Naming a Product or Company? It’s Not That Easy!

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The organization was spinning off from the parent company within a year to become its own corporation. A lot of work had to be done to in order to get ready to be an independent, publicly traded company, including naming.

The CEO called me into his office and said, “I’d like you to lead the effort to name the company.”

Wow! This was certainly an honour. But how do you name a company and where do you start?

While it may seem easy to come up with a company, or product, name I was about to find out how incredibly difficult and complicated this process can be.

The Naming Industry

Hundreds of thousands of new companies are started each and every year. And tens of thousands of new products are started each and every year. What do all of these new companies and new products have in common?

They all need a name!

Some of these names are simple. Companies are named after their founders. Or they may include references to the city or town in which they originated. Still others are just basic acronyms or they may be the initials of key individuals. And finally they may just be purely descriptive such as the ABC Paper Manufacturing Company.

But if you want your name to stand out and form the basis of an enduring and memorable brand you need a distinct name for your company and/or your products or services.

As such with hundreds of thousands of new names being created and used every year it becomes increasingly difficult to find new, unique and unused names. There is actually an industry of people who do nothing else but find and secure new product and company names for those in need. Who knew?

When the CEO assigned me the task of coming up with the new company name I didn’t know that I was about to enter the whole new world of product and company naming.

The Journey Begins!

My first thought was to ask all employees to submit their suggestions for names for the new company. It would help to get them engaged and ultimately invested in the new name.

At the same time I formed a focus group with representation from all functions and across all demographics. We went off site and spent a day in a computer-assisted decision making laboratory. By the end of that day we had agreed on ten values or characteristics that we wanted to see embodied in the name.

Within a couple of weeks I had received over 1500 names from all employees. That certainly sounded like a lot and I thought that there must certainly be a winning name in there.

In scanning the list I quickly filtered out names that were basic and simple. We wanted a unique name to fit with those values we had identified. I created a short list of about 15 names and decided to start the search process to see if any of those names were available and unused.

As a Canadian company the naming search began with a legal review of the availability of names in each of the 10 Canadian provinces and then federally. After that I would need to see if the names were available in each of the 50 United States and then federally in the U.S. And if a name passed that checkpoint then we would have it searched in all countries around the globe to test as to its availability.

I submitted 5 names into the search process to start. Within a few days one of the names failed the availability test in Canada. Within the next week after that the remaining 4 names failed the availability test somewhere in the U.S. Ugh!

I should make a point as well that all of this occurred long before the days of Google and simple internet search. Each name had to be searched somewhat manually in naming databases for every jurisdiction in which we sought clearance.

Back to the master list of suggested names. I picked another 10 potential names off the list. They all passed the search in Canada but 9 of the 10 names failed the search in the U.S. With 1 name outstanding we began the search outside of North America. Within another week that name failed as well.

Another few weeks had gone by. I was starting to realize how difficult finding a unique, unused company name was going to be. And time was not on my side. After the name was found there would still be a lot of time required to create a supporting logo, branding materials and the associated registrations and legal paperwork.

What had seemed like an exciting opportunity was now becoming a heavy weight on my shoulders.

I went back to the list of potential names and picked another 40 names off of the list. I put them all back in to the search process. A little more experienced now as to what names I expected would pass all of the names passed in Canada. And 15 of the names passed in the U.S. Now we had a chance. But over the next few weeks all of the remaining names failed somewhere else in the world.

Calling Out for Help

I was getting nowhere fast. I could continue this same approach but I was losing confidence that this was the way to approach this. With some research I learned that there were actually Naming consultants out there. I had no idea.

But it made sense. Given the enormous number of new names required every year there was actually an industry of consultants who provided these names. They understood that marketplace, the types of names that fit both what people wanted and what would be available.

Time was closing in. I called and engaged a Naming consultant. I took him through our process and explained what we were looking for. Undaunted and unphased he asked for a little time to come up with some suggestions. Within a couple of weeks he came back with a list of 15 names which he guaranteed would pass any search and would meet out needs.

Along with the CEO we looked at this list of 15 names and narrowed down the list to the top 3 that we liked the most.

We began the search process again. The results were coming in. All names were available in Canada and the U.S. And all were available in the rest of the world though one name had some slight conflicts. We finally had 2 viable contenders for the name of the new company.

With some more deliberation we pondered the final 2 names and eventually selected the once that would best represent the brand we were trying to create.

It was unique and distinct. It was a fluid name in that its meaning could adapt to any changes in products or services that the company offered in the future.

When we engaged the Marketing agency to create a complementary logo, font and branding campaign around the new name the process was complete.

We had an exciting new name to go along with the launch of this new corporation.

Naming in Conclusion

Naming a new company or a new product is not an easy task and should not be underestimated. Sure you can produce simple names but they will not likely stand the test of time if your goals are big and global. You need names that are distinct that will represent your brand for a long time to come.

Naming a project is a simpler process entirely. You don’t need to do external searches. The name is for your internal use only and is specific to a project. You can be quick and creative here for sure.

But if you are tasked with naming a new product or a new company you need to understand that this is not a simple or quick process. And to help you on your journey there are experts out there. Engage them early in your process.

Originally published on October 22, 2019.