This is part two of a post on naming your company (or product or service). Don’t skip part one! It lays the groundwork for the naming process with seven steps, including benchmarking, forming a team, and brainstorming.
At the end of part one, you had created a list of names that ranged from wacky to witty to wonderful. All you need to do now is find the perfect choice from among them and convince everybody it’s the one. No pressure.
Your final four steps are:
- Narrow down your list.
- Use trademark searches to ensure ownability.
- Write rationale to reinforce why your concepts are amazing.
- Present ideas to get buy-in and wow everyone.
Naming your company step 8: Narrow down your list
Now comes the tough task. It’s time to kill your darlings.
Credit source: giphy.com
Meaning, it’s time to get rid of the ideas that don’t accomplish what you want them to, no matter how much you love them or how long you’ve worked on them.
One example might be a name that’s inspired by a piece of specialized equipment you use in your business. It’s clever, but no one will know what it means if they aren’t in your industry.
Or maybe it’s a name that you keep proposing with enthusiasm, but then you have to explain it every time. (“Y’all, I’ve got the perfect name for our cheese shop. ‘Carpe Brie-mmm.’ Get it? Like carpe diem… but, you know, with cheese.”)
—Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
The darling-killing phase is when the team can really start working together. Just as people might not necessarily love your favorites (“But the -mmm means, like, ‘Mmm, it’s tasty.‘ See?”), someone else will bring goofy ideas they love but that you neither understand nor think are compelling. Having a variety of perspectives will help you narrow your list.
So which names should you nix right off the bat? Kill it immediately if it’s:
- Controversial or offensive
- A well-known name of another product
- Really long
- Hard to say
- A cliché
What’s cliché or boring or dumb, you ask? That’s a matter of opinion, of course. But if most of your team thinks it is, trust that it is, even if you love it. (“Oh, come on, you guys. ‘CARPE BRIE-MMM.’ It’s amazing. Ok fine. What about just ‘SEIZE THE CHEESE‘?”)
So, you start to narrow your list, as hard as it is.
And you disagree, and you discuss, and you deliberate.
And you delete your darlings.
And maybe you eat cake if it was particularly hard.
Credit source: giphy.com
And you end up with a handful of names that everyone agrees are really promising.
Now what? Now you research the heck out of them.
Naming your company step 9: Use trademark searches to ensure ownability
Failing to take this step is one of the worst things you can do when you’re naming a company, product, or service. Proposing a name that’s already trademarked or copyrighted can be a huge embarrassment. Actually using that name can mean fines, a forced name change, or even lawsuits.
Avoid all that by taking your list over to the United States Patent and Trademark Office database to see if any of them are protected. You should also search alternate spellings of the name. If there is a conflicting trademark, look to see if the company or product type is similar to your own. If it’s drastically different, there’s a chance you can still use the name. (We’re not lawyers. Talk with a trademark attorney to be sure.) Be aware that the database does not include names that are currently in the process of being trademarked. So, there’s a chance the name is spoken for, and you just can’t tell yet. (Talk with a trademark attorney.)
Another smart step is to do a simple web search of each name in your list. If there’s an existing product out there that’s using the name, even if it’s not trademarked, you could be in for a struggle. (Did we mention? Talk with a trademark attorney.)
Do some homework and communicate any potential conflicts along with your concepts when it’s time to present to the decision makers. In the end, once you’ve chosen a name (and talked with a trademark attorney), trademark the name to protect yourself and your business. It’s important. (We’re speaking from experience here. We didn’t get that little ® on the end of Message Strategy Experts® and Position X® by accident.)
Naming your company step 10: Write rationale to reinforce why your concepts are amazing
You and your team know your ideas are awesome. Now it’s time to craft rationale that articulates why they are.
Science proves that when it comes to buying something (or in this case, buying in to something) we make decisions emotionally. Then we rationalize those decisions logically. Not the other way around. I think that’s why writing rationale is a fun, easy task. You already know you love it. Now you just have to figure out why.
Start by writing down what, specifically, you love about each name. (Hint: Not “1. Because it’s awesome. 2. Because it’s obviously the best idea. 3. Because it’s my favorite.” Ok, you can write those down. But delete them before you show anyone.)
Write about what makes it strong. Is there clever wordplay? Does it evoke a certain emotion? Does it use alliteration? Does it rhyme? Does it conjure a related, important idea? Write all that down.
Now the trick: Write bulleted rationale that doesn’t sound biased.
For example, you might want to write “Hilarious wordplay makes us sound clever.” Instead, you might edit it to “Wordplay uses humor to set our brand apart.”
It’s not truly neutral. It’s still highlighting a positive attribute of the name. But it’s just a little more professional, and it doesn’t feel like it’s trying so hard.
Don’t be afraid to include negative points and things to consider in the rationale, too. Thinking back to Step 9, if you found that another company is using a similar name, this is a good place to mention it. It’s not necessarily a deal breaker yet, but you’re being transparent about it.
Naming your company step 11: Present ideas to get buy-in and wow everyone
When it’s finally time to share the fruits of your labor with the decision makers, here are a few tips.
- Don’t distribute a printed deck before you present your ideas. If you do, you can bet they’ll be looking at it instead of listening to you.
- Take your time. Show each name by itself. Let it sit alone on the screen for a few seconds. Then show your rationale on the next screen.
- Create a summary slide that shows the ideas together for discussion. (And encourage discussion.)
- And now, a crucial (but sometimes difficult) step: When they give feedback, listen. And respond wisely. This can be an opportunity for you to win them over. Check out our blog on winning in client presentations to learn how.
What if you need help naming your company?
No doubt about it — naming a company can be challenging. It takes patience. It can be frustrating. And there’s not always time to DIY. Don’t want to handle it on your own? Get yourself a counterpart for that.