But this notion, mind you, is not universally held. Many businesses – and the branding agencies they hire to help them – have lately leaned toward combining letters and sounds into invented names that are hard to pronounce or understand.
Others prefer to aim for fresh, unexpected names that you don’t need a computer to decipher. One such advocate for fun and likable names and taglines is a San Francisco-based naming firm called Eat My Words (www.EatMyWords.com) that specializes in helping people who find themselves in a business or product-naming pickle.
Here are some naming tips from the pros at Eat My Words who come up with creative brand name suggestions and emotionally-driven company tag lines daily:
Naming a Business
1) Don’t name your business after yourself. As tempting as that might be, the name is essentially meaningless to your future customers and evokes nothing about your business. What’s more, many names are hard to pronounce, spell or remember. One exception: If your name lends itself to clever word play such as a consultant named Steven Lord who call’s his business “Lord Knows.”
2) Don’t date your business name. If you select something trendy or numerical (i.e. Women 2.0) the name might appear dated in a few years. Stick to names that can withstand the test of time.
3) Use a name that will scale to fit future products. As Eat My Words notes, you don’t want to outgrow your business name. For example, if Amazon.com – which originally sold only books — had named itself Bookstore.com, they’d have painted themselves into a corner that would have made it difficult once they started selling anything and everything.
4) Your name doesn’t have to convey trust and credibility. That’s something you build through your logo design and marketing materials. If you try to build that into your name, you’ll likely end up with some hopelessly boring options.
Naming a Product
1) Keep it simple and conceptual. According to Eat My Words, basic yet powerful words make for the best product names. A few they’ve created include a travel make-up kit named Dash; an all-natural energy drink called Bloom; and a line of gourmet dips for kids called Monkey Dunks.
2) Avoid acronyms. You should only expect people to remember one name, not two. Brand your product with a full name and let the acronym be something you only use internally.
3) Name you product before your company. That’s not always possible, of course, but if people only remember one thing, it’s better they remember the name of the thing they will actually be buying (and searching for online).
4) Select names that work as a family. Apple, for example, created a family of products that all fit together by using the same naming convention around “i” including iMac, iPod, iPhone, iTunes and iPad, among others.
Naming a Brand
1) Define the personality of your brand in three words that will be your acid test. When Alexandra Watkins was naming her naming agency, she wanted to convey that the brand was “playful,” “creative” and “unexpected,” which lead her to Eat My Words. Something like ABC Name Bank simply wouldn’t have cut it.
2) Your brand name should be spelled exactly how it sounds and be easy to pronounce. This certainly bucks a popular trend these days, but if you don’t follow this rule you’ll be constantly telling people how to spell or pronounce it. Your brand should be approachable – not something people struggle with and are embarrassed to try and pronounce.
3) Choose a brand name that’s meaningful to your customers. Names with hidden meanings or foreign phrases can’t stand on their own, and you won’t always be there to explain. Each time you have to explain what your name means you are apologizing for it.
4) The name should create a picture in the customer’s mind. That’s because people remember pictures more easily than they remember words or letters.
About the Author: Daniel Kehrer, Founder and Chief Content Officer of BizBest Media, is a senior-level leader in digital media, content development and online marketing with special expertise in startups, SMB, social media and generating traffic, engagement and leads. He holds an MBA from UCLA/Anderson and is a passionate entrepreneur (started 4 businesses), syndicated columnist, blogger, thought leader and author of 7 business and financial books.