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, and by the time you’re finished, 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 it’s 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 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
Phrases 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 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 you 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 it’s 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, appropriate puns 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 phrases around a particular keyword. In choosing a phrase that is already commonly searched 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 potentially 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. They 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.