Naming practices companies often miss

This is a companion piece to this useful article right here.

From our decades of experience naming for companies from late stage startups to global tech giants, here are a few truths about naming that companies often forget about or overlook completely.

We usually think about “authenticity” as related to branding, but it  applies to naming too.

Think of your name(s) as the cherry on top of your ‘be real sundae’. Maybe you’ve already picked your amazing company name and are now launching a new product? Authenticity still matters. What do we mean by authenticity? Stay true to the brand. Don’t try to be too clever or too trendy with naming. Creative? Sure! Too cool for school? No. Your name should be relevant to your company’s mission, your brand culture and the product’s positioning. Be honest about what name makes you stand out without reeking of attention-grabbing or trying too hard.


Your name is just a name. It's not the entire brand.

Of course your name is important. It's essential to the brand. And also? It’s just a name. A name is only one piece of your ‘brand ecosystem.’ Keep in mind your name is one or two (maybe three?) words, not a Shakespearean play. It cannot, nor should you try to, communicate the kitchen sink of meaning. A classic rule of naming is that it can communicate one, maybe two, things. Decide what the #1 thing your name needs to say, and tell that story. 


When creating a new category for your brand, make sure your name plays along.

The original name for the product that would eventually come to be known as “thumb drive” or “flash drive” was derived from the technology called EEPROM (Electronically erasable programmable read-only memory). While we appreciate a descriptive naming approach (see here why descriptive naming is sometimes better than a fancy suggestive name), can you imagine what would have happened if they tried to name it a “Portable EEPROM mini hard drive”? It’s always important to consider whether your name is differentiated (although, sometimes the best strategy is to blend in).


Give yourself a naming roadmap for the long haul.

It’s important to have some kind of guiding principle for when you name. And if you have a brand/company with a lot of different brands and products to manage, this becomes even more critical. Brand guidelines are a start, but naming-specific guidelines are going to give you the specificity you need. If you have families of related products or brands to manage, then you’re dealing with naming architecture and nomenclature guidelines are also a must. Nomenclature guidelines help govern how names “fit together” – and how they support overall brand and business objectives. We see this time and again: companies that don’t have these roadmaps end up with siloed teams deciding on names that seem great when in a vacuum… but don’t make sense in the marketplace. Make sure you have someone paying attention to this. Like with branding, organizations mistakenly think the brand will "just get handled" by the marketing department, but this isn’t always the case.


Don’t underestimate the impact of (and on) culture.

Culture is the way your employees treat customers, how leadership treats their employees, how employees treat each other, and more. And it speaks just as loudly as a logo or tagline. Your name is successful when it helps build a relationship with your audience internally and externally by telling the right kind of story. It should be meaningful to the people in front of and behind the brand, rallying your employees in addition to your customers.


Final Thought.

Your naming practices and choices are successful when they reinforce your brand, product(s) and positioning in the marketplace. You want your naming to be consistent with the tone of your brand and the experience your customers can expect from you. Implementing the above will get you on the path. 

If you have questions or comments about any of the above, don’t hesitate to reach out. We love talking shop.

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