The naming checklist

Choosing a new name for your business or product is a big decision and an article we often refer to is Steve Harrington’s How to Nail a Name (Sydney Morning Herald, 17 November 2011). Steve provides a very concise and helpful checklist to make sure your name is well chosen and fits your criteria. When we are whittling down a long list of names we have brainstormed for a naming project we run them through each of these items to make sure that any pitfalls of the name are established.

1. Keep it simple.
2. Keep it short.
3. Will it stand the test of time?
4. Does it resonate with the target market?
5. Can it be easily pronounced?
6. Can it be twisted around by a mischievous journalist?
7. Consider cultural sensitivities?
8. Does it have layers of meaning?
9. Never chose the first name you like (people are likely to pick the familiar over the new).
10. Be prepared for people to hate it at first (it can take time).

Through our own experience we have added the following:

11. Is it unique and original?
12. Is a url available?
13. Try the ‘say it back to me’ test. Say the name to a friend and ask them to repeat it back to you. If they say “what?” or “huh”? it might not be the most effective. If you’ve made up a word, phonetic spelling may help (Google, Accor).
14. Is it memorable? Alliteration (American Apparel), onomatopoeia (Bing, Snap), consonance (Kodak, Twitter), rhymes (7Eleven), half rhymes (Another Colour) and wordplays (Avant Card) can help.
15. Think twice about ‘phunky’ spelling of everyday words (Kwik Kopy). It can help people find you on google, but it can be hard to remember.
16. Avoid highly generic names that are forgettable and hard to give personality.
17. Does it allow for future growth? Burger King will always be associated with burgers but McDonald’s have more opportunity to diversify.
18. Does the name have positive connotations?
19. Avoid old tricks. Acronyms (BMW, IBM), spaceless names (FedEx, TeamWorks) and Web 2.0 (flickr, tumblr) have been done to death.
20. What’s your gut reaction? Do you like it? Is it you? Even if you tick 1 to 19, this is the most important.

At the beginning of the renaming process, it’s important not to confine yourself during word mapping sessions so you can allow for full creativity to flow. (How to name a studio tells the process we used for Another Colour.) This is a great checklist to use at the end to whittle down your options and find a robust solution.