Friday 22nd April, 2016

What's in a name?

“…that which we call a rose, / By any other name would smell as sweet.” As Juliet discovered, a name can be much more complicated.

What's in a name?

From a writer’s perspective, naming can be one of the most rewarding and trickiest jobs to enter a studio. It’s essential to avoid rushing into a wilderness of words without a map of the territories you need to explore.

We’re sharing a few directions here, on where to begin and how to proceed.

The importance of understanding

If you make posh pens, we need to know why you do it and why a customer should care. If you produce pricy(ish) notebooks we need to know what motivates you and what’s going to pull a customer’s hand towards your leather-bound jotter.

Once we understand why you do what you do, and why a customer’s going to want it, the naming process can begin.


Think of your brand as a character in its marketplace. This will give you a platform to separate it from competitors and focus on its endearing idiosyncrasies. 

Is it the caring type, a born winner, or the font of all knowledge? To put that into context: This is going to help massively when it comes to deciding whether ‘Roar’ or ‘Purr’ is the right path to go down for your highly addictive cat treats.

Structure, structure, structure

Once you have your why – because ‘New Company’ wants to give the world faster and simpler recipes for healthier home-cooked meals, and your character; the explorer hero – it’s time to craft a collection of statements or territories that will offer some nice-and-productive tangents to poke around.

Territories for this made up company might sound like:

  • Discover something totally different and surprisingly achievable
  • Let me into a world of food that’s free from routine and full of tasty

And so on, until a board of possibility is built to give any naming project the right balance of freedom and control it needs.

Types of names

Let’s start with a word, one word. Word. This is a mistake. Do not think of a word and start testing it immediately until you kill it and your momentum. Write ‘Word’ down and right ‘Another Word’ down and so forth until you can’t write no more. Once you have a handful of good options from what will probably be a mountain of post-it notes, start to look at types.

From naming agency, Igor’s Building the Perfect Beast:

  • There’s the functional – Land Cruiser
  • There’s the invented – Jeep
  • There’s the experiential – Discovery
  • There’s the evocative – Safari

All fancy “off-road” vehicles, all with different approaches to naming and none of which are wrong.

Get it, don’t forget it

It can take one good day or one tough week to unearth that diamond or gift or whatever you want to call it. You’ll know it when you do. Sometimes multiple names jump out, and even if one leaps highest, it’s necessary to generate a shortlist of recommendations. Ownable (web-able) and memorable, a recommendation answers the brief. It elevates the quality of the product or service so that people feel positively towards it and want to know more.

Logical rationale doesn’t always trap a good name though, and this is where literature’s most famous love affair returns. The only certainty in naming is that a leap of faith is required. You’ll know it when you hear it or read it or both. Call it intuition and gut instinct, you’ll just be able to feel the confidence it stirs.

Because this is not a science

All that said, a name exists on paper – it can only come to life as meaning is built. It can’t do everything. A bad name and a good product might not stop that business from thriving; it’ll just be slower and harder to get off the ground.

Successful naming is a passion point, or less dramatically, the access point that sets relationships off on the right foot. Capulets and Montagues would agree – this can be very, very significant.