“You all know exactly who I am… Say my name.”

 Heisenberg — Breaking Bad

© Sony Pictures Television Inc.

Naming things is hard

Recently, my best friend got a puppy. For a few months, the dog didn’t have a firm name. Naming things is hard — especially when you are close to the subject — like a puppy. The name has to identify the dog and differentiate the dog in the dog park. While my friend doesn’t have to worry about the name fitting the strategic objectives of her dog ownership, it still has to embody the values and personal story of the “dog project.”

Your brand is more than a dog

Naming your brand is one of the most significant business decisions you will make. The name is the first access point to your brand’s core messaging, strategy and values. And like Heisenberg, your customers may encounter your brand name well before encountering anything else about your business. For most business owners, it can be one of the longest-running relationships they will have. So it is worth doing the work to get it right.

The right name is an advertisement in itself.

Claude C. Hopkins

We're kicking ass
and givin' names!

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This is how we do it

We set out to understand your internal values and culture, your business goals and aspirations, and existing and potential barriers to achieving them. We will interview select groups and individuals, including management, staff, and key stakeholders.

Now that we know who you are and the range of possibilities of where you want to go, we take a close and critical look at your competition. Knowing all about them is an essential element in deciding where you fit in the marketplace. We look at what your competitors are doing, where they are, and where you are in relation to them.

At this stage, we will have defined your organization’s core values and goals and know your audience and your competitors; next, we analyze the information to establish your distinctive position in the market.

This positioning should directly drive your choice of name: the more precisely we define it, the more accurate and compelling your name will be. We will look at how a name may fit into the parts of speech or word classes; primarily as a noun but also in terms of informal usage as a verb, adjective, or adverb.

We develop the Creative Brief, which outlines your core values, positioning, and other important information relevant to the development of your brand. It is agreed upon by all parties and serves as an imperative guide to everything we do moving forward.

Now we brainstorm. We compose a large list of names (typically 400 to 600) from the research we’ve done, observations we’ve made, and suggestions we’ve heard. After creating this initial list, we divide potential names into four categories based on the different ways the audience can perceive them (some names, of course, will fit into more than one category).

  • Descriptive
  • Invented
  • Experiential
  • Evocative

You will find a description of the types of names here.

To narrow down the choices as objectively as possible, we filter the choices based on the following criteria:

  • Distinctiveness:
  • Brevity:
  • Appropriateness:
  • Easy Spelling and Pronunciation:
  • Likability:
  • Extendibility:

Preliminary Internet and directory search to eliminate apparent conflicts and to continue the process without undue loss of time. Not that legal trademark search is not in the scope of this project. Any selected name candidates must be registered separately through the proper legal and governmental processes under the client’s direction.

The names that pass successfully through this process form our first ‘short list’ of ten to fifteen choices. At this stage, we present the shortlist to you, and select stakeholder groups, via telephone or web conferencing, for further narrowing down, to a maximum of three to five, before moving forward.  The narrowing down will be by voting on a secure website. Invited stakeholders will log in with a unique identifier and password to rate and rank their reactions to the names in each instance. The highest-ranked names will proceed – These are the finalists.

An important part of the naming process is the development of creative materials to put a potential name(s) in a meaningful context. These materials may include photography, layouts, taglines, and “mood boards” that help to express the impact of the name and to communicate the story we are trying to tell.

Presenting our ideas in this way brings clarity to the decision-making process by allowing us to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate’s name. When these materials are complete, we present them and the names to agreed upon internal and external stakeholders, which may include focus groups and online survey tools, to gain the fullest possible understanding of audience reaction to each.

The finalists are assembled with names, written rationales, and creative treatments on a secure website. Invited stakeholders will log in with a unique identifier and password to rate and rank their reactions to the names in each instance. This will provide confidential data on how each name is perceived on initial exposure.

The moment of decision: informed by the feedback and metrics from the stakeholders, the internal management will meet to discuss and make their own final choice for the Name.

Quite often, our client agreements prevent us from disclosing the names that we come up with on their behalf — we think that is fair enough — not great, but fair. 

Here are some identities that we can share, and we have also named.

© Sony Pictures Television Inc.

Big ideas

Reality is only a consensual hunch.
Lily Tomlin
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