Recently I was involved in a conversation set out to rename a company. As names were tossed into the ring and opinions of like and dislike were becoming more and more vocal, it made me stop and think -- “What is really in a name?”
Whether it’s naming a company or a product, there is this need to come up with the “perfect” name. So I started to research how many of the prominent brands got their name. Of course, the first I picked was Apple (no pun intended). Interestingly, in one quick search I was pointed towards several stories - everything from Steve Jobs having a summer job on an apple farm to a story about it being a last minute suggestion because they were hours from launch and had no name. So I would ask, have you ever looked at Apple as a company and said, “boy that name really doesn’t express their business”. Of course not -- the name is only a piece of the exercise.
So of course this led me to hours of reading and lots of smiles to see that so many of the names out there were picked for reasons far removed from the business but made sense to the founders at the time. Clearly I am not alone in this interest, as I found dozens of postings. The most valuable one was of course Wikipedia. It has a List of Company Name Etymologies and there you can study almost any company you can think of.
I am not knocking the naming process. In fact, I have been involved in this exercise several time and the energy that comes from finding the “perfect” name cannot be underestimated. More recently I worked on a naming exercise with Stokefire and found the entire process to be very exciting. They approached it from a branding perspective, which is really what the naming exercise should be about.
So what would be my advice during the naming process? Three simple rules:
1) Pick a name that you can stand behind. Have a reason for the name that makes sense. As my colleague Daniel Kraft mentioned in his recent post, explore the WHY. It doesn’t need to make sense in the context of the company or product but there should be a reason (a thought process) behind the name that can be explained.
2) Think global. Regardless of how broad your market reach is, plan for a global audience. Don’t set yourself up to be the next example in a globalization story. We’ve all heard about the Chevy Nova, right?
3) It’s not about the name, it’s about the brand you build. Remember you are building a brand not a name. This is probably the most important. If you build the brand successfully, the name will be a success as well.
I would love to hear any naming advice that you have, or perhaps you’re now just a bit curious how we came up with ifridge.