How would you feel about eating at a Chicken Restaurant called ‘Sam & Ella’s”?
Or buying your propane from “Passmore Gas”?
Or having work done at your home by Sam, Todd, and Daryll Contractors, (yep, they used the acronym ‘S.T.D.’)
In this case, a rose by any other name would smell FAR sweeter.
I have contributed to naming businesses, products, and brands for 20 + years.
Sadly, there are very few names that I care to shout from the roof-tops, (or even remember). If only every client was as receptive as Kodak in the Mad Men episode, The Carousel.
In 2023 there is endless chatter about the heightened importance of standing out.
The marketplace is noisy. Everything is noisy! There is no room for blasé if you want to be memorable, (and that ought to be every brand’s baseline, right?) A recent study found that people form judgments about a company within 90 seconds of first interacting with it, and 62-90% of that assessment is based on the name alone. That's a lot of pressure on a name!
If you google ‘how to name my business’ you will likely come up with a bunch of outdated advice. “Make sure it indicates your category or service”, and “choose something that's straightforward and descriptive, like ‘Will’s Plumbing’ or ‘Ivy’s Flower Shop.’”
Flip that conventional ‘wisdom’ on its head.
Take, for example, a new favorite of mine: Liquid Death, a brand of canned water that's marketed towards a younger, more rebellious demographic. The name is honestly ridiculous: edgy, attention-grabbing, and plays on the idea of death being more appealing than drinking plain old water. (While having the compelling competitive edge of using sustainable packaging).
It's certainly not a name that's going to appeal to everyone, but that's exactly the point — it's specifically targeted toward a particular group of people who are looking for something different.
Another example is the biz of my friend, Ryan Smolkin: Smokes Poutinerie, (poutine is a Canadian culinary phenomenon: fries topped with cheese curds and gravy for the woefully uninitiated).
Why does this name work?
Firstly — it sounds good. Some words roll off the tongue and are simply fun to say. (The term for this is ‘phonaesthetics’: why some words sound beautiful)
Secondly — Ryan and his team coined a word: adding ‘erie’ to the well-known noun ‘Poutine’.
The gold-standard combination of the familiar and the weird.
Finally, another brand and name favorite: Drunk Elephant a skincare brand that's exploded in popularity in recent years. The name is unquestionably attention-grabbing — we can all picture the lunacy of a drunk elephant.
The fact that the name is rooted in the myth that when elephants eat the fruit that has fallen from marula trees (they do), the natural alcohol content from the fermented marula fruit then gets the elephants drunk (it doesn’t).
It's a name that's unconventional and memorable, but it also has a deeper meaning that's tied to the brand's values of natural ingredients, (mmmm… marula fruit).
So, how can you come up with a name that rivals these beauties?
A Hundred Monkeys is a California naming company that is the best in the biz. (Completely unsponsored BTW, I am just a fan).
They have an impressive track record of coming up with edgy, attention-grabbing names that launch businesses to stand out from the crowd. So if you're feeling stuck, it might be worth considering enlisting the help of these professionals to come up with a name that truly captures the spirit of your business.
Some suggestions + exercises that they recommend for brand-naming inspiration:
Out of touch: How would you explain what you're doing to a 5-year-old? How about an 85-year-old? Pro tip: keep it simple. Avoid any jargon. This is explanation without assumption.
None other: If your brand were a person, what would their name be?
Same but different: Run a Google search for your potential names alongside a keyword or two that makes sense for your industry. Is there anyone actively using that same name or something similar in the same space? If so, light of votive and cry for your loss, and then quickly get over it. You were better than that name anyway. (haha).
The winding road: Free associate on a theme. ie: flotation: full up, on warm air, inflate, puff,y stay afloat, above the tide, save our ship.
Death before Focus Groups: Do not focus group your potential names. The same goes for online polls. Adding more opinions make subjective work like naming so much more difficult.
Not dissimilar from naming a child, (ok, ok, maybe an exaggeration), naming your brand, product or business deserves a lot of thought.
Best case scenario: you become a raging success and your name is splashed across industry publications and is constantly on the lips of your customers.
Be different from your competitors.
Be confident in stating your uniqueness.