A name can make or break your brand’s position


  • Method


Summer 2019

Naming a brand is like naming a baby. When everyone has an opinion, it’s hard to arrive at something that makes sense. Some babies have compelling names. Some babies have stupid names. There’s a reason for that.

We start a naming project by examining the project’s goals to determine what’s really driving the motivation for a naming exploration. Then we define the naming criteria to build early consensus around objective points of orientation. For example, avoid industry jargon or foreign words. No numbers, only letters. But don’t use a ‘W’ or ‘L’.

For Serif, we avoided real estate tropes and the property’s address. For At-bay, we wanted an approachable name that left behind the playfulness of the original name (CyberJack). Establishing criteria frames possibilities for a name.

“A name must stick in the mind as if it had already made sense prior to hearing it.”

Name inspiration is everywhere. Historical archives, foreign languages, iconic cultural figures, typography terminology (re: Serif). But words are just jumping off points. It’s our job to make what we select meaningful through storytelling and accommodating to the project goals and naming criteria. It’s how we landed on the name At-bay. When we thought about the true value of what the cyber insurance company offers customers—the confidence to take on tomorrow without fear—we were drawn to the phraseology of keeping threats at bay.

We’ve helped new and mature, established companies alike evaluate their existing names and naming conventions, as well as generate new product names, event names, and even conference room names. We use the same amount of consideration and rationale when recommending companies not change their name too. We leveraged both qualitative and quantitative research for Zenefits to validate risks and benefits of a name change, before ultimately recommending against one.

With AMS, we needed to make a recommendation on how the company could move away from their existing (and misrepresentative) nomenclature of “Advanced Microgrid Solutions.” Rather than force a new acronym using the same letters, we determined the AMS initialism held enough equity in the energy sector to succeed as a standalone name.

A name is often the brand’s first impression, and it should be a lasting one. A name must stick in the mind as if it had already made sense prior to hearing it. But even with all of the research, brainstorming, and storycrafting, we can never underestimate the power of the wildcard. Sometimes we throw a word on the wall that just feels right.

And if it breaks our rules, we’ll rewrite them.