Put Away the Ouija Board: Follow this foolproof process for naming your new store or product

Katey Ferenzi

March 20, 2014

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Creating an original and unique business or product is tough, but coming up with the perfect name for it can prove just as challenging. Fortunately Victor Pineiro, Strategy Director at Big Spaceship, has a tried-and-true method for discovering the name of your dreams. Thanks to his talk “Startup, Product or Punk Band: How to Name Things” at SXSW, we have some tips and trick that will save you from aimless dictionary skimming, digging into the depths of the internet, waiting for something to appear in a vision or breaking out your ouija board. Alice Cooper may have had luck with ouija, but trust me, Pineiro’s process is far more reliable.

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There are tons of businesses with less-than-awesome names. So how do you find a good one? Also, what even makes for a good name? If you’re brand new to this idea of naming things, my suggestion is to work through this process from start to finish. By the end, you will have list of around 70 to 80 possible names to tinker with and several that are ready for a test drive.

1. Find related, analogous or similar words. A pretty simple place to start. Write down as many words as you can come up with, then pick the cream of the crop for the following steps. Here are some tools to help you come up with your word bubble:

  • WordNik: A “thesaurus on steroids” as Pineiro described. Simply type in a word that describes what you are trying to name (socks, car, music) and pick your favorites.
  • Urban Dictionary: You may not find a ton here, but it will certainly give you some really unique ideas.
  • Idiom Dictionary: Identify some fun idioms around specific keywords. This one is also really helpful with slogans once you have settled on a name, so keep that in mind.
  • Visual Thesaurus: A twist on the standard thesaurus, this one feels like a game.

2. Play with your words. Get clever and find other words to add to your ever-growing list of ideas. Don’t be afraid to include the bad ones, if you’re collaborating the bad ideas may spark a great idea in someone else.

  • NameSnack: This business name generator uses machine learning to help searchers discover thousands of possible names that are suitable for their niche or industry. This results are specific, relevant name options instead of generic and loosely related titles.
  • Pun Generator: Type words into the search and comb through hundreds of puns. It will give you some fun ideas as well as some good laughs.
  • WerdMerge: This one is great for an original product or service. Many entrepreneurs merge existing ideas together to form something new, so this is perfect for that situation.

3. Make sure it is super search friendly. Once you have your long list of names, pick your favorites and check their SEO to make sure they’ll get you found. A great tool for this is Ubbersuggest, which will help you take advantage of words that will help you gain traction and get found in search. To learn more, check out our post on choosing an SEO-friendly domain name for your business.

4. Check to see if it is already taken. This is where the heartbreak can begin. However, if you are completely in love with something that isn’t available, try playing with it a little to see if you can get it to work.

  • Trademarkia: This is not the one and only resource, but it’s a great start to making sure that your name is not already taken for a product or service.
  • Namechk: Check social handles and vanity URLs. Don’t forget to check domain names too.

5. Rinse and repeat. This process usually takes an hour or two, but everyone is a little different. And if it doesn’t work the first time, keep trying, making a few different decisions along the way to see if you end up in an entirely different direction.

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Your goal is to get a couple fully developed names you can take out for a night on the town. Show them off to your friends and let them meet your family. Ask them to give their honest opinion. Also, don’t forget to figure out why you like the name. Here are six questions to ask of yourself and your collaborators to make sure this one is going to stick with you until the end:

  • Is it too much of a tongue twister? This may sound basic, but so many names look good on paper yet they don’t work in the real world. Can you actually say it? Can you spell it? Will someone be able to type it correctly the first time they hear it? Did you know that misspellings will actually hurt you in getting your website found, especially as you are getting started in e-commerce? If you find yourself repeating it or apologizing for it, find something else.
  • Does it help explain what it is or what it does? This isn’t necessary, but having a tie between your name and what you do simplifies everything. Think about Facebook and PayPal, those names certainly helped explain the service when they were first starting out.
  • Is it a keeper or just a fling? Naming a company, product or service after a person, city or anything too specific may cause conflicts down the road. What if you want to shift gears, move the company to a new location or even sell the company? Google and Apple are great examples of this, you could probably do or sell anything under those names.
  • Can you verb it up? A “verbable” if you will. The brand name becomes the action you can take. Yelp, Diig and Vine are all used as verbs.
  • Can it be remi-i-i-xed? This is the icing on the cake. Remixing the name can be addicting to your client base. Think Twitter and Twitaholic, Twitalyzer, etc.
  • Are you going to get sick of it? Better yet would your friends wear it on a t-shirt? Don’t underestimate the importance of this step.

Again, don’t be afraid to start over and work through the process again if you don’t find the perfect match. It’s a big deal, so don’t settle. It’s worth the wait, and the process is much more productive than hitting the ouija board waiting for spiritual intervention. So take it for a spin and let us know what awesome names you come up with!