Naming Names

A product or project name must be memorable and convey a sense of the brand, such as this whimsical beer label used as a reminder about IBEW Local 48’s centennial.What you name something is one of the most important steps marketers may take if a product, project or program is to be successful. A creative and memorable name is an important part of your brand identity. There are no hard rules about creating clever names, but here are a few guidelines to follow:

Be collaborative, part 1: Start with a small group and brainstorm ideas. It’s rare, but you actually may hit a grand slam right off the bat. If you are so lucky, test the name with a select few of the target audience. CFM was cooking when it came up with the concept for “Old Voltage Meter,” a commemorative ale celebrating the 100th anniversary of Local 48 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).

Be collaborative, part 2: Sometimes it helps to take your initial thoughts to a larger group. When managing communications for the Portland City Hall renovation project, CFM asked top PR professionals for public relations agencies and local governments to serve as volunteers in a focus group. The city was delighted with the outcome. The group came up with the phrase “ Historic Portland City Hall: Restoring the Heart of the City.”

Be visual: Words alone are not enough. Powerful images are a must. In the IBEW and city hall examples, the memorable phrases that were selected inspired wonderful visuals. A great name influenced the logo introducing a new neighborhood to Portlanders — “The Brewery Blocks: In Portland’s Pearl District” — and associating the exciting new project with the energy of the trendy urban community.

A few other tips: Other things to consider when conjuring up memorable names:

  • Good names are easy to remember. If a name doesn’t stick in your brain and convey a positive image, forget it.
  • Avoid acronyms. For example, TLAs (three letter acronyms) are hard to remember ­unless they are part of an established brand.
  • Wacky names may work, but they only go so far.
  • Shorter names are better than long ones.


“There are lots of criteria for picking good names, but in my opinion they all boil down to three things. Evocation, memorability, and relevance,” says designer Akira Morita, who has written an excellent blog listing his guidelines for selecting great names

Coming up with the right name is a vague and sometimes mysterious process, adds Morita.

“Often, this is a vague feeling (think about customers who want Nike shoes, iPhones, a Ferrari, or a keynote speech at their corporate-wide meeting by Bill Clinton, say). The name, and any subsequent marketing communication, should aid your prospect’s seeing these benefits for themselves, and not stand in the way of it,” he says. “Again, imagine Nike, as a young startup, saying to you: “Nike: sportsware and shoe company. like Adidas, but better.” Do you think you’d buy a pair of their shoes?”

Stuck on naming something? “Just do it.” Start by filling up the blank pages with any and all ideas. And have fun.