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What’s in a name?

NameOver the past 12 of my 35 years in design, I accidentally fell into another skill set when my then design and marketing firm was hired to brand a new orthopedic center. At that time, being hired to name a company was new to us, but seemed a natural component of the full branding exercise and we quickly became adept at it, naming and branding several large projects in our region.

Although challenging then and now, it was somewhat easier back then because the Domain Monster Gobblers had not greedily scooped up every possibility. And in the Big Connected Universe of today, try to come up with an interesting and great name and 90% of the time—if it really is great—it’s taken.

So, if you are going to jump into this process, here are some tips. First off, be aware that any name you come up with will most likely not be liked by everyone. This goes under the category of “change is hard.” Regardless of the fact that a company has hired you, paid you a large sum of money and engaged in the process, not everyone will be happy. This is especially true of groups and committees.  If you’re thin-skinned, you might want to avoid naming. Re-naming is even harder because people get very attached emotionally to names, and the past reasons for original names.

Be sure to decide who and how many people will be involved in the final decision. Committees… need I say more? If you are working with a committee, consensus is in theory a sweet idea, but in my experience it is code for watering ideas down and distilling their inherent value to muck. It’s better to use a voting process. And, just be sure to get an agreement in your contract that spells out who the final decision makers, and charge accordingly.

Working with committees is another story for another article.

Be sure your client has a lawyer and understands that the trademark process is in their court. We use a legal trademark service initially to also vet names, so we are relatively confident that the name is not taken by a similar business and can be trademarked. But, we don’t guarantee this until a lawyer actually does a final search and okays the name.

Create a brief for the client to review, and get feedback from all the stakeholders. Make sure there are no “Sacred Cows.” The vetting criteria you come up with for naming (which is proprietary) is the most critical navigation tool you’ll need to be sure your name is viable. Typically we vet 80-100 names through our criteria in the first round.

Be sure the domains are available (actually one of the top vetting criteria). Once you have traction on a name, it is important to secure as many of the domains, with your client’s permission of course. My experience is once you start searching, again, the monsters swoop in.

Of course this is an extensive and much deeper process than what I have shared, which is also why it is important to build in enough time for this process to properly and thoroughly unfold. A naming process takes as much time as the logo aspect of the branding, and therefor requires sufficient compensation. Don’t underestimate the power and value of a great name—and the amount of time that goes into it to get there.

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Flagstaff Graphic Design and Branding for Web and Print