Hi, My Name Is...

February 19, 2018 Dylan Salisbury

We’re inundated with information; messaging, advertisements and content from brands all competing ever more aggressively for our limited attention. Never before in history have we had to work so hard to filter through such amounts of information to find the value we seek. This information deluge has only increased; audiences are forced to make broad strokes in deciding what they pay attention to and what falls by the wayside.

The professional service space in particular is rife with undifferentiated brand, product and service names. In order to stand out, your brand needs to make the right first impression, and oftentimes a firm’s first impression is tied up in a brand’s name.

What’s in a Name?
A name is how you begin to frame your firm’s story, it is often your first point of contact, it is a reflection of your unique value and, hopefully, is emotionally resonate with your intended audience.

“A brand name is arguably the most important element of the branding mix because it’s one element you hope to never have to change.” –Susanna Hart, Interbrand.

Ideally, you don’t want to have to change your firm’s name. But, sometimes brand or product names must be updated.

Consider these reasons to consider undergoing a naming exercise:

  • You’re a part of a new organization or recent acquisition.
  • A new strategic direction has been mapped out.
  • There’s a sense that current name is dated or old-fashioned.
    Be warned, if this is the case, think critically about how important it is to rename your firm. Are you prepared to abandon all brand equity you may have?
  • It becomes clear that your brand needs to distance self from another organization with the same or a similar name.

That being said, naming activities are not limited to firm-wide rebranding. There are a whole host of digital properties beyond your master brand that you would want to consider naming strategy for before sending it out into the world on its own, these include things like:

Reasons to Rename Brand Elements

Don't Give Them Permission to Forget You
When beginning a naming initiative, be sure to survey your current landscape to understand what kinds of names already exist and identify opportunities to differentiate in a fashion that is true to your audience’s perception of your organization. The last thing you want to do is give your audience permission to forget you, challenge yourself to go beyond the obvious (naming a blog, “Blog,” for instance).

While there is fear of landing on a “wacky” or “weird” name, I would argue that having a forgettable name is even more of a disservice to your brand. Simple names may be easier to implement, but don’t do much to distinguish you, and can even be difficult to protect legally. Keeping it too simple can put your firm in an inescapable box for years to come. If your name doesn’t raise some eyebrows you probably haven’t pushed far enough.

Importance of Naming Strategy

It will be impossible to know what external factors will change or where your business is going to be in a few years. A descriptive product or service name can paint you into a corner.

Great Sticky Names are:

  • Authentic and Meaningful
    The name should not just be authentic to your expectations of the product or service, but also in line with what your audience thinks or assumes about it. 
  • Suggestive 
    The name should be evocative of something deeper than a description of a product or service, it should relate in a clever way to what your firm or service line does.
  • Visually Evocative 
    The name should paint a picture in a user’s mind to better embed in the memory and increase recall.
  • Thematic
    This is giving your brand legs. A good name can lend itself to product line extensions and how users experience every touch point such as visual cues, how the name animates, and color choices. A name should reflect not just the product line it represents, but also the tone and character of the firm itself.
  • Emotionally Resonate 
    If you manage to check all the boxes above, it’s likely your user will engage emotionally on a deeper level and better remember your brand.

Some Naming Considerations
When beginning a naming initiative, build a diverse team to reflect the facets of your business but do your best to keep this team as streamlined as possible. You should include any significant decision makers into the process as early as possible.

You’ll also want to consider what the goals are for your service, event or overall brand:

  • What is your positioning approach?
  • What feelings do you want to evoke?
  • Who is your most important audience and how would they 
  • describe themselves?
  • How would you personify your company or product?
  • What are some metaphors or analogies for what you are doing?
  • How are you different?

Once you feel you have adequate answers these questions, test out concepts by applying the EILI5 rule – or “Explain It Like I’m Five.” If a five-year-old wouldn’t understand your reasoning, there’s little chance it will resonate with larger audiences.

You can also do some research on naming concepts and get inspiration from industries unlike your own. Use concepts like mimetics, allusion and personification to brainstorm.

Different techniques are better tailored for different challenges, identify what challenges you need to solve for. Only after these steps have taken place should we begin generating names. The perfect name may be the third thing you write down, and it may be the 400th. Be patient, be diligent, put in the work and consider your options.

Naming Concepts

Once you’ve narrowed down your top contenders and are feeling strongly about your options, it’s time do to a little homework. Consider the following when finalizing your new name:

  • Search: Google top names with a few keywords. Any competitors? Can Siri or Alexa spell it? Consider any and all negative connotations that may exist. Tip: Run your name through Urban Dictionary, just in case.
  • Domain: Having domain availability may seem like a big plus, but don’t let it deter you from a great name if it’s already taken. There are many ways to work around this issue.
  • International Implications: Translations can be lost on some. Make sure your context is appropriate globally, especially in those international markets you may serve.
  • Social: Similar to domain, consider how your social strategy is affected by naming.
  • Trademark Search: identify what’s already owned in your space to avoid nasty legal implications. Once you’ve confirmed availability, trademark it yourself in the proper protection territories.

Naming is oftentimes underappreciated but can make a considerable difference in how a business stands out in the market place. Being thoughtful about the name of the brands, services, initiatives and projects your firm offers may take some time but is also a long-term value add to your go-to market identity. Remember to challenge yourself, stay open to new ideas and put in the time to find a name that tells story and differentiates your firm for years to come.

Watch the original recording of this Experience Lab presentation.


The One North Ideas Update delivers each month’s latest posts on digital for PSOs—including industry trends, news and our latest research—directly to your inbox. Although it’s our goal to always include thought-provoking and compelling content, you can unsubscribe at any time. 

See our Privacy Policy to learn more about how we protect and manage your submitted data.

Dylan Salisbury Brand Strategist

At the time of publishing, Dylan was a Brand Strategist at One North. 

One North Interactive 
222 North LaSalle St, #1500
Chicago, IL 60601

+1 312.469.1740