What’s in a name?

Naming is a strategic discipline of creating the most appropriate word or words that identify a company, product or service. Creating a memorable name, one that has legs with an audience, and one you can build equity in over time is a tough challenge indeed.

Anyone who has ever sat in a room writing ideas on a whiteboard will agree that creating an enduring name is far more difficult than it may seem–it’s also the least understood of all the business or marketing communication practices.

When we were going through our own process of  “naming” our firm, we hold tightly to our criteria of having our name be one syllable simple and highly evocative of the value we bring to our clients. PULL fit us perfectly in its simplicity and in its promise. We gave this matter our full attention and consideration. It was not a casual process. Our business name, like yours, is our most important business asset.

Ten common naming structures to guide your thinking.

What about developing names that identify organizations and brands with global reach? Creating words that transcend legal, language and cultural references gets even more challenging–not to mention the complex trademark and URL considerations that go with it. Naming is the most important element of a brand proposition. It’s the first perception by an audience about who you are and what you represent. Names should never be developed as an afterthought. A good name requires and deserves your full consideration.  If you are thinking about naming right now, you may find the following structures useful to your process. Of course, a naming and identity consultant might be handy in the process too… just a thought.

Real Words:
These are names that are simply re-purposed words. (e.g., Adobe, Amazon, Fox, Yelp, Saphire)

This category also includes misspelled words (e.g., Digg (dig), flickr (flicker)) and foreign words (e.g., Vox (Latin for ‘voice’).

These names consist of two words put together (e.g., Firefox, Facebook, LightScribe).

These names follow normal rules for combining words (but are not compounds) (e.g., MySpace, StumbleUpon).

Blended names have two parts, at least one of which can be recognized as a part of a real word (e.g., Netscape (net + landscape); Wikipedia (wiki + encyclopedia).

Tweaked Words:
Tweaked word names are derived from words that have been slightly changed in pronunciation and spelling – commonly derived from adding or replacing a letter (e.g., ebay, iTunes).

Affixed Words:
These are unique names that result from taking a real word and adding a suffix or prefix (e.g., Friendster, Omnidrive).

Made Up, Evocative or Obscure Origin Words
These names are generally short names that are either completely made up, or, since their origins are so obscure, they may as well have been made up (e.g., Bebo, Plaxo).

Puns are names that modify words/phrases to suggest a different meaning (e.g., Farecast (forecast, fore -> fare), Writely (rightly, right -> write).

People’s Names:
Using a general name or the name from a personal connection (e.g., Ning (a Chinese name), Wendy’s (founder Dave Thomas’ daughter’s nickname).

The least favored in our view. Names derived from the first letter of each word in the longer, more official name (e.g., AOL (America Online), FIM (Fox Interactive Media).