There are a lot of lucky brands out there that have come to replace the name of the product itself. While there are a few hipsters out there that call them tissues, cotton swabs, and lip balm, the rest of us tend to stick to brand name vernacular like Kleenex, Q-tips, and Chapstick. These brands have become institutions by their names themselves but it took brainstorming, revisions, work, reworking, and hair-pulling frustration to arrive at a name that could carry the entire weight of an institutional brand. For crying out loud, the microwave was once called THE RADAR OVEN—doesn’t that sound like a comforting and safe vessel to reheat food meant for human ingestion?
Although naming is no easy task, a few short syllables that represent your product can make or break an entire brand. We’ve compiled a few tips and tricks on how to name a brand that are sure put your product on the fast track to getting on shelf and so much more.
1. Start Anywhere—nothing is considered stupid. Think it up, and write it down no matter where it came from. Even if it’s just a fraction of a thought, write it down and share it. 7/11 was originally called “U-TOTE-EM” until a customer put in the suggestion box the store was only good for one thing: being open from 7am-11pm. It wasn’t long until it was passed up the corporate ladder and quickly became one of the largest gas station chains under the name 7/11.
2. Computers Can Never Replace Human Creativity—straight from the mind of Anthony Shore, an industry guru in naming, says that you can thesaurus all you want but it ultimately comes down to the power of the human brain. Binary code doesn’t recognize originality like humans, and it never will. At some point you’re going to have to abandon technology and get back to the basics. Trust your instincts, not the computer screen.
3. It’s a Process—naming doesn’t happen overnight. Although you may have to put in a few all-nighters don’t expect to arrive at name like Google in just a few short brainstorming sessions. Be patient, good things happen to brands that work at it.
4. Give the Consumer a Little Credit—over-obvious names are boring. Consumers are smarter than a lot of marketers give them credit for. Eli Altman, author of Don’t Call It That, suggests that people will spend more time on something they don’t understand. A name should provide just enough context so that the consumer can put two and two together on their own. Not only will they recognize your wit, but they’ll remember, and that is exactly what you want.
5. Edit—names don’t always need to be exactly what the product is. Sometimes editing out the more obvious names will be the best thing you can do for your product. In fact most institutional brands are named after derivatives of entirely disconnected words. Verizon comes from the latin root of horizon and truth, not anything to do with cellular service. Adobe was named after a river that ran behind the founder’s house and yet is the leader in design software programs. Don’t be afraid to abandon the obvious, and go for a random name that’s more bold and refreshing.
6. Timeless Over Trendy—make sure the name you choose will stand the test of time. All too often, especially with tech start-ups, brands will choose names that sound modern and fresh, but that won’t last much longer than a few years. Ending names with “-ly” is all the rave lately but how will brands like Bitly sound in 2030? You never know where your company will be, but hopefully it does nothing but thrive from here on out—be sure your name doesn’t stand in the way of that.
These tips are part of the process we use for every naming venture at Interact. Just remember it’s a tenuous process that deserves a lot of attention but it will payoff in the long run.