🏆 Call Me By Your Name
Naming things doesn’t have to be scary.
My son’s name is Jack. But before he became the light of my life just 10 months ago, my partner was still on the fence about what the little one’s name would be.
See, I had a story in my head as to why Jack was the right idea and had been referring to him by the name for months. We had just moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, and I was working with a firm affiliated with one of the most iconic franchises in sports. If there was ever a name that was going to match the juju of the moment, it was Jackie. What a role model. A day after he was born it was on his birth certificate.
Fast forward to today, and when anyone sees or hears about my little boy they don’t think about Brooklyn or baseball or Dodger blue. They think of Jack and his incredible smile and infectious laughter. Jack defines his name — not the other way around.
Naming a brand, product, or service can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. And in most cases, it ultimately won’t be what people remember you for. Today, I’m sharing 3 simple rules to follow when naming things.
“But that’s a baby name,” you say — “of course you’re gonna like him no matter what!” Fine.
I don’t think this is a hot take, but here it goes: Dr. Bronner’s is not a particularly strong brand name.
I know this isn’t a hot take: Dr. Bronner’s has an incredibly strong brand.
Case in point: I don’t conjure up images of artisanal chocolate when I think of Dr. Bronner’s. I think a number of other things though:
And yet wouldn’t you know it, I found myself buying a Dr. Bronner’s Magic Chocolate Bar at the market the other day. That purchase decision had zero to do with my affinity for the name and everything to do with my trust in their company to deliver on some of those traits I identified (sidenote: the salted with whole almonds delivered big time).
Great names are great! You should always strive to create something that resonates with your customer, your mission, and frankly you. But that doesn’t mean you’re going to love it at first, nor will it be what ultimately defines you.
We’ve worked on a number of naming exercises at Robin, and oftentimes we hear the same line: “I’ll know it when I hear it.” That note puts the effort behind the eightball from the jump. The evaluation criteria is subjective and the task itself lacks structure.
Take the pressure off a little. There’s a better way to go about naming, and there are three simple rules to follow:
Come up with the right story that will allow you to generate ideas.
Time block how much time you have to iterate and deliberate.
Use wherever you land for at least two weeks.
1. Come up with a story to help you generate ideas.
If you’ve read past posts, you know that I dig using stories as the basis of a creative rubric. Good stories are repeatable and they put everyone on the same page. When all stakeholders are fishing from the same pond, they can evaluate the haul through the same lens.
Start with your brand story, and work from there. Are there historical references that tie back to it? Is your geographic location inspiring to your audience? Are you operating in a vertical that has interesting terminology that won’t make you come off like an imposter? Is the mission you’re driven by a source of inspiration? Any of these things can be the kernel of your narrative.
2. Time block the exercise.
Give yourself a deadline so there’s a forcing function to getting to step 3. That said, your block of time is free to use as you wish.
Don’t like what you catch on the first cast of the line? Change the water source. We were working on a naming exercise once where the story was rooted in mythology. Where everyone landed wasn’t great for an audience that wasn’t going to speak (let alone spell) Greek. We pivoted.
3. Use It.
This is potentially the most important part of the process. Whatever it is that you land on at the end of time, use that name for at least a couple of weeks. That means calling the product or service by it both internally and externally. Get your domains and social handles. If after some use it still doesn’t work for you, run the process back.
When Larry Page and Sergey Brin were coming up with a name for their fledgling search engine, they originally started by calling it BackRub, a reference to how their service surfaced results by analyzing the web’s back links.
After some time that wasn’t cutting it for the pair anymore, and so they went back to the well. A Stanford graduate student named Sean Anderson suggested “googolplex,” which Page riffed off of suggesting Googol — or the number 1 followed by 100 zeroes (a spicy amount of results). When they went to search for the URL availability they accidentally looked up “google.com” first...and went with it.
Whether they spelled the intended name correctly that day or not, their brand was not going to be defined by the result. So don’t wait for something to completely strike your fancy just right and start using something so you can work on what’s truly important — the substance behind it.
🏆Robin was just named one of Front Office Sports 2021 Best Employers in Sports. We need good people to join our growing LA-based team, and are hiring across communications, design, and marketing disciplines. Check out our open positions. If you know someone who could be a good fit, please pass the opportunity along!
🤝Let’s work together. If you would like to learn more about Robin, or want to talk about your brand’s marketing, communications, or product development initiatives, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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