Marketing Tips: Anatomy of a Naming Project

Feb 7, 2020

The Right Name is Square Zero

The naming of your company product or service is the starting point for the communications about it. The lack of a good name is like advertising with an empty billboard.

There are a lot of factors that go into a good name. We have some of these listed on our Naming Service page. Rather than repeat all the data here, let’s talk about the creative spark that leads to the inspiration for a good name. In other words, where do you start and then what…

First Step: Research

“Oh, that was predictable,” I hear you say. In a way, yes. But there’s more to this. What do we mean by research? This is actually a very focused step. It is really finding out as much as possible about the thing or service or whatever else you want to generate a good name for. Notice that we say, “Good Name.” Not perfect name, not miraculous name or unique or clever name. You’ll never get perfect. Someone else may already own it. Forget miracles. Unique or clever can be useful if the other criteria to follow are also present.

What are you really looking for when you’re researching a name? You’re looking for the core or essential description of what your product or service is, does, delivers, creates, etc. What does it do? How does it do it? What’s different about how it does it? Can it do it on Saturdays? That last may or may not be useful, but demonstrates that there’s no real limit to the questions you might pose.

Where does it end? How do you know you’ve got it? We could say, you’ll know it when you see it. You’ll have a blue flash or some other inspiration will hit. Maybe. But this isn’t the end of the process. It’s only the first step. At the end of this process, ideally, you’ll have a list of possibles to narrow down.

Second Step: Whittling

Research does not stop with a list of ideas. It just changes direction. Now the direction is cutting down the list to what will actually be good and workable. A whole new series of questions have to be answered for each prospect:

  • Is the domain name for it available? If not, you’re wasting your time unless you want to try and pry the name away from a domain squatter. Or someone else already thought of it and is running a business with it. Be glad you found out now and move on. You can quickly research and register domain names here: (Full disclosure, we own this site. It’s like Godaddy, just less expensive.)
  • Does someone own a trademark on it already? This is even more important than the domain name. Trademark ownership trumps domain ownership any day of the week. Click here to research this on the US Patent and Trademark site. (You can use the Basic Word Mark Search for quick results.)
  • Are we there yet? No. Next, is it easy to spell? Honest, this is important. Many years ago we were asked to help with a name for a company that sold ayurvedic products (herbs from India basically). Go ahead and try to remember how to spell it to tell someone else. We dare you. By the way, the name we came up with was ElanVeda. Means exactly the same thing, life knowledge, and you can spell it.
  • What’s next? Speak it. No, this is real and just as important as being able to spell it. The most important marketing channel is and probably always will be word of mouth. When you say the name, can someone immediately recognize it and will they be able to work out how to spell it and relay it accurately to someone else. Does it sound like something it shouldn’t. PETA made this mistake years ago when they named their first blog website “the peta files.” Try saying that out loud a few times.
  • The next step is testing it in conversation. Make sure it doesn’t lend itself to shortening easily or other alterations like calling the name Michael Hunt few times over a loud speaker. Sooner or later it will be shortened and then what do you have…

Once you have gotten each prospective name through these steps, it can be added to the prospect list.

Third Step: Survey It

All your research so far has been subjected to a viewpoint of one, you. Now you have to see how others will react. This is pretty straight forward. Set up a survey that briefly describes what you’re researching the name for and get people to tell you their preferences. There are multiple classes of people that should be surveyed on this:

  • People who are potential customer or consumers
  • People who are supposed to sell it. (You would be amazed how much useful information comes from sales people who interact with customers directly.)
  • People who need to write, design or otherwise communicate about it.

Once you get to this stage you’re probably ready to write the proposal to the executive who has to approve it. Given all this data, it should be a slam dunk.

But, if you don’t have something that really rings the bell by this point, keep all the notes and data and start back at step one. You missed something. It will be there waiting for you to turn it over.

In our experience, the clue that leads to a good name can be in the most unlikely of places. Like in the notes of untabulated survey results that had been unexamined for years.


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