BLOG: Tamara's Tech Marketing Tips

Choosing a Company Name

I’ve worked with quite a few organizations over the years to brainstorm new company and product names.  Along the way, I’ve come up with a process to help stimulate the creative juices and keep the team on track.  This is the first of a two-part series that will walk you through what I’ve learned and some tips for start ups searching for the perfect name.

1.  Assemble your Team

Names rarely just pop into your head.  You need a good team for a brainstorm — and not just the marketing department.  Bring together people from management, technology, sales, marketing, and even HR to get a well-rounded team.  But don’t forget that teams need leaders.  If you think you will find a new name that everyone loves you are deluding yourself.  Someone needs to be in charge and make a decision on a name that meets the mutually-agreed upon criteria and passes the testing phase.  Maybe it is the CEO, maybe not, but you can’t have anyone pull rank once the decision has been made so if your CEO has the last word, then provide him/her with 2-3 options and let them make the final selection.

2.  Set some Brainstorming Ground Rules

In addition to choosing a “decider,” you also need someone to lead the brainstorm.  The moderator needs to reinforce certain rules throughout the brainstorming session such as:

  • Criticism is withheld.
  • Quantity vs. quality (at least to start!)
  • It is an open field — far out ideas are welcome.
  • Feel free to combine words/ideas or expand on something already stated.
  • Move quickly, don’t stop to think or analyze.  Save that for after you have a list of ideas.

3.  Decide on your Naming Criteria

Before your brainstorm starts, you need to decide as a group on your naming criteria. For example, do you want your name to be descriptive, stand-alone, or a blank slate?  Here are some common naming criteria to get you started:

  • Simple and easy to pronounce
  • Memorable
  • Timeless
  • Appropriate globally
  • Positive connotations
  • Distinctive
  • Available (domain, social media…)

Other criteria that may be relevant to your company include:

  • Suggestive meaning (e.g. AdWords, WordPerfect…)
  • Short (1 word only)
  • Portrays personality of the product/company (fun, serious, irreverent…)
  • Consistent with the company image (professional, smart, leading, cutting-edge…)
  • Free-standing /blank slate (e.g. Oink)
  • Provocative
  • Expresses benefits
  • Other: evoke emotion, define new category…

4.  Assign some Homework

Before the brainstorm, it is good to give some homework assignments that will get your team thinking about what they like and don’t like about names and what personality the company represents.  Here are some “take home” questions I like to ask:

  • Review competitors’ names and try to identify what criteria they meet.  What do you like and dislike about their names?
  • Describe the company/product personality traits you want to convey.
  • What are the cultural references that will resonate with your target audience? Are they sports fans, music lovers, sci-fi geeks, history buffs, art critics?
  • If your company was a TV/film character, who would it be and why?
  • If your company was a public figure, who would it be and why?
  • If your company was an animal, what would it be and why?
  • If your company was a song, band, or type of music, who or what would it be and why?
  • If your company was a sport or athlete, who or what would it be and why?

Next we will get into some brainstorming exercises, stay tuned? What other tips would you suggest?

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