Creating a Brand Name People Love: Silk’s Naming Best Practices
A name can be a fickle thing. So many founders carefully tick every box in order to develop and launch something new into the world, yet they tend to bottle neck when it comes to naming.
“What are we going to name this thing?” ✅
“Ohhh, it doesn’t really matter, make up a name…” 🛑
“But what if it’s taken?” ✅
“Let’s just use my last name, or our last names…” 🛑
Not knowing where to begin is just one of the many dilemmas that brands face when trying to crack a good name.
A quick Google search for “how to name a brand”, “brand naming strategy” or “brand naming framework” will yield a thousand garden variety step-by-step articles on “digital marketing websites” that pass down age-old corporate-tinged wisdom. But often they don’t break down the creative process that’s required to pull out the authentic feeling and philosophy behind your brand.
Valuing a name is valuing imagination. And imagination is what makes businesses thrive.
A good name is the glue, the connective tissue that helps to fully form the idea of a brand in people’s memories. A name can tell a story and a name can evoke a feeling.
Make e-v-e-r-y letter count, the shorter it is — the better your brand’s chances of becoming iconic are. But of course, the double-edged sword of naming is that shorter can also be harder to own and pull off. Phonetics are incredibly important. How does the name roll off of the tongue? Try to imagine people saying the name in context of the offering: ie: “Have you tried ____ ? They taste delicious and totally help me fall asleep.” If your company provides a service, imagine the name becoming a verb, as so many of the most successful ones have. If your company sells products, try to imagine the name becoming so colloquial that its concrete meaning is replaced with a positive feeling or sense memory.
That’s one of the funniest things about creating a great name. Once it’s out in the world, 99% of the time, people don’t care about what the name actually means — they just accept it. They don’t ask why or ‘what’s the heritage?’… most of the time people simply accept the name for what it is and either remember it or don’t. It either becomes natural and rolls off of the tongue, or it doesn’t. We at Silk love divining meaning and translating it into feeling. That’s how we arrive at a name, but we appreciate and understand that it’s not the end all be all of what makes a name special.
Many entrepreneurs get stuck on naming and throw a hail mary in the 11th hour, and sometimes it works — more often it doesn’t, and they end up with a name that carries unnecessary baggage straight out of the gate.
Your name should embody an attitude and a feeling. Think of trying on a new shirt. The second your arm slides through the sleeve and it drapes over your body, you know…in that moment, without thinking, you know if it feels good or it doesn’t. That intuitive and organic feeling is something we seek to capture together in our naming process.
In any competitive market it’s important to stand out, and a name is a vital part of that differentiation. When we use our imagination, we must avoid fear at all costs — creativity is stifled when we fill a room with anxiety and self-consciousness. A good name is never born in fear or worry.
Silk will help you land on a name that fits like the perfect t-shirt.
It’s a 3-step process. Here’s how we frame it: First comes the Naming Workshop. This is where we dream, stimulate our imaginations, test our passions and anxieties, and exhaust many feelings, sights, sounds and associations. Then comes Naming Development, a unique and proprietary step of the process. It’s like alchemy. We take all of the stimulus we ceated together and synthesize it into 15–30 potential names. Then, we finish by Choosing a Name. It sounds simple, but there’s more to it. Together, we identify our favorite names, eventually choosing 3–5 options which we’ll vet for availability, ownability, storytelling power, visual and phonetic appeal.
It’s common to ask yourself: when I find the right name for my brand, how do I make sure it’s available, trademark ready and unique? We’ve got you covered there, too.
Here’s a detailed look at our process:
1. Naming Workshop
- We bring the main stakeholders together for a 2-hour naming workshop. This can be done remotely via video conference or in person — both yield great results.
- We encourage everyone involved to be in a room that has minimal distractions, natural light, some kind of comforting and or stimulating drink (coffee, tea). Light your favorite candle or incense. Turn off your phone, mute your notifications. It’s very important to be present and activate an open mind.
- We want all participants to embrace their most poetic and creative brain.
- We then invoke stream of consciousness in a 2-part process with light guardrails, gathering as much inspirational language and fodder as we can that relates to the telos of your brand. We share hundreds of words that embody the senses, representing the emotional and concrete essence of the business.
- By the end of the workshop most people are mentally exhausted. Anything that captures the brand’s vision is fair game. You can imagine how this would be draining. Occasionally, a stakeholder will be incredibly energized afterwards. We should start keeping track of the zodiac signs of those rare few…
- Here’s the kicker, we don’t determine a name at the end of the workshop. This was only step one; we developed a shared vocabulary, the core ingredients of the name(s) to come.
2. Naming Development
- This is the secret sauce, the part where Silk uses our expertise to synthesize the magic we unearthed in the Workshop phase. From there, we develop 15–30 unique names over the course of 10–15 business days.
- This is when we live inside of the lexicon that we identified in the Workshop. We often break up words with prefixes or suffixes, add adjectives to change the feel, study the heritage of certain objects or places, research variations of species, fully immersing ourselves in the lexical world that we developed with the client. At the same time, we’re exploring phonetic ideas, collaging with words — deconstructing vowels and consonants to build alternate spellings that both amplify the feel and create better chances at ownability from a domain, IP and social account perspective.
- At the end of this development phase, we deliver a presentation with 15–30 unique names replete with an explanation and rationale derived from our naming workshop.
3. Choosing a Name
- We recommend that our clients sit with the Naming Development presentation for at least 24 hours, share with their key stakeholders and trusted friends, pick 3–5 of their favorite names, and then we set up a call to discuss which names are the most viable.
- We do a light dive into which domains and social handles are available, and if we encounter any hurdles at this phase, we riff on the most-loved names to differentiate them and drive ownability.
- We work closely with a trademark lawyer that we often refer our clients to. They take about 5–7 days to do a comprehensive report. Depending on scale, not all clients need to dive straight into the trademark work, nevertheless it’s valuable to be thinking about it early. From start-to-finish, our trademark lawyer usually has brands in the clear within 2 weeks.
All in all, Silk’s naming process takes anywhere from 2–3 weeks, and we find it incredibly fruitful. Naming can be very subjective, but we’ve developed and practiced a collaborative method that reveals the essence of your business. Our method is generative and helps lead our clients to a brand name people love.
We allow the process to guide the client to a name that excites them and elicits the type of emotional connection they hope to evoke for their audience.
Silk is a rarity in the branding space. We make it possible to enter your marketplace with confidence and excitement.
Are you a founder in the early stages? A key player at a brand looking to rebuild and refresh? Want to set up a naming workshop? So do we! Drop us a line and we’ll put something on the calendar: firstname.lastname@example.org
In the meantime, visit our site to see a comprehensive list of all the companies and products we’ve named in the past: www.madewithsilk.com/naming.
Start with Silk.
Edited by Ryan Daniels