The Name of the Game

If I had a nickel for every time we got excited about a new naming project, I would have a lot of nickels. If I had a nickel for every time a naming project was more complicated than our clients expected, I would have really a lot of nickels.

Naming things –while creative and exciting and fun—is tricky business. Consider this: there are nearly 20 million active trademarks today, 230 million URLs, and almost a million apps in the App Store and Android Market. So, coming up with a great name is only half the battle. You still have to figure out how to make it yours.

When we tackle a naming project, we keep a few basic principles in mind:

1. DON’T OVERCOMPLICATE IT.

Sometimes the most straightforward name is the right one. Consider the name we penned for the holiday greeting card app we launched last year: Disney Holiday Magic.

Sure, we considered numerous others, but this simple name was spot-on in conveying the experience of the app and reinforcing the parent brand.

2. CALL IN REINFORCEMENTS

A great name starts with a great team. In today’s world, that means linguists, translators, word nerds, lawyers, and often a dark horse from an unexpected corner of the office. We’re particularly good at assembling these diverse teams, which sometimes include outside talent, too.

We’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the best namers in the business. Seriously. These pros think about names all the time. It’s what they do. One of our beloved naming partners is Anthony Shore of Operative Words. He’s the guru behind the name Lytro, in fact.

3. KNOW WHERE TO COMPROMISE

This is a difficult pill to swallow, indeed. Too often, you’ll fall in love with a name and then learn in trademark screening that it can’t be yours. Or, you’ll expect that the corresponding .com domain is available free and clear, only to learn that a domain hoarder registered it years ago.

To lessen the heartbreak, we do a preliminary trademark and domain search on our long list of names before we even share them with the client. If we’re coining a new phrase, like we did when we named Zamzee, we stand a better chance of both clearing trademark hurdles and securing an available domain for the web site.

Using two-word phrases helps, too. Neon Alley, for example, was one of several two-word names we considered for the new 24-hour anime channel, and –in addition to being a client favorite— it cleared trademark searches and domain registration relatively easily.

These three guiding principles (plus a whole lot of hard work) allow us to keep generating good work. And that’s the name of the game, right?

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