5 Questions to Ask Before You Commit to a Name

A great local name we love ... In case you can't guess what they do: www.alphaloft.org

A local name we love … In case you can’t guess what they do: www.alphaloft.org

5 Questions to Ask Before You Commit to a Name

Like almost nothing else, coming up with the right name can give your company or product a real boost. As anyone who has tried it knows, however, it’s really hard to do well.

That’s why big brands pay naming companies upwards of $100K to do the job for them. Naming is a piece of what we do at The Hired Pens, but there are actually agencies out there that do nothing but naming projects. Which just speaks to how important a name is.

But even if you can pay big-time money, there’s still no guarantee you’ll get a winner. We all know about the Chevy Nova, which sold poorly in Spanish-speaking countries because its name literally translates to “doesn’t go.”

If only there were some sort of handy checklist you could run potential names through to see if you had a winner … Oh wait, here we go!

1. How does it look? 

Picture the name in a press release, in an ad, on a billboard. Imagine saying the name out loud to someone at a cocktail party. How does it make you feel? Proud or vaguely apologetic?

2. Can you “own” it?

Before you get too far into the evaluation process, make sure you can actually use the name — or names — you’ve fallen in love with. If there is someone in your space, even tangentially, using the same name (or a very close variation), you’re probably out of luck. Find this out before you get too attached to anything. A simple Google search will quickly show you which names to cross off your list. (Steel yourself: It will probably include your favorites.) You can also conduct a free search on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website.

3. Is it distinct and memorable … but easy to say and spell? 

While you want to stand out from the competition, inserting a lot of extra vowels or accent marks into a name isn’t the solution. Ideally, your name should feel original, but also be easy to remember (and spell correctly) when your potential customer is trying to find you online.

4. Does it work with your brand positioning? 

Don’t know what brand positioning is and don’t want to read some long explanation? Here’s another way to think about it: Does the name match with the personality of your business? For example, if you run a small organic yogurt company, then a name like the International Yogurt Corporation would probably be a bad choice.

5. Will it be lost, or worse, offend people in translation? 

We’re talking to you, Chevy Nova. If you’re going global, check the most common languages to confirm you’re good.

Final thoughts: the gut check
Sometimes a name gets perfect 10s in all of your categories, but there’s something that just doesn’t sit right with you. Don’t immediately rule the name out. However, you should get a little Zen here and sit with those feelings. If they don’t go away, then move on. Don’t settle. There are plenty of other names in the sea.

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