5 and a half ways to be a naming ninja

“Call him Voldemort, Harry. Always use the proper name for things. Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.”

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling

Here at The Business Allotment, it is less about businesses asking us for help due to their fear of a name and more about their fear of naming. Coming up with a name for a new business, product or service can strike terror in the most hardy and creative of business people. After all, it needs to be a proper name. A name well considered, that reflects the essence of what it is being named, engages the right prospects and customers and transcends current linguistic fashions (if in doubt, remove a vowel) – not to mention a name that you like as much five years from now as you do today.

So where to start with your naming process? Naming can feel like hunting for a particularly small needle (at least, you think it’s a needle, but it could be something else entirely) in an inordinately large haystack, where you first have to spend time creating that monstrous haystack whilst simultaneously not having the first clue as to what the needle actually looks like.

Don’t panic. We can help. Here are our top five ideas for nailing that name (we talk about naming a product here, but this can be used for anything, although we wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for naming children).

One. Create the haystack. Big really is better when it comes to creating a ‘word pool’ of options from which your name will come. You could be lucky and stumble across the perfect name quickly, but that is rare. Prepare to spend time on this. Clear your table (you are going to need room for that haystack) then on Post-Its, jot down any names that you have previously thought of and those that spring to mind readily. Then consider your product and write down words and phrases that describe it. Don’t filter what you write. Blue… technological… friendly… responsive… font of all knowledge… portal… online…information butler…  Now pick one of these words or phrases and word associate from it, so with portal you may have gateway… hub… entry…search engine…web spider…web bot… opening… chute… Then repeat with other words.

Two. Grow your haystack. We have a huge array of tools to help do this with our Naming Slam process, and a great one to start with is emotions. Think about your product. What emotions are evoked? What will the customer’s emotional response be to it? Happy… secure… laugh… curious… intrigued… empowered…Capture all these words.

Three. Then try What Other Things. Ask: what is the primary function of this product? Then ask: what other things do this too? For example, if your product is all about getting your customer noticed, what other things get people noticed too? You could have klaxon… signpost…loud hailer… siren… volume… arrow… a wave… tall hat… amplify… singing…

Four. Get stuck in a good book. As part of our Naming Slam toolbox, we always have our trusty thesaurus and Dictionary of Etymology. Pick one of your words and dig into it using a thesaurus to find other interesting words that mean the same. Use the etymological dictionary to discover origins of words and associated words. There are online versions of these books, but there is something about hopping from book to book, from page to page, that seems to help keep those creative juices flowing.

Five. Rake through your haystack. Once you have a huge haystack read each one again and start looking for that needle. Pull out any that seem interesting, have a good sound to them, or resonate with you in some way. Pop them up on the wall and start to play around with them. Which could work as names as they stand? Butler? Hailer? Can you combine them? Blue spider? Curiobot? Can you add a suffix? Klaxion? Haily? Ampeto? Some of these names will make you wince, others could have potential. Keep playing, get other people involved, say words out loud, say words then change a vowel, or a consonant, say it backwards, say it in another language – it is all about being playful and open to a name.

Five and a half. Go and have a cuppa. Or a glass of something red or white. Or even pink. Sleep on it. Forget about names. Go and do something else for a bit, then come back to your short list of words and names. What stands out? What do you still love? Which would you never use in a million years? (you can screw these ones up and have a quick game of waste-paper basketball). What new names come to mind? You should be ready to create a short-short-list, so that you can start to evaluate them… which is a blog for another day.

If you need help with your naming process, please do get in touch, we would be glad to help. And remember, as Juliet once said, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Which is true, but the real issue is whether or not the domain name is still available…