Name Your Company Or Product In 5 Easy Steps

By Lauren Teton     

Before she opened Heffalumps and Woozles children's clothing store in Ridgefield, CT, Tracey Baines, stopped walkers on the street near her new store site to ask which name from a short list they preferred. She might have chosen the name she did even if it did not win in her survey, because it pleased her, and sent the message she wanted to send. Do you have to name something -- your company, your new product, your newsletter, your goldfish? Here is a process in 5 easy steps that can help you come up with a great name.

If you want others to do your naming work for you, for almost no money, buy some decent wine, get some friends together, and see if you can foist this job off on them under the guise of a "fun get together". Or have a contest at your company with a nominal prize, with the winner receiving the "glory of having coined the new name." Chances are slim, but you could find a usable name these ways. Or hire a professional naming company (always the easiest and best way if it's in your budget, but I may be biased). And if you don't have the budget, or you don't have friends or employees you can cajole... you'll have to do it yourself. --Let's concentrate on naming a product here, just for simplicity.

You may ask, how important is a good name? Well, there are products with great names that don't succeed, and products with bad names that do. Just as there are anomalies in all walks of life. But why set out at a disadvantage when a good name can help you in so many ways by: jump starting your business, making your product memorable, fun, prestigious, interesting to the media, dignified, and more. And a bad one can hobble your chances while it eats up your advertising budget.

"What is a good name?" you might also ask. A great name is one you remember, like to say, and whose product you want to buy, from the first moment you hear about it. Frankly few names can accomplish all this. A good name is one you remember, and probably mutter "hey, that's a good name" and it may help you remember that you want to buy it. And a bad name is one that you and your colleagues ridicule, and it irritates you every time you hear it. You may remember it, but you probably wonder about the soundness of a product whose producers would choose such a tasteless, bad sounding, or otherwise ill-advised moniker.

Now how do you go about coming up with that good name? Do you know what you're naming? Of course you do. You have probably spent countless hours gestating this new "baby" of yours.

Step 1 .

Describe. Sit down, and explain it simply to someone who has no idea what it is. The process of talking about it is invaluable at distilling out the most important aspects of your product. Jot down a concise description, and use it as a framework.

Step 2.

Expand. Look at your description, and jot other words that come to mind and describe your product. Let's say you are naming a disposable wash cloth. You might note these words: soft, hygienic, inexpensive, practical, convenient. The longer the list, the more creative ammunition you will have. Now we start putting your right brain to work.

Step 3.

Create. Looking at your notes, play with the words. Combine words into created compound words or combine features of your product to create new (coined) words. These are extremely popular these days since most "natural" words are already taken. Use alliteration, rhyme, vowel harmony. Use the thesaurus to find underutilized words equivalent to the ones you've written. Write the names you create (neatly, no use if you can't read them later). Go for volume. Try to come up with 20, or 50 if you can. As Linus Pauling said, "The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas." If one of the names you have just created causes a little shiver down your spine, your instinct might be telling you it's a winner. At least that has happened to me.

Step 4.

Pick and Test. Find the 10 best names from your list. Then the top 5 from there. Make sure the "finalists" you choose please you. Don't "fall in love" with any one of them until you do a bit more work. Test each one. Enlist a market research company if you can, or just buttonhole people as Tracy Baines did. Is it easy to pronounce? How will it sound on the phone or radio? Will people be able to spell it after hearing it? Does it have bad connotations in other languages, or sound like anything unpleasant in English? Will you outgrow it? Is it so trendy that it will become passé? Not considering these questions carefully can be costly or devastating.

Step 5.

Trademark. Now comes the really hard part. That is ensuring that you can trademark the name. If you can trademark the name you can protect the goodwill your product builds in the marketplace and prevent customers from being misled by the use of confusingly similar names on products or services. And knowing the trademark status also keeps you from infringing on a previous owner of that name. You can hire professionals to conduct a search. Terrence J. McAllister, attorney at Ohlandt, Greeley, Ruggiero & Perle in Stamford says "our job as lawyers is to give our advice and opinion as to whether the name is protectable and won't infringe upon the rights of another party." Or you can try it yourself. The book Trademark: How to Name a Business & Product by Kate McGrath & Stephen Elias with Sarah Shena, published by Nolo Press Berkeley, explains simply how to conduct your own trademark search.

Now you have chosen a good name, done some market testing, and checked the trademark status. You can breathe a sigh of relief and pop the champagne!


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Title: Name you company or produuct in 5 easy steps
Author: Lauren Teton
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