So your client needs a brand name. How tricky can it be? 

Jim Boulton


You’re a creative person. So naming something for a client involves:

  • a bit of homework
  • a couple of coffees
  • maybe a trip to the pub
  • a peruse of

And Bob’s your Auntie. 

Except it rarely works that way. Anyone who’s done naming work knows how tough it is. Bob’s a great name for an Auntie. It’s unusual, it’s memorable, it’s echoic, it’s short and punchy, it’s a palindrome, the repeat plosives and short vowel make it satisfying to say, it has the positive associations of a nickname, the haircut is the epitome of style, bobsleighs, bobby socks, Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, Fingerbobs…

Well, maybe not Fingerbobs but Bob’s definitely a good name. Good but not infallible, a name never is. Everyone’s got an opinion and it’s easy to shoot down ideas. Creating a name that ticks every box is next to impossible, and nobody wants to compromise. Therein lies the problem. 

Let me tell you a secret

Naming is not about coming up with a great name. It’s not about making sure the trademark, URL and social media handles are available. It’s not about whether it’s ahead of Atari® in the phone book. It’s not even about whether it’s memorable.

What it is about, is giving the client the confidence to make an informed choice. An emotional decision has to be transformed into a rational one. You have to take the client on a journey, exploring the fabric of names, and agreeing on the building blocks of their new name along the way.

You’re not going to believe this. There’s a tool that does it. Full disclosure, I invented it. Actually, I had some help from Jonathan Hunt, Lars Jorgensen, and Sean Winstanley. Oh, and Quietly Studio. And Psycle Interactive. Amar Patel probably fed into it at some point too. 

It’s called NameDek® a proven system that identifies the building blocks of an optimum name. By analysing the fabric and texture of successful brand names, the phonetic qualities that underpin them are revealed.

Their roots, origin stories, and hidden meanings expose the underlying semiotics that gives them sophistication and nuance. By identifying why certain brand names appeal to your client, you both start to understand the constituent parts of a successful name.

At Inqdrop, we’ve been using the system for decades. It works. 

What to look for

Things to bear in mind while you’re clicking through a thesaurus, having ignored my advice to use NameDek®.

First look for a top-level theme. Some clients will like names that are descriptive and fast to say, like, Lemsip® or Zipcar®. Others will be metaphors, perhaps toponyms, like Mont Blanc® or Patagonia®. Neologisms, like Coca-Cola® or Dulux®, are always popular.

Eponyms, and humour are other themes to look for, who’d have thought Captain Birdseye was real person? Would Movember® be the success it is with a different name? And who doesn’t love the name Spanx®?

Next, examine word-class. Brands that commandeer common nouns, like Apple®, ooze confidence. They have the audacity to take a familiar word and give it new meaning. Proper nouns like, Amazon® and Tesla®, come preloaded with a body of positive associations.

Names based on verbs, like Hobnob®’s (we’ve got Shakespeare to thank for that one) or Sprint®, are more dynamic. Compounds, like Playstation® or Salesforce®, give you two bites at the cherry.

What’s the optimum number of syllables? Short, punchy names, like Bob for example, often resonate but you can forget about the URL and trademark. Adding a suffix worked for Shopify® and Timex®. It might work for you too.

Then there’s consonance and assonance, Dunkin’ Donuts® and YouTube® are so-called for good reason.

The list goes on, euphony (having a pleasant sound), cacophony (a harsh mixture of sounds), cadence (a rhythmic flow of sounds of words), a reference to science, nature, sport or culture, an ingredient, a slang, or a foreign word can all be considered.

Did you make a list?

As a professional wordsmith, you can do all this yourself, you don’t need a clever tool to do it for you but you’ve got better things to do, right? No? Oh, carry on then.

For the rest of you, I recommend a data-led approach. Let the client identify the framework and then work your magic within it. That way, you haven’t plucked the name out of a hat, or a thesaurus. It’s not a subjective choice. It’s data-driven and the client has provided the data. Who can argue with that? Certainly not the client. Bob’s your Aunt.

If you’d like to find out more, please get in touch. I’m always available for friendly advice.

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