Top 10 Considerations When Naming


Plan first. Then double it

Always allow twice as long as you imagined for projects that include a naming component. Getting sign-off from key people can be a lengthy process. And that’s before proper legal checks. Always have a plan B waiting in the wings: from painful experience last-minute hurdles can really throw a spanner in the ointment…


Avoid biting the wax tadpole

Perhaps you’ve heard the famous story about Coca-Cola? When first translated into Chinese the name reportedly meant “Bite the wax tadpole” to Mandarin speakers. (You can see the real story here). While it’s impractical to check every one of the world’s estimated 6,500 spoken languages for undesirable meanings, it’s a smart move to shortlist and quickly check meanings in the main languages of the territories where you operate. Just in case.

In Australia and Japan Nissan’s Qashqai is sold as the Dualis, since the car manufacturer feared people might refer to it as “cash cow”.

Reduce dot-com-plications

While it’s great to own a dotcom web domain, the days of standard English words being freely available to register are long gone. My advice would be to avoid basing name decisions solely on whether you can have the dotcom – you may be letting a great name get away. However, if you’re naming an organisation I’d caveat this with making sure you at least check if a website already exists at the dot com address, and what the content is.

Speak and spell

People hate to make mistakes or ask for clarification. For the sake of clarity (and to avoid any missed opportunities) the most effective names are spelt exactly how they’re pronounced. For example: in Australia and Japan Nissan’s Qashqai is sold as the Dualis, since the car manufacturer feared people might refer to it as “cash cow”.

Make short work of naming

For your brand to compete in today’s mobile-first age, names have to work on today’s pocket- and wrist-sized device formats. And long names in logos can be unwieldy things for design teams to scale down. To combat this, aim to create new names using two syllables wherever possible; or three at the absolute most.

Never miss a trick

Scientific studies suggest that the human brain is exposed to approximately 105,000 words every day. You can cut through this cognitive bombardment, not to mention helping your marketing efforts, by using linguistic techniques to create new brand names that are easier to remember (or ‘stickier’ if you must). One technique is alliteration – starting multiple words with the same letters. Another you might try is using an internal rhyme to introduce a familiar pattern that trains the brain. Think of Lean Cuisine, Reese’s Pieces or Ronald McDonald.


Know the score

Once you have your initial shortlist of naming candidates you can use handy online resources, such as Rewind & Capture’s Brand Grader. It analyses activity such as trademark registrations around each name and use on social networks, rating its ‘strength’ with a final score out of 100. While it’s neither exhaustive nor fool proof, it does help you narrow down what can be a very long list…

Give it a reality check

Sadly, prospective names are often assessed by people looking at each candidate isolated in the middle of a white page (or worse still, listed together in a Word document) – techniques that mean even the most epic names lack life, and can see them rejected out of hand. Bear in mind that from day one no name will ever appear in a vacuum. So, whether you display it on a mug or Photoshop it onto the side of a blimp floating above your HQ, always try to put each name into some kind of context to help you weigh it up.

Be quick on the law

Using Google yourself to check for the most obvious clashes is a vital part of every naming project, but due diligence means getting an expert on the case. For organisations without an internal legal department, the skills of a highly-experienced trademark attorney are invaluable. A specialist can save you a lot of time (as well as helping you avoid a potential lawsuit).

Keep it under your hat

If a new name is one piece of some wider strategic activity, such as a product launch, or a merger or acquisition for example, it pays to keep it under wraps. At Future Positive we often use a placeholder such as [NewName] until we have final approval, to prevent people getting attached to names that later have to be retracted. On one project only 3 people within a company of 100,000 employees knew what we were proposing until it launched. Placeholders are always preferable to using code names, as people can get quite attached to these too!

To find out more about how we can help name your new venture, email the team at