Have you ever started a project without naming it, thinking the name of the actual thing will come during some stroke of brilliance in the course of developing it. Only to settle on the internal codename because you’re so sick of the thing by the time you’re finished, and said stroke of brilliance never happened? It’s frustrating. Unfortunately, the success or failure of a product can sometimes be determined entirely by a great name.
A great name is a cognitive shortcut, a way that people perceive the quality of one thing over another. Meaning someone doesn’t even need to try a product before deciding that its good or not. Terrifying. The same premise exists in digital – the name of a website, app, program or blog post will get more downloads, views or buys on a great name. Just ask yourself why so many people flocked to Instagram over Hipstamatic when both services, largely, did the same thing.
A great name is:
A quick test to see if your name is sticks is simply show a list of 10 potential names to your colleagues, wait 30 seconds and ask them to recall the ones they remember in order.
In one word a great name can deduce the creative idea of a product. Think “Kickstarter” – a crowdsourced funding platform to get ideas off the ground through funding.
Invites a new language
Phases like “just Google it” or “can I get two Jack and Cokes?” is a testament to the greatest of names, when brand names are used colloquially or as verbs, not just as to refer to the product.
It works across multiple platforms. What works as a blog name may sound off as a web series.
It needs to be able to work when things go out of fashion. Imagine you start an agency in 2007, where would be today with a name like ‘Flash Design Genius’, perhaps FDG & Partners?
The best way to go about naming something is to tackle it in three steps – brainstorm words, experiment with names, edit and check availability.
1) Brainstorm a big bunch of words
Create a word bubble of as many different words that relate to what the thing actually is. If its a music streaming service, then begin with music, song, sound, hymn and so on. There are great free tools to help with this. Wordnik reveals related, similar context and commonly tagged words; Urban Dictionary and Thesaurus provide more relaxed terms to the official dictionary; and Visual Thesaurus maps tangents and relevance of words to their original source.
2) Experiment with names
With 10 – 20 words experiment with how they can be used. Puns make great memorable names, and Pungenerator creates hundreds. So, thinking of our music example an appropriate pun might be: She & Hymn, .22 Song Rifle, Rock Turtle Soup, Over The Tune. Portmanteaus are the easiest way to a name that invites a new language by squishing two words together to make something new like, Rappetizer, Timbuktune and Pitchy. WerdMerge is unmatched for this. Another approach to a great name is sticking with something that is incredibly search friendly. Ubersuggest shows the most popular searched for phrases around a particular keyword. In choosing a phrase that is already commonly searched for ensures the product good organic search traffic. Again, using the music example some potential names could be Voicebunny, Moshcam or Pitchdrop.
3) Test it out
With a full list of potential great (and probably some awful) names the next step is to test the best of the bunch to see if they are free, remembering that great names are memorable, descriptive, transferrable and timeless. Nameckr is the tool to use for this. Which instantaneously scans the web to check the the availability of domain names, social handles and bookmarking sites.
These tactics are really handy outside of just naming things. The are handy for brainstorms, copyediting, social writing and anywhere else where words get stuck in the middle of good ideas. Try it out next time a placeholder name starts to rise as the real deal.
Amber Horsburgh is a Strategist at Brooklyn digital creative agency Big Spaceship. At the very minute she leads digital strategy for AXE and YouTube. She teaches Google Analytics and Digital Strategy at Skillshare.