Monday, April 26, 2010

How do you cook up a new name?

One of the biggest challenges for a public relations professional can be helping a business find a name for a new product, a new service or even a new company.

Add to this the complication of trying to come up with a name that works across all media, including social media and, well, you can see how the dream of the new can quickly become a nightmare.

I was working at a startup six years ago and it wasn’t the financing, the staffing, the office space, the suppliers, the distribution or any one of countless other problems that took the most time. No, it was the name of the new product.

Even though I was working with some incredibly creative types (including the great Rob Westcott -
@robtnowes) it took days and days to get to the name.

So, in a nutshell, here is the four-step recipe I’ve since practiced each time I need to cook up a new name:

Step 1: Creative thinking

Start by writing a list of words that relate to your new product, new service or new business.

Now mix up those words in interesting ways – using Scrabble tiles, index cards or a whiteboard/chalkboard can help.

Are there words you can combine in playful and intriguing ways?

Are there words that can have multiple meanings?

Are there words you MUST use?

Always keep track of all the names you come up with. Some that don’t click right now might click tomorrow with just a small tweak.

Now write out a dozen or so potential company names and move on to …

Step 2: A pinch of luck

Take some time to look over this list:

  • Are any of the names distinctive?

  • Do some of the names resonate more than others?

  • Can some be taken in a bad way?

  • Which are easy to spell … consistently?

  • Which are pronounceable?

  • Are any incomprehensible?

    Run your favorite(s) by a few people:

  • Do the names sound pleasant to their ears?

  • Do they instantly get the meaning?

  • Do they have a favorite?

  • Do they reject any of them outright?

    If you eliminate any names here, go back to Step 1 and come up with more. The key is to have many that you can test when you move on to …

    Step 3: The secret ingredient … fun!

    OK, so you have several names. Are they fun?

    The real secret to a great name is one that is memorable. The shortest route to “memorable” is being fun.

    Are their words or word parts you can switch to add a smile? Are there letters you can replace with other letters (“y” for “i” for example) or numbers you can use to replace word parts (“2” instead of “to” or “4” instead of “for”).

    Step 4: Finding a URL

    A business name that does not work on the Web is a name that has no use.

    By using one of the free web tools to check (two I like are
    Who Is and Go Daddy) you can find out which of your favorites is available.

    If a name you like is available as a URL, great! If not, will some small adjustment make it work? If not, do you need to go back to Step 1?

    Like all good recipes, this one can always be adjusted to suit your needs. Happy (and creative) cooking as you come up with the name for your next social media business.

    Was this post helpful? What did I miss?

    Related reading:
    Where do creative ideas come from?

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