Shakespeare said a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet. But would Lady Gaga attract as much attention if she went with her birth name, Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta?  Or how about saying “BackRub it” when searching the internet?  BackRub was the search engine name that Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin ran on Stanford servers for more than a year before bursting the bandwidth at its seams.

Names hold energy, emotion, intrigue and should, of course, relate to your brand’s personality and mission.  Coming up with the right one can be difficult, but you should use a process (other than asking 50 people what they think sounds nice) and have a solid rationale.

My-name-is1-300x206The name “Google” isn’t just some funny word on which to hang clever sketches; it is based on a number, googol, which stands for one to the one hundredth power. Larry and Sergey’s mission was to organize a seemingly infinite amount of information on the web. That’s a huge number of zeroes to be corralled and cataloged – hence the relevance of the name they chose.


Developing a new name  is especially daunting if it’s a rebrand for an existing entity, like many hospitals have been forced to do as mergers and acquisitions take place more frequently. Last year, CaroMont Regional Medical Center (formerly Gaston Memorial Hospital) in Gastonia, North Carolina adopted the new slogan, “Cheat Death” as part of a renaming and bigger branding effort.  The slogan, however, did not cheat death; it was killed due to immense pressure inside and outside the organization. According to the Gaston Gazette, a Gaston County commissioner stated, “It was like they sat around and got hold of the drugs or something, and just came up with the worst possible wording.”


While brainstorming sessions for naming can be a blast, the discussions can spill into hours (even weeks) of deliberating and may not get you closer to your goal.  These seven tips, many from the minds at Fast Company, can help preserve some sanity while you play the name game.

1. LIMIT WHO YOU INVOLVE.  More is not necessarily better.  In a board room filled with 30 people you are sure to get 30 different opinions and unlimited names.  Keep the party small and include only the top stakeholders as well as your marketing strategists, whether they are part of your team or your agency.

2. PLAY WITH WORDS BASED ON YOUR COMPANY’S/ORGANIZATION’S MISSION AND VISION.  The name has to relate to who you are, not just sound pretty. For example, the name for the consultancy firm Accenture was derived from “accent on the future.” Succinctly describes there essence, doesn’t it?

3. CONSIDER HOW THE NAME DEFINES YOUR COMPANY OR PRODUCT. Brand names must be memorable enough to stand out in a crowd, a la Lady Gaga.  Maybe you’ve never heard of Yummy Tummy Koalas, but it’s easy to recall and you can probably guess that they’re tasty treats for kids down under.

4. USE A NAME TO TELL YOUR STORY.  Consider VISA.  You probably think of the credit card company, but visa also refers to a passport stamp that allows you to travel to faraway lands. A credit card opens a world of possibility and VISA has built on that with the slogan, “everywhere you want to be.”

5. DARE TO BE DIFFERENT. If your product or company is truly a maverick, consider defying convention, like W Hotels.  The name was conceived when most others had regal names such as Hilton, Hyatt and Radisson.  W wanted to convey a younger, hipper and more chic energy.

6. SAY IT OUT LOUD.  OFTEN. There’s nothing like verbalizing a name. What does it sound like when you utter it?  When you hear it?  Does it make you feel good?  Remember the hospital’s slogan, “cheat death.” Doesn’t exactly conjure warm feelings.  While they obviously had the best of intentions, it just rubs the wrong way.  Your name shouldn’t feel like an itchy sweater.

7. REMEMBER THAT EVERY NEW NAME SOUNDS WEIRD FOR A WHILE. Don’t expect that a certain name will suddenly cause the heavens to open, angels to sing and make you just know it’s right.  Names are unfamiliar for a while, but you have to give them time to grow on you.  If you’ve made the effort to stay on strategy and use best naming practices, that will surely happen.

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