 minutes to discuss the pros and cons of the most popular ones.

Now that you have a pool of potential names, start the process of elimination.

Hold focus groups with your target audience. These are less about choosing the final name, and more about getting a general feeling from people about the names you’ve came up with.

Once you’ve culled down the list to about 25 names, do a Google search and trademark search to make sure the name isn’t already legally registered, and check to make sure it doesn’t have any negative connotations in other languages.

If you’re not the decision maker, present the names to the stakeholders. Talk about the thinking behind each name and pick your top choices in case you’re asked to weigh in.

Remember that there’s no one perfect name and in most cases you won’t know if it works until you see customer reactions. But, by going through this process, you’ll have a better chance of finding a name that’s right for your brand or product.

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Now that you know what goes into finding and choosing a name, let’s figure out what kind of name could be right for your brand or product.
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