Naming: The Best Process to Discover the Perfect Name

I hope this guide will prove helpful. I’d love to hear your thoughts, and definitely would like to know if you applied this method. Please share what you come up with!

A couple of weeks ago, my cousin approached me with his new business idea. He knows I’m in branding, and wanted to know if I could help him set up his new construction business. “Of course!” I said. There was only one hang up — he didn’t have a name yet.

Talking him through it for a bit, I realized that coming up with a name can be a really tough challenge for people. And the importance of a business’s name cannot be overstated. It cannot be overstated. It’s been scientifically proven that it is very difficult to overcome first impressions. So your name better make a good one.

This conversation with him sparked an interest, so I decided to do a quick search to see what methods other people use to come up with names. What I found was shocking (and not in the good way).

I was appalled to see publishers like Entrepreneur , Forbes and Fortune put out absolute garbage articles on ‘How to choose a good name for your business.’ They were riddled with irrelevant ‘tips’, completely unfounded, half-baked concepts, and frankly, harmful advice. This compelled me to engineer a proper methodology, grounded in identity science and design principles.

The Solution: Design Strategy

Design Strategy might be a surprising solution to coming up with the best name for your new business, service, product, or rebrand. But if you think about it, choosing a name is indeed a design problem. The goal is to create something that leads to a desired outcome — information, affinity, and trust.

Choosing a name is actually a fairly simple (not easy) endeavor. I created the following 6 steps to facilitate the process.

Step 1. Know Yourself
Step 2. Know Your Industry
Step 3. Know Your Customer
Step 4. Ideate
Step 5. Test
Step 6. Feedback

Step 1. Know Yourself

Photo by Andre Mouton on Unsplash

Knowing yourself and your business is the key to successful branding. And so where else should this process start? To figure out the perfect name for your business or product, you need to have a clear understanding of the core drivers of your brand. Why do you do what you do? What’s the mission and the vision? What foundational values is your organization built on? These are the types of questions that allow you to understand who you want to be, and how you want your brand to show up in the world.

Step 2. Know Your Industry

Photo by Samson on Unsplash

What does your industry look like? What kinds of names do competitors have? How do people view them? What are some of the more successful names out there? Which ones do you resonate with, and how might you pull inspiration from them?

Step 3. Know Your Customer

Photo by David Siglin on Unsplash

Who is your target audience? What’s their shared experience in the context of your business and value proposition? Where does your brand overlap with their sense of identity? What kind of vibe would resonate with them? What values do you share with them, and how can your name communicate that? How do you want people to feel when they associate themselves with you?

Step 4. Ideate

Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash

After doing all of that hard work up front- now the fun part begins! It’s time to take all of those insights and have a good old fashion brainstorm session. Here are the major keys for a fruitful brainstorm:

1. Write down Everything.
EVERYTHING. Even the horrible ideas that you know will never be chosen. It isn’t about finding the perfect name at this point. It’s about getting all your ideas out and exploring the possibilities.

2. “Push through the Froth.”
-As my mentor Leyla Acaroglu says. You will reach a point where you feel like that’s it. That’s all you could possibly come up with. I promise you: there is always more, and often times the most powerful ideas come only after you’ve gotten through the obvious. So don’t hang it up if you hit a block.

3. Go wild.
Don’t shy away from ridiculous or even “crazy” suggestions. Now is not the time to be practical- now is the time to explore. The further you venture from the norm, the higher your chances of finding something truly unique and innovative. Creativity lives at the edge; so embrace the weird and go a little nuts! Your wild ideas will begin to cross-pollinate with more tamed concepts, creating some really fresh ideas.

After you’ve absolutely maxed your brain- take some time to sift through the chaos and Identify the 5–10 names that resonate most with your brand, and would connect with your audience as well.

Step 5. Test

Photo by J. Kelly Brito on Unsplash

Now that you’ve identified your top candidates, take your top choices and start a search to see if and how those names are already in use. It’s crucial to make sure that your name will work a) legally, and b) online and on social. Check to see if your names are available and make sure they aren’t registered trademarks. You can go to to find out.

If that checks out, then move to see if the web domain is available and how much it costs. You may have to get a little creative if your name is already taken online. Then finally, search your name on all the major social platforms. Ideally, you’d want to be able to have your exact name as the handle, and identical on all platforms.

We live in a big world, however, and there are only so many names out there- so don’t be surprised if some !*#% is already using your name; or worse, an inactive account holding your precious name hostage for no apparent reason. Fret not. Just make sure you can find a simple-enough alternative for each platform (the same across all if possible), if your name is already taken.

Step 6. Feedback

Photo by Jud Mackrill on Unsplash

Now that you have your favorite options that you know are valid options- it’s time to start killing babies (Not actual human babies of course)! It’s time to narrow down your top ideas until only one remains.

You may be able to do this straight away at this point. You may just know which one it needs to be. In the case you don’t, now is the time to run these names past people (and it’s not a bad idea to do that even if you’re really confident about one). Identify those with relevant context, or those whose opinion you value, and ask them what they think.

Also, find people in your target market and ask them. You may be surprised at how differently other people interpret names than you do. This process is invaluable, because it might expose a blind spot, a bias, or a misconception that you have. And it’s infinitely important that the message you’re trying to communicate is being received the way you intend it to. The only way to know for sure is to ask.

At this point, two things will happen: 1. It will become super obvious which one is the perfect name for your business (yay!) or 2. You’ll realize that none of them are really going to work, and it’s time to go back to the drawing board. No worries, it’s all part of the process. At the end of the day, how much is it worth to make sure your name properly represents your brand and attracts your audience? How much money, time and energy will be wasted on advertising if your name doesn’t draw your target audience naturally? Invest the resources to get this right.

Congratulations! You now know the steps to designing the perfect name for your venture or product. I’ve put together an additional list of pro tips, things to keep in mind during the research and brainstorming process:

Misspell at Own Risk

Be mindful that names like Compaq and Makr are creative and look cool; but if people only hear them audibly first, they may have trouble finding them in search.

Emotional Names Stick

Being memorable is key. Using words that invoke a visceral response will help the name stick in people’s minds

Help Them Visualize

Also, words that easily create strong visuals will work to do the same thing.

The Thesaurus is Your Friend

Use a Thesaurus. Look for synonyms that describe your venture or product in a unique or less common way.

#Triggered Can be a Good Thing

Think about Trigger words. If I say peanut butter, you think jelly. Put yourself in the position of someone who is experiencing a problem your company solves. What words can you link to that environment? “Fix-A-Flat” is a prime example of using trigger words.

Don’t Pigeonhole Yourself

To the previous example- be careful about being Too specific. If you name your brand around tires, but then wanted to expand into windshield wipers, you may have to start an entirely new brand to do so. Keep the name broad enough so you don’t pigeonhole yourself.

Say It Aloud

Say it out loud. This sounds simple. Though, you’d be surprised how often things sound beautiful in your head, but not so much in your ear.

You Probably Aren’t Google

Yes, Google and Uber show that it’s possible to create a fictitious name that’s novel and catchy. My advice: if you aren’t doing something that’s never been done before, use words that already describe what it is you do. If you’re in the printing business, there’s no need to invent the word “Ercha” just because that’s the sound your industrial printer makes.

I hope this guide will prove helpful. I’d love to hear your thoughts, and definitely would like to know if you applied this method. Please share what you come up with!

Also, I’d be happy to lend an ear to anyone struggling with this. Names are everything to your Branding and Marketing. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you’d like some assistance to discover the perfect name for your business or product!

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