Category Archives: Name Creation

Naming Tips – Number 32 in a Series

Continuing with evaluation techniques, here are the general criteria I use to judge names:

  • Is it meaningful?
    Is it unique?
    Is it relevant?
    Does it suggest a benefit?
    Is it memorable?
    Is it appropriate?
    Does it elicit a positive emotion?
    Is it easily pronounceable?
    Is it descriptive?
    Is it in good taste?
    Is it short enough?
    Will it “have legs” over time?
    Does it appeal to all stakeholders?

Now I may assign different weights to different criteria depending upon the entity being named, the product category in which it resides and the perceived desires of target market participants. The scale is usually a 1 to 5 semantic differential scale with five being “absolutely essential” and one as “not at all important”.

Once the weights are applied for each criterion, I rate each name candidate against each. Again, I use a semantic differential scale, five being “absolutely meets this criterion” and one being “absolutely does not meet this criterion”. I multiple each candidate’s score for a particular criterion by the weight I’ve assigned to it. Then I add up the resulting individual scores for each candidate.

Now this is a “scientific” approach to evaluation. For me it’s just a guideline.

There are times I’ll recommend a name that isn’t one of the five highest scoring simply because I’ve created one or two “out-of-the-box” candidates that defy scoring but just “seem right”.

Anyway, if you’re looking for a way to winnow down a list of quality candidates, this approach can be helpful.

Martin Jelsema

Naming Tips – Number 31 in a Series

Continuing in the brand name evaluation process, Metaphor Naming Consultants  suggests the following five questions be asked about any name candidate whether it be for naming a product, service or company.

  • Is it appropriate and credible?
  • Is it appealing – pleasing to the ear and the eye?
  • Is it distinctive and unique among competitors?
  • Is it unambiguous – easy to spell and pronounce?
  • Is it available – can you legally own it?

Certainly these criteria can and should be applied to any name. You may add a criteria or two based on your particular market and/or offering , but as a general evaluation measure, these five criteria are essential.

But if you’re after a GREAT name, Metaphor suggests the following criteria be added to the evaluation process:

1. Does the name speak to the target audience? Does it address market needs/expectations?

2. Does the name illuminate the company/product positioning? Does it advance marketing objectives?

3. Does the name evoke a unique character/personality? Does it provide the cornerstone for brand development?

4. Does the name communicate key benefits (not features) to ensure longevity?

5. Does the name inspire promotional/advertising campaigns? Does it generate market interest?

Now these are difficult criteria to measure. You’ll argue among your team about certain candidates meeting them. But by asking the questions, you’ll easily eliminate many good-sounding but irrelevant candidates and discover an elite list of potential winners. They also provide a filter to reduce the reliance on emotional name selection.

As with other selection criteria, you may want to weight each in importance for your particular naming project. And in the end, you may even have to sacrifice one or two significant criteria because of a candidate’s strength in others.

Best of luck.

Martin Jelsema


Make it simple to refer a brand

I’ve quoted Scott Degraffenreids’s book, Embracing the N.U.D.E. Model: The New Art and Science of Referral Marketing, as it pertains to branding.

One of his basic assumptions is that people refer products and services to their friends and acquaintances in order to look good in the eyes of the referee. Referrers like to be thought of as experts and purveyors of inside information.

So if I were to set as a goal for my brand that it enable people to refer others to it, I’d make it as simple as possible to do so.

I’d first look to the name of the product or service. First, it must be memorable. People won’t refer a product without naming it.

Second, and the real subject of this blog entry, people must be able to pronounce the name.

Both of these tenets seem obvious, but look what a recently introduced prescription drug did.

They named their product AcipHex. Their commercial voice-over pronounces the word as if spelled “acifex”, using the “ph” as a voiced aspirate (according to my old copy of the American Heritage Dictionary). In other words, “ph” sounds like “f”. But look at the way they present the pH. They’ve done that to be “creative” since the pharmaceutical addresses acid indigestion. So it starts with “acid”, adopts the measurement for acidity (pH) and ends in the ever-popular “ex”.

But I have a difficult time pronouncing the word while looking at how it’s spelled. I want to pronounce it “acip-Hex” not “aci-phex”.

I think they’ve given up a lot of referral opportunities because of the name. People unsure of the product’s pronunciation are more likely to remain silent than to risk looking like they don’t know what they’re talking about.

The answer, beginning with the name, is to use brand elements that are simple, memorable and clear.

Combine that piece of advice with Scott’s N.U.D.E. Model (standing for a product or service that is Novel, Utilitarian, Dependable and Economic) and your chances for referrals will increase considerably.

Martin Jelsema


Naming Tips – Number 30 in a Series

As promised, I’m setting down criteria for naming companies and brands in a sub-series within the Naming Tips Series.

This time I’m displaying the criteria for naming small businesses as proposed by Bill Gallagher, writing for Guerrilla Marketing.

Here are his “Seven Secrets to Great Business Names”.

1. Make sure the name tells what you do
2. Make your name expandable (timeless)
3. Avoid name trends
4. Make it an easy name (to pronounce, to spell, to remember)
5. Make it clear (see 1.)
6. Make it define or pre-empt you market niche
7. Make it easy to find in directories (if appropriate)

Now remember Mr. Gallagher is writing for small businesses that are looking to minimize their marketing expenses and still get a good ROI for their dollar.

Because of that, I can excuse his first and his sixth criteria.

Generally, I would look beyond a name that describes what you do or defines your market niche. Not only is that limiting, it really makes it difficult to differentiate your business if you confine yourself to business/niche descriptors. You’ll run into conflicts and names that sound very much like the one you select. Customers won’t make the subtle distinctions. And as we all know, confused prospects won’t become customers.

But I will make an exception for small businesses with limited markets, both geographic and functional markets. If your targets are small enough (and will only be those markets in the future) you can probably get away with it.

I would, however, be more comfortable replacing number 1) with “Make sure the name conveys your business personality”, and number 6) with “Make it reflect the major differentiator for your business”.

Now I have criteria that will enable my company to grow larger and prosper without having a restrictive or banal name.

The other criteria I can embrace without reservation.

Martin Jelsema

Naming Tips – Number 29 in a Series

It seems every naming company or branding guru has set down their criteria for naming a product or naming a company.

I’m an advocate of establishing a set of criteria based upon the specifics of the naming project as defined within a Naming Brief document.

The brief contains the creative direction all involved in the naming process should have up front. The criteria (the last chapter of the brief) should be thoroughly studied along with product characteristics, competitive postures, stakeholder perceptions and other subjects included in the brief.

I think it is necessary prior to beginning the naming process, even though some will say I’m limiting the creative process by imposing criteria too soon.

My experience is that criteria and direction focuses people but doesn’t limit their ability to be creative. (I’ve blogged before that successful brainstorming is based on the participants being well-briefed prior to setting down for a session.)

So, over the next several blogs in this series I’ll discuss some sets of criteria other naming pros espouse. I suggest these as guidelines from which you can build your own set of criteria specifically for your next naming project.

I’m starting with the list published on the Strategic Name Development website. Specifically, this list is meant to evaluate how well a name sounds in an International context. Here are their words:

From phonemes to fricatives — what makes a great sounding name?

* easy to pronounce;
* short, preferably three or fewer syllables;
* well-balanced where vowels and consonants alternate evenly throughout;
* resonate and whether achieved through alliteration, haplology or poetics, when a great name sounds right, you just know it; and
* often imply speed and dominance; so when naming a business, keep in mind that some of the greatest brands (Barbie, Pepsi, Boeing, Procter & Gamble) begin with one of seven all-powerful consonants — B, C, D, G, K, P or T.

I certainly won’t quarrel with these criteria. The list certainly pinpoints several well-documented attributes of good naming practices. So I’d keep them in mind and used them as appropriate. But I’d also broaden my criteria. The sound is absolutely important but so are other criteria I’ll cover in subsequent blogs.

Martin Jelsema

Naming Tips – Number 28 in a Series

Brand naming resources abound on the internet.

Here are two I’ve used with some success even though they aren’t exclusively created for naming companies or products.

The first is an authority site concerned with the creative process. It’s called GoCreate.Com. It provides links to creative systems, software, techniques, and other resources promoting and aiding creative thought and action. Two resources you’ll find listed on the home page are specifically helpful directories of resources:

* Creativity Toolbox at
* Head Shed at

In the Creativity Toolbox you’ll find several relevant naming resources, including Brainline where you can ask others to help you  in an on-line branstorming session, Naming Prompts which stimulates lateral thinking through slightly off-beat questioning, and the Rhyme Zone where you enter a word and ask for rhyming words or synonyms or more sophisticated searches like matching consonants only.

Head Shed contains most of the same resources as Creativity Toolbox, but you may find some different nougats there of interest for your particular naming project, or for other creative explorations.

The second resource is word-oriented. It’s called Lexical FreeNet. It proclaims to be a “connected thesaurus”. You type in a couple of words and select whether you want the online program to generate relationships, connections, intersections, etc. The most meaningful I’ve found is asking for a “Substring” which “finds words that contain the first as a substring”—i.e., variations on the theme. There’s a lot of power in the programeven though most is not applicable to naming. However, if you’re fascinated by words and their relationships, you’ll find this site satisfying.

Naming Tips – Number 27 in a Series

Let Google find you some brand name candidates.

It’s such a powerful search tool that there are several ways you can generate name candidates. Some produce lists and some point you to specific resources.

First, if you use the Google Toolbar on Internet Explorer, Google presents a  roll-down menu of “suggestions” once you’ve typed in a keyword. For instance, here’s the suggestion list it produced when I typed in “sun”:

Sunday Times
Sun Belt
Sun Java
sun up
Suntrust Bank

The beauty of this tip is it’s already a step you’d take anyway for the next tip.
Find glossaries on web sites by typing in a phrase or keyword and affix “+glossary” after the word in the Google search box. You can do this with product categories, industries, markets, professions, crafts, as well as descriptive keywords. Here’s what happened when searching “sun+glossary”

The Daily Sun Glossary of Solar Terms
Sun Expert Answers | You have Sun questions. We have answers
Basic Sun Glossary
SunGloss Help- Search and Export

Those are all from page 1, and there were over ten pages. Granted, all of them won’t be relevant, but five from ten first-page “hits” works for me.

Also, by using your keyword with “+synonyms” you can get entries like those below. There were 166 entries.

Sun – Synonyms for Sun from Bibliodata
Sun quotes & quotations
Definition of Shade
sun – Synonyms from

Perhaps you’ll learn some new terminology you can use in promotional copy as well.

Martin Jelsema


Naming Tips: Number 25 in a Series

A metropolitan library is still a great resource. Here are just two ways I’ve used my regional library to local brand name candidates and ideas that spur my creative juices.

I look for reference books, text books and industry reports that contain valuable information about the markets they address Within those documents you might find glossaries of terms, one or two of which may trigger name candidates. Also, scan the indexes for terms and characteristics that might lead to naming ideas.

Also, a resource I find stimulating and fruitful in the business reference section of larger libraries are the twin volumes by Gale Research: Brands and Their Companies and Companies and Their Brands. In Volume 1, all registered and active U.S. trademarks of brands are listed alphabetically with references to their owners. The second volume lists companies alphabetically and then the brands each owns.

There are two ways to use this naming gold mine. First, because most trademarks are only registered for one or two trademark categories, it is entirely possible that you could claim one or more from the list if the trademark owner isn’t a competitor.

Second, both volumes provide a swarm of naming ideas. By scanning and picking word parts, prefixes, suffixes and formats you find appropriate, you can generate new word lists you can combine with words you’ve generated from other sources to increase the quantity of naming candidates.