How do you think of a good name for something be it a brand, or a product?
In this guide, we take you on a journey through our naming strategy.
For amusement (and to show off to friends), we’ve also included examples from the music industry showing how famous bands came up with their names.
Underdog’s naming approach uses four main routes (all of which are really at the core of any creative endeavour):
You could try the short-cut approach (as Donald Glover did to get the name ‘Childish Gambino’) and use one of the many on-line Name Generator sites. These outputs are usually more amusing than useful, so let’s pursue the old school method.
Before getting into the meat of this, it’s worth noting that if you strip away everything you know about a brand it can be fun to imagine it trying to get approved. For example, imagine trying to get the name Waitrose through research. In my head I hear a consumer in a qual group saying:
“OOOH, THAT’S TERRIBLE… IT JUST SOUNDS LIKE YOU HAVE REALLY BAD QUEUES AND THAT YOU ONLY SELL FLOWERS”.
FACTOID: The Waitrose name is a portmanteau of the founders’ surnames, Wallace Waite and Arthur Rose and was originally a three-owner setup called Waite, Rose & Taylor.
Back, to the naming process then… the first hurdle is getting over the fact that there is no simple system for naming and no hard and fast rules for success.
Names are subjective and some people will mock you for the name you think of. Be Strong! Make a choice and hold firm.
Ultimately names are like those Rorschach tests and people’s feedback says more about them, than it does you! Use everything - even bad feedback. In 1992, Daft Punk were called Darlin’ but a bad review in the Melody Maker described their music as “daft punky thrash” and the rest, as they say, is history.
OUR FOUR LESSONS IN NAMING
1 - Ready, Fire, Aim.
Before you jump into naming, you’ve got to have a good handle on the essence and personality of what ever you’re naming. People do this with pets and even babies (deciding from a shortlist on a name that ‘fits’).
A business that’s high energy like Zwift deserves a short, positive, energetic name.
A brand that’s luxurious and relaxing, like Neom, deserves a name that feels sumptuous when said.
So, what does your brand or product do for people and how do you want it to come across?
What qualities make you different?
The name AC/DC really matches the band. Malcolm and Angus Young went with it after seeing “AC/DC” on their sister’s sewing machine.
A-Ha was felt to be a perfect name for the band and was plucked out of a band members notebook.
Coldplay were originally called “Starfish”. They ‘obtained’ the name Coldplay from a friends band who had read the name in a book of collected poems called Child’s Reflections: Cold Play.
Yahoo! got its name when the founders felt they understood the revolting people described in Gulliver’s Travels as Yahoo’s. Yahoo is also a bacronym for Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle.
2 – Be suggestive not functional
Apple, Google, Nike, Amazon are popular suggestive names vs those functional names like The AA, or The Yorkshire Building Society.
These more emotive names can help prompt your clients imagination and allow a brand to develop it’s own identity. These names often get more pushback from people during testing because you need to re-define the word with your brand. For example, owning the name Virgin and hijacking its dictionary definition.
Danone is a name that the founder made up based on his son Daniel’s name. Dan-One. BlackBerry got its name from the look of the buttons on the device.
Guns N’ Roses got their name by merging two bands; the L A Guns and the Hollywood Rose.
3 - Have some fun… and take your time
You’re unlikely to get a name simply by sitting in a room with people.
Like any creative endeavour, the arrival of ideas is unpredictable. All you can do is hold the challenge in the front of your mind and live your life. You can nudge things along by feeing yourself with some great stimulus though. Here’s a fun one. It gives you a random wikipedia page
The band Two Door Cinema Club got their name after a band member mispronounced the name of the local cinema, Tudor Cinema.
You can help things along by playing with names and dropping letters For example, the car brand TVR was based on owner Trevor’s name, minus a few letters. The band Chvrches swopped the ‘u’ for a ‘v’ to differentiate themselves on internet searches (See 4). You can also add colours to a word to add some flair, eg The Blue Oyster Cult.
4 – The Internet
The ‘hold your breath moment’ for most people, once they’ve thought of a name they like, is finding out whether the domain is free.
Here’s Companies House, name checker.and Domain name checker and for completeness, the trademark checker:
There was relief when the The Chainsmokers checked their name and the domain was free “Yeah, I don’t have to have any, like, underscores.”
Bonus -Don’t expect to get it right first time
The Who went through two names. Firstly, The Detours and secondly, The High Numbers before finally settling on the one we know them for now.
Pink Floyd have had names including The Tea Set and The Pink Floyd Sound.
Be ready to change if the market conditions change and your name takes on new meaning!
We worked with a business consultancy on a rebranding exercise. They were called Transolution and you can image how, since the time they were set up, their offering could be misinterpreted in 2019.
Big picture creative type seeks brands that are hungry to grow for LTR. Must have GSOH and love acronyms. Broad set of marketing expertise; doubt anyone knows more about Claims and Demos. Email me