Naming is difficult! Finding that perfect company or rock band name; something to call your product or service; or a wonderful book title can take months. And if you choose to work with a naming agency, it can cost a ton of money.
Here are a few fundamental approaches that might help if you are in the process of working on a name.
Consider a mashup of two words or parts of words
I’ve had good success putting together several unrelated words or parts of words to create new word. This can be a great way to name something because there are billions of new names you can make up in this way.
One of my favorite examples of this naming strategy is the yogurt product line from Yoplait called GoGurt. Using “Go” instead of “Yo” makes a completely new and memorable name.
This is the way my daughter and co-author Reiko and I created the title of our book Fanocracy. We wanted to have the word “fan” in the title because the book is about fandom and how organizations can tap into fans. We looked at hundreds of combinations integrating the word “fan” into a new word over about six months and settled on “Fan” together with the suffix “-ocracy”.
From the Greek “kratos” for rule, “-ocracy”is used in popular culture as well as by academics, to mean government by a particular sort of people or according to a particular principle: Democracy, autocracy, and so on. A fanocracy is a culture where fans rule, and that’s what Reiko and I saw emerging in today’s world and what we wrote about in out book. We are moving into an era that prizes people over products.
Newsjacking is another example of this type of name, and it is now in the Oxford English dictionary. How amazing – a name you create could end up in the dictionary too!
“[mass noun; marketing] the practice of taking advantage of current events or news stories in such a way as to promote or advertise one's product or brand... Its contemporary iteration dates from the early twenty-first century, as first popularized by marketing and sales strategist David Meerman Scott…”
Some years ago, I was advising a company in the housing industry, and we were looking for a new company name. I was thinking of all the ways we could use the words “house” or “home” to come up with something new and memorable. I narrowed things down to the word “household” which I really liked and substituted “hold” for “bold”. Bingo! By changing just one letter, I invented a new word: “Housebold”.
Alas, the company chose not to go with that name. However, I liked the word Housebold so much that I registered the housebold.com URL. I figure that sooner or later somebody else will settle on this name and will want to buy the URL from me.
A critical but overlooked aspect of naming
One rarely discussed but very important aspect of creating a product name is choosing something that will be easy to find via search engines.
When people consider the name of a new company, product, book, rock band, or other entity that people want to find on the Web, they often forget this step. People typically go through a process of thinking up ideas, getting a sense of whether these names sound right, and then work with legal to determine if they can copyright or trademark the name.
Many people forget to add one more vital step: Run a Web search to see if anything comes up for your proposed name. I urge you to drop the name idea if there are lots of similarly named things—even if the competition for the name is in a different industry.
Your marketing goal should be that when someone enters the name of your company or book or band or product, the searcher immediately reaches information about it.
One of my favorite new bands is Burlington, VT based Swimmer. Great band, lousy name. The problem is they’re competing with tons of others for search engine real estate with the word "swimmer".
Before I agree to a book title, I make certain those names are not being used in any other way on the Web that will crowd out my book. I also make sure there is no other book on bookseller websites with the same title.
It is important for me to "own" my book titles on the search engines. When you search my titles like The New Rules of Marketing and PR, Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead and Fanocracy, it brings up my books or podcasts, reviews, articles, and discussions about them.
Don’t forget your own name!
Many people ask me why I use my middle name in my professional endeavors, and I’ve had people accuse me of being pretentious. OK, maybe I am a bit pretentious, but that’s not why I use my middle name — Meerman. The reason is simple: there are so many other David Scotts out there!
One David Scott walked on the moon as commander of Apollo 15. Another is a six-time Iron Man Triathlon Champion. Yet another is a U.S. Congressman from Georgia’s 13th district. Good company, all, but for clarity and search engine optimization purposes, I chose to be unique among my fellow David Scotts. More than twenty years ago I started using David Meerman Scott in my work and I'm glad I did. On Google I am unique.
The lesson here is that if you want to be found on the Web, you need a unique identity for yourself, your product, and your company. You can stand out from the crowd and rise to prominence on search engines.
As you are thinking of names to use for marketing, test them out on the search engines first and try to carve out something that you alone can own.