What’s in a name?

We love a good naming project. Whether it’s judging new baby names or helping you decide what your brand should be called. Here’s how we do it.

What do we think: is making the comparison between a person’s business and a person’s baby getting old yet? Maybe. We’re certainly guilty of using it on occasion, but the similarities really are uncanny. A new business keeps you up at night. A new business can be messy. A new business is also your pride and joy – you can’t stop talking about it. You find ways to boast about every little thing the business did. Baby, business…basically the same thing.  

As marketers, we often find ourselves with other people’s babies in our hands. More than just in our hands our complete creative responsibility. People turn to us to take those babies their businesses and establish who they are or help determine their next big move. Often we’re even tasked with naming these businesses. They come to us with their awesome, often revolutionary idea, give us the story of how this idea came to be, and leave it to us to put a name to that idea.

How do we do it? It’s a process that takes time, one that’s often a fair mix of hits and misses. You know those scenes from murder mystery detective movies? The ones that take place in a well-lived in motel room that’s plastered with photos, maps, words, and a whole lot of red string? This scene is not unlike that of one of our naming brainstorms. Organized chaos. We start broad – considering any points of direction the client has given us. Throughout the process, there are many questions to ask. We ask the client if there’s any specific criteria for the name, who their audience is, what their goals are and if there’s anything we should avoid all together. We keep in mind that we need to ask ourselves how the name makes people feel and how we want it to make them feel. Taking these different things into consideration, we begin our work.

When we sat down for our first Lift & Co. naming brainstorm, we knew that they were looking for names that included ‘lift’ to maintain their brand recognition that they’ve earned, but that had either some sort of prefix, suffix, or compound word so as to not get confused with the popular ridesharing service. For this, we wrote out every possible prefix or suffix we could think of on a Post-It note and stuck each on either side of ‘lift’, to physically see what looked and sounded right. Eventually we suggested adding & Co. to represent connection, community, and collaboration – some of the company’s core values, as well as maintain the original name and its reputation.

We call out words that come to mind when we think of the client’s brand – from the obvious to the abstract. When an agency revolutionizing recruitment through diversity came to us looking for a name, the possibilities were endless. The team wasn’t married to any preconceived ideas or names, and were open to any recommendations we had, including completely made up words. We took the idea of going beyond barriers and thought of Camp 6. This refers to the different camps on Mount Everest. Camp 5 is the camp found at the world’s highest peak. If you’ve reached this peak, you’ve achieved greatness. While Camp 6 doesn’t exist on Everest, it inspires the idea that there’s a peak beyond the known summit and that there are new heights to reach, new excellence to be discovered, above and beyond what you and society are used to.

Naming brainstorms take us to places we’ve never paused our thoughts on before, introducing us to facts, industries, and terms we’ve never even heard of. We research the Latin root of any word that piques our interest, their etymology. We do the same exercise with words related to the industry, and words related to those words until we end up in a deep, self-dug Google hole, surrounded by things we never thought we’d ever know anything about, such as the name of the first dog in space or the Greek god of [insert buzzy agency word like innovation].

While this may sound like a haphazard approach, we do this deep dive to better grasp businesses and industries that we may have very little exposure to. We have to get up to speed, bring a fresh perspective to how a business owner has been thinking about what they do, and come up with a name that not only makes sense and has a good story, but that makes that business owner smile a goofy, parental smile of pride. That’s when you know it works.

How do you know if you’ve found the right name? Here’s a checklist of questions to consider and some thoughts to keep in mind throughout the entire naming process:

  • Does the name align with company’s vision/mission/values?
  • Is the name unique?
  • Does it achieve the goals set out by the client in the beginning?
  • Does it evoke the right feelings in the right people?
  • Is the name/URL available?
  • Are the social handles available?
  • Will the name work on any branded materials?