What's in a name?



Creativity, clarity on the brief and objectives count with naming of course, but the process of selecting in order to protect and execute a name matters almost more. 

We’ve found that there are often two lists, names you love, and names you can actually execute. Creating a list is relatively easy, getting a name you can use (protect) is often the hardest part. 

Naming is a critical component in building a successful brand/service/experience. Following a well proven process and methodology will ensure delivery of a unique, relevant and realisable name - be it for a product, service, company or place.
Naming as a process is about having defined, ordered and robust logic behind what the consumer will experience. A name is only ever part of a brand, but its often where the process starts. Consequently, naming development relies on reaching agreement on a criteria for decision making, in order to ensure you get a result. 
In addition there are types or groups of names; the most common are literal or descriptive names, which we believe are the most potent types to consider first off when developing product/brand strategy and naming. The first step in any naming exercise (be it evaluation or development) is to define which of these directions or types will best suit the project at hand.

Naming is hard.

We’ve learnt a couple of things over many years of naming work - and have a few key principles we use to guide us and our clients through a naming project – they are simple, but identify traps almost every organisation can fall in to - its a bit like Jury duty or choosing music:

Look to the evidence - what does the need mean the solution should be (focus on the simplest answer)

Solve the right problem - what is right rather than what you like (what’s the rational/logical territory for this name)

> Don’t be subjective - no one voice can speak too loudly (don’t let emotional calls cloud your judgment or get in the way of the right decision)

Walk in the customers shoes - who are they, where are they and what do they need (when they will interact with the chosen name)

Ownership informs experience - generally music you pay for you appreciate more than music that is free

Don’t pick the catchiest song - pick the best song - they are the ones you love.

Naming types.

Examples of literal and descriptive names are everywhere. That is exactly why businesses and brands are forced to go past that start point, and develop more unique and ultimately protectable properties. Names fall in to roughly three core territories:

> Invented – i.e. a made up name like: BlueTooth, Qantas, Google, Firefox, Alpha3, Jeep.

> Experiential – i.e. directing connection to something real, to a human experience i.e. more about the experience than the task, eg: United Airlines.

> Evocative – i.e. rather than describing the function of the experience it evokes a positioning. This helps to create an image that is bigger than the goods and services, eg: Olivo.

Getting started.

We use two basic steps, and evaluation criteria to assist in developing, deciding on and adopting a name. One of the key directions are chosen:

>  Evocative – more creative, lateral, emotive, stirring and unique - describing the essence, personality of benefit of the entity being named

>  Descriptive – a more functional, literal or descriptive approach - describing the role, function or attributes of the entity being named.

Examples: Infoseek = functional; Navigator = experiential; Yahoo = evocative; Pan America (PanAm) = functional; Qantas = invented; United = experiential; Virgin = evocative.


We use a generic checklist of core considerations to guide the brief:

>  Short - is it simple and snappy
>  Domain name – do we need to obtain (e.g. .co.nz, .org.nz)
>  Protection – do we need to register (TM) name and identity
>  Multi-cultural translations - do we need them, how well do they work
>  Cultural integrity - do we need to undertake consultation
>  Phonetics - does it work (pronunciation and written form)
>  Conceptual, metaphoric, literal, intuitive - which is best for the audience
>  Can we own it - can we protect IP - is it unique
>  Is it memorable - is it likeable
>  Relevance to audience – will they get it, is it intuitive
>  Usable - does it work across all types of touch-points

Creating options.

Brainstorming, workshopping, research, trawling the thesaurus, word hashing and other techniques can be used to create a long list. There are four core naming territories you could consider/explore when creating options:

1. Pragmatic - this is about what the service actually is: access, function, channel, process and ownership (ie. Govt).
2. Benefit led - ‘What’s in it for me?” Points to the benefits for users; personal, efficient, simple and easy, less about how it works.
3. Conceptual - More evocative and memorable. It is about setting the benefit in a conceptual form.
4. Invented - incorporates part words or word combinations that convey our attributes. The advantage being these that names are highly protectable.
Note: Always consider the brief and the audience when assessing even the options on your long list.


When working through a shortlist - be brutal and cull the list dispassionately - any option is only one of 3 things:

1. Not a go
2. Possible
3. Ideal
Note: We use the following criteria to make these decisions when required.
Evaluation/decision making criteria.

In any naming exercise, try and work through some criteria that help frame up what we are trying to achieve, and remind ourselves who the name is for. This criteria is designed to take away some of the subjectivity and help identify the more solid options for final consideration - in order to allow decision maker consensus bases on common criteria. The decision criteria asked some key questions:
1. Is this brand/audience aligned? 
> It fits with our organisation and our values
> It feels appropriate for the type of entity it is ie. feels right for a product/service/place
> It feels like our audience will have affinity with it
> It feels right tonally
> There is room for the organisation/community to ‘grow’ into it.
2. Is it intuitive/descriptive?
> Does or doesn’t need any explanation
> Says what it is, suggests its value
> It sounds right for the intended purpose
> Will it hold resonance with intended audiences and users
3. Can be easily recalled?
> Easy to repeat and disseminate
> Can be easily recalled in mainstream media
> Doesn’t become an awkward acronym
4. Is differentiated?
> Not always critical for every organisation, but 
> It isn’t like anything else in the/this sector
5. Is ownable/unique?
> Is a new combination of words or made up word
> Can be translated to a workable URL when applied to the Web
6. Is easy to use?
> Easy to say, and phonetically not a tongue- twister!
> Can be written easily and typographically can be represented wel.
7. Has it got stretch?
> Is future-proofed for any change or growth 
> Can encompass more meaning at a later point as the mandate for the organisation grows or changes 
Rapid decision making.

The shorthand assessment model:

> Short and simple
> Intuitive, and or descriptive
> Available 
> Easy to spell 
> Easy to say (eg: just from saying it out loud)
> Attainable /protectable
> Catchy and likable 
> Relevant

Engagement in decision making.

To improve engagement, we use a five step process to deliver a solution:
Stage 1 – Define
Define brief, objectives and audience. Clarify emotive or literal/functional path - explore and confirm naming assessment criteria, and explore initial ideas. 
Stage 2 – Create
Brainstorming Session – further naming ideas and themes, bylines developed in concept with brand development.
Stage 3 – Evaluate 
Further name development and refinement followed by short list of recommendations, development and assessment against criteria.
Stage 4 – Agree 
Pre-screen/test, shortlist on basic protection measures. Selection of preferred name(s) for protection.
Stage 5 – Protect 
Name checking of competitors/alternates, undertake final acquisition of Trademark, URL/Domain Name etc, confirm usage scope.