One Great Name is Worth 100,000 Words


Your name is the brand asset that travels social spheres, appears in conversation, shows up on a package, signage and will likely be uttered from the lips of your CEO. How important is your name? Find something else this central to your brand strategy. Find something else that permeates everything you do. A name is so valuable, yet anyone can identify a word/phrase and register it with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Seems simple, doesn’t it?


If you’ve tried to name yourself, you know the pain of discovering your “brilliant” name is already registered. Then, you start compromising with names that are not memorable or relevant to the brand strategy you’ve defined because you’re getting desperate. After way too many hours and too much stress for what seems like such a simple task, you identify a name. Just before you sign the USPTO office paper work, you wonder: are there professionals who do this for a living? Heck, yes!


If you think naming is merely a process that starts with brainstorming words and ends with picking one and asking for legal clearance, you’ve not had a real naming experience. While pointing out all the pitfalls of doing it yourself would encompass many blog posts, we’ll start with the basics. Naming professionals use criteria to filter through the debris until they find the right name.

Here are the four ironclad criteria that naming professionals follow:

Memorable:How does your name stick with you in memory? Does it have good phonetic balance? Is it a concrete thing or conceptual? These are some of the things to consider when evaluating how memorable a candidate is. Be strict with yourself on this one because memorable, in the long term, is the most important of the three.

Protectable:It just so happens what your trademark attorney would like to see actually matches nicely with what makes a strong brand name. It should start by not being descriptive and strive to be suggestive. A better way to look at it is to consider describing your philosophy instead of describing your product. It will likely be more protectable and offer a better story to tell.


Identifiable:How does the name identify your service, product or company?  Think of your name as the first sentence of your brand story. What part of your

story does it start to tell? If you start with something that doesn’t fit the rest of the paragraph, you may cause confusion and find your name irrelevant to your essential audiences.


Sociable:How easy is your name to talk about with others? Does it start conversations or stop them? Generally, something overly descriptive stops conversation, while suggestive names start conversations by creating curiosity. Then, consider how the letters look together visually - do they create something interesting? Finally put it in context and assess its fit.

Yes, you can search through thousands of words and not find a name. The difference between hiring a professional and doing it yourself is simple: They’ve been through those words before and can get you to the right name, sooner and with less risk involved.

Start with a professional and you’ll find every penny you spend is worth 100,000.

Aaron Keller is a founding partner and the Managing Principal of Capsule. He is responsible for brand development, research planning, and naming for the firm's clients. Aaron has over fifteen years of consulting experience in the areas of marketing and corporate brand and retail strategy. He has written two books on the subjects of packaging and logo design, Design Matters: Logos and Design Matters: Packaging. Client experience includes 3M, Cargill, Caribou Coffee, Double Cross Vodka, Fisher-Price, HoMedics, Honeywell, Jack Daniel’s, Lund’s, Marks & Spencer, Northwest Airlines, Royal Caribbean International, Sally Hansen, Vodafone and Whirlpool.