Category Archives: Name Creation

Naming tips: number 58 in a series.

Study your competitor’s names.

This may sound obvious, but I’ve known many instances where it hasn’t been thought of, or has been give short shrift.

So why do it? Well, first, you want to know what NOT to do.

Do not use a name that’s like a competitor’s name. Now I know some short-sighted entrepreneurs who would want to come as close to a competitor’s name as the trademark laws would allow in hopes that their brand might “steal” some business from that competitor.

It seems like a sound strategy on paper, but it will diminish any chance you might have of long-range relationships with customers, particularly if those customers are thinking they are buying the older brand. This is a short-range, no-win tactic that handicaps your brand from the start.

In addition, a study of competitive names will give you some idea about the type of product category you’re dealing with. If most competitive names are descriptive, then you’re probably dealing with a conservative, unimaginative category that might be ready for a contrarian competitor.

An aside: why do most ad agencies name themselves after their founders?. That’s not a way to differentiate meaningfully, or to demonstrate an agency’s creativity. That’s why I named my agency Industrial Strength Advertising. 

The point is: try to be relevant with your offering and your market, but different from your competitors.

Martin Jelsema

Naming tips: number 57 in a series

If you’re going to make naming brands, products, companies, services, events, etc. part of your marketing communications arsenal, you’re probably something of a word connoisseur already.

So I probably don’t have to tell you that word games are both enjoyable and instructive. I’ve learned more about syntax, word structure, and linguistics every time a spent over lunch with my newspaper’s cryptogram, Jumble™ and crossword.

Now I’m not into New York Time crosswords – I do the simple ones. So the words I discover are actually usable in everyday conversations. Cryptograms are especially helpful in recognizing frequent combinations. And Jumbles get me putting letters together in “logical” sequences, even when I don’t know the words I’m searching for.

Day after day after day, if I’m eating alone, I’m doing word puzzles.

Not only does this enjoyable function help me invent new words/names, it brings me joy and satisfaction as well.

Martin Jelsema

Naming tips: Number 56 in a series

Here’s another opportunity for substitution.

Let’s assume you’ve generated a list of 100-150 words you might find descriptive or evocative of your project. Peruse this list looking fin the words beginning with “ex”, “on”, “an”, “in”, etc. – syllables beginning with vowel-consonant. Then just substitute another set of vowel-consonant combos.

An easy way to do this is to make a copy of the list, and in your word processor use the “find and replace” function.

For instance, find all instances of “in” and replace with “or”. One caution, if a word has more than one instance of “in” in it, you’ll probably have to change the second one back to an “in”. Like you might begin with “inning” and get back “ornorg”.

Just make another copy of the original for each iteration you want to try and save the results.

Martin Jelsema

Naming Tips: Number 55 in a series

I’ve been running a series within this series about creating coined words as brand name candidates.

Here’s another technique.

But this one doesn’t have a unique designation – until now.

I’ve not seen it discussed anywhere else so I guess I’ve got the right to name it. I’ll call this technique “consonant coupling”

Consonant coupling (not the same as doubling consonants like “tt” in “little”) is based on the fact that some consonant pairings routinely exist in language. For instance: “st”, “br”, “ph” are coupled consonants.

Anyway, if you have a list of appropriate words you’ve associated with the  offering you’re naming, scan the list looking for those that begin with “b”, “c”, “d”, “f”, “g”, “k”, “p”, “s”, “t”, ”w”, and are immediately followed by a vowel.

Now you can create new words by adding a second consonant that naturally couples with the first consonant. For instance, look what happens to “salt” when you add the second consonant: “shalt”, “skalt”, “smalt”, “snalt”, “spalt”, “stalt”, “swalt”.

You can also look for those words that begin with a consonant that is often the second letter of a consonant coupling and add an appropriate first consonant. Thus, “ring” can become “bring”, “cring”, “dring”, “fring”, “gring”, “kring”, “pring”, “tring” or “”wring”.

Inventions like these are rarely fruitful, but it only takes a minute or so to review your list in this manner, and you’ll never know when that one “AHA” pops up.

Martin Jelsema

Naming tips: Number 54 in a series

Continuing with descriptions of coined-word names, this post concerns alternatively-spelled words.

This may be the oldest form of coined word, going back to the origins of packaged goods. Uneeda biscuits comes to mind. They were founded in 1898 and were the first product of National Biscuit Company, A company that later become a coined-word name as well – Nabisco (clipped, then tacked).

Anyway, the idea is usually to phonetically spell a descriptive word or phrase. This may or may not be a good idea. If you’re “borrowing” another’s trademark by changing the spelling, it’s a bad idea. You may be violating that trademark. Usually, the courts base their decision upon whether consumers get confused.

And like many descriptive names, companies tend to outgrow them if they have an active product development program.

You’ve seen many an alternatively-spelled name, and often not even realize it. In parts of the country at least, there’s a pharmacy chain called “Rite-Aid”. You’ll see a lot of “Dunrite”s in any metro telephone directory.

I’ve dabbled in alternatively-spelled names, but so far no client has embraced one of my creations.

And I’m just as happy they haven’t.

It’s a “wimpy” technique for naming.

Martin Jelsema

Naming Tips – number 53 in a series

The last several posts in this series have addressed the often-strange world of coined name candidates. I’ll continue with that theme here.

Another type of coined word for brand name candidates is termed “combined words”.

Here, two words, probably with little previous association to build some tension, are just shoved together. The space between them has been eliminated.

Ideally, the letters that adjoin are vowel and consonant, because pronouncing and spelling names of this construction are usually easier. But you can use devices such as hyphens or a period. Also, you can set the two words apart by capitalizing the first letter of the second word, or by capitalizing, italicizing or bolding either the first or second word but not both. The most difficult of combined words are when the first word ends and the second word begins with a vowel. Even with t typographic “trick” these are still awkward.

Here are some examples of combined-word name candidates:


One source of ideas for combined-word brand names are the dictionaries of idioms, slang, clichés and phrases. I suspect you won’t find many ready-made names here, but they can spark ideas. You can go through them with two or three keywords in your mind and see how they might be substituted for one of the words of a listed phrase. When a combination “works” you have an association with the phrase and with your keyword.

For instance, I just opened Roget’s Thesaurus of Phrases to “paddy wagon”. If I were naming a new baby carriage, “Paddipram” came to mind.

Hope you’re enjoying this series. If so please let me know. Just click on “Comments” below.

Martin Jelsema

Descriptive brand names are dead-end names

Yesterday another company announced it had changed its name.

I’ve keep a tickler file of such announcements.

And yesterday’s announcement fits the most typical name change scenario.

Simply put, the company had outgrown its name.

Successful companies do that – if they originally opted for a descriptive name.

That’s the problem. In the beginning, the company wanted short-term identification with an industry or product category by adopting a name that described their business. They do this without thought to the company’s future.

The last name change I was involved in would have cost the company – a regional construction supply company – around $50-thousand. They opted to retain their name (_______________ Staple Company) because of the expense. Now their sales force must explain to prospects that they can also supply ______, ___________, and ______________ even thought the company’s name just indicates staples.

The solution is to not adopt a descriptive name. How could a company like Go-Daddy that began life selling domain names exclusively grow as rapidly as it has if their name had been ABC Domain Names, Inc.? The major players in hi-tech today are usually coined word names, suggestive names or arbitrary names.

Those types of names will require some getting used to by the company founders, and they will need to be promoted before they become household names.

The brand platform, or at least a naming brief, should be created before people start suggesting names for a start-up. With all the strategic concepts outlined in a brief, appropriate, non-descriptive name candidates are likely to flow. Opt for one that will grow with your company, no matter where that growth will come from.

Martin Jelsema

Naming tips – number 52 in a series

Continuing on methods to create coined word brand names, I’ll address tacking and clipping today.

Essentially, tacking means adding letters; clipping means subtracting them.

Tacking is different than adding a prefix or suffix, however. Usually it’s just a single letter that’s added so you get names like iPod, eTrade and BeanO. You could also tack on a new multi-letter syllable such as “aroo” to the back end of “Chef”, or “OK” to the front of “oak”.

Clipping just eliminates a letter or two from traditional spelling of a word to make it a unique name. Here are a couple of examples: BankServ and Orange Glo.

Next week: combining words.

Martin Jelsema