Naming is hard

We need a name for our venture, and often naming is one of the harder things
By Bradford Toney
Published 2023-02-14
Updated 2023-02-15
4 min read

We need a name, and often this is one of the harder things. Sometimes you can start the project and the name comes to you later.

Brand Exercise

You may want to start off with just doing a naming exercise but i’ve never been that great at naming things and prefer to use a bottoms up approach in naming.

I like to start off with some basics that we will use all over our application and marketing. None of these are strictly necessary in the beginning but you will likely have to answer these questions as time goes on.

Definition: What is your brand? Are you uber for dogs? Maybe you’re making a cat social media site

Message architecture: This is a fancy way of asking what properties does the brand have. Does the brand feel rich? is it playful? is it approachable? When we craft our messages we will use this to speak to our audience.

  • For our project Cassie Finance we sat down and spent time imaginging what the brand emobodied. We are building a finance brand and as such we believed that we need to have a minimum level of trust so we started with that and kept going based on the beliefs we had.

    • Reliable: we work with numbers and we believe that they should be consistent and reliable. We want to alleviate any anxiety that you have by being reliable.
    • Approachable: our market is SMB’s which does not have the same
    • Customer-oriented

Mission: What is it that you plan to do? what truths will continue to hold true? When writing a mission statement you should be fairly broad and follow the values that your company will have.

  • Google’s mission: “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
  • The Walt Disney Company’s mission: “To be one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information, using its portfolio of brands to differentiate its content, services and consumer products.”

Elevator pitch: You call your mom on the phone and describe the project to her, how do you explain it? The elevator pitch is something that defines your business in 30-40 seconds tops.

  • Cleverly Google’s mission is also their pitch: “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
  • When I was at Medigram my pitch was: “Secure and compliant messaging for doctors and nurses.”

Tagline: A tagline is usually a snippet that is used in marketing copy, and is usually heavily refined so that it sticks in your brain.

  • BMW: “The ultimate driving machine.”

Naming exercise

It has not always been the easiest for me to name my brands and I have relied on more of a quantitative approach to this, in effect I will do the brand exercise and then think of terms that make sense around what I have written out. This process is then repeated over and over until I have found something that works for me.

Some resources that I have found helpful in the past are:

  • Startup Names: Paul Graham uses a specific set of categories and attributes to break down a bunch of brand names. This has been helpful for me as a litmus test where I create a name and run it through a set of criteria.
    • Evocativity: How evocative is this name? PG called his company ViaWeb evocative but maybe it was evocative in 1995.
    • Brevity: Is it short and sweet?
    • Greppability: Is this a substring of a common word? e.g.
    • Googlability: Is this unique enough to be found on google?
    • Pronounceability: What happens when someone tries to say it out loud?
    • Spellability: How do people spell it after hearing it? Something like flickr might be a bit hard for the user to spell.
    • Verbability: Can this be turned into a verb? The most famous example of this “can you google it”

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