What’s In A Name Anyways?
I thought I would take the time today to put together a “how to” on something that I found very difficult when re-launching my web design business: choosing a name! I spent hours (literally HOURS) researching online on how to pick a name, combing through a million wordoids (www.wordoid.com) and eventually sitting staring at a wall blankly. It was very hard for me to find an online resource that was exactly what I was looking for. It wasn’t until I took a few steps back and thought through the whole process with more intention that I finally came up with North and Morello. I thought I’d share with you the secret process of how I stumbled upon North and Morello and maybe (hopefully!) it could help you too! So, let’s take a journey together! If you are desperately searching for a name for your blog or business, please download the free worksheet and follow along! It might not help you as much as it helped me, but hey, it can’t hurt!! The worksheet is down near the BOTTOM of this post, because I recommend reading it all the way through before you start, but if you want to break the rules and print it out first, who am I to stop you!
My Three Rules for Naming a Business
After all the research that I did (you can find some good articles at the bottom of this post; I recommend reading them first) and time spent staring at a wall/fruitlessly and relentlessly hounding everyone that came to my home for a “good business name idea”, I decided on three self-imposed criteria that I wanted my business name to fulfill:
- It must represent the heartbeat and DNA of my business.
- It must be memorable and unique.
- It must tell a story and/or invoke emotion.
YOUR TURN: Are there any additional rules or criteria that you feel your name should adhere to? Write it down now!
Before getting started, try to picture your business name in print. For me, when I did this I saw something like BLANK + BLANK. I wasn’t sure if I wanted it to be styled with a + or an &, but I knew for sure that I wanted two words joined together. I also knew that I wanted my font to be very simple and clean-lined. It’s ok if you don’t have any idea right now, but if you do, write it down!
YOUR TURN: Can you “see” your name in print or as a logo? Do you imagine a flowy script, a handwritten scrawl or a sans serif modern typeset? Try using your own name or random words to depict what you are trying to achieve. Doodle, draw, go nuts – no one’s judging! (least of all me, who struggles to draw stick figures).
Our Business Name Must Represent Who We Are
I came up with this “rule” because I realized that the best business names indirectly represent the DNA of that business. A name really is the first step in branding a business, after all! For example, IKEA = Swedish (it just SOUNDS Swedish, no?), Über = fast and exciting, Facebook = a place where you see people’s faces, Twitter = small sound bytes of nonsense, etc.
For me, this meant that I had to decide what exactly I wanted to represent. I resolved to decide on three qualities, the top three things that I saw as the heartbeat of our business. I wanted to be sure that all three of these came across in whatever name was chosen. For me, these three qualities were: MODERN, CREATIVE, JOURNEY.
YOUR TURN: Write down as many words as you can in two minutes that you feel describes your business’ DNA. Then read through them all again and choose the THREE that you feel best summarizes the heartbeat of your business.
Once I had my three qualities I was able to define three sub-elements for each that I wanted to convey in some way. For example…
Modern: clean/light, simple, minimalistic
Creative: unique, different, whimsical
Journey: togetherness, direction, growth
YOUR TURN: Underneath your chosen 3 values, write 3 more descriptive words.
Our Business Name Must Be Memorable and Unique
After spending hours on wordoid.com trying to find a unique, made-up word that would be catchy, creative, memorable and business-y all at once, I gave up and started writing down elements. I used my sub-qualities from above to inspire my ideas.
This is where things really started coming together for me and I saw the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. I began to write things like: light, straight, river, bird, cities, street names, compass directions, “journey”, and a few more.
YOUR TURN: This is where it starts coming together. Branch out even further by writing down specific things next to your sub-elements (for example: Whimsical could branch out into: leaf, sparrow, flowery, imagination, etc.
Our Business Name Must Tell A Story and/or Invoke Emotion
Although a business name doesn’t always implicitly tell a story, I felt it was important that there was a story behind the name. Something that would cause people to pause and wonder why that name, while still feeling that it was “right”. I didn’t want a name that would seem weird, out of place, or just plain didn’t make sense. It had to be easily explainable and I wanted people’s response to the story to be “Oooh! I love that!” So I kept thinking… Using the words and ideas I had written down above, I thought about what story I was trying to tell. I realized that I wanted to tell the story of a journey and home – this was something that kept coming up over and over and it really showed me where I wanted to focus my business name. I have loved travelling all my life, but I always say that I am both blessed and cursed because I have friends all over the world, yet I am always in a constant state of missing people that I dearly love.
YOUR TURN: Write down the story you are trying to tell or emotion you are trying to invoke. Take your time and use as many words as you need to. Look back at your work from previous steps and see if you can find the thread running through it all. For me it was “journey and home”. What’s the story you are trying to tell? Mark the words that fit into the story you are trying to tell (circle/underline/etc).
I was starting to feel like I was on the right track. I had come up with a few options that I liked. Because I knew that I wanted BLANK & BLANK, I started joining words together to see what felt good. East & Bute was the top name that came out of this process. East because it conveyed direction (journey) and Bute (the street name I lived on from birth to the age of 5) which conveyed togetherness, growth, and home. I knew though that I wasn’t quite all there yet, especially because I felt like “Bute” would often get mispronounced as butt instead of “byute”!
YOUR TURN: Do you need to add or take away anything? Keep writing down ideas and crossing things out that you hate. Have you discovered any more pieces to your story? Remember, you’re not deciding on a name, you are discovering one!
I realized that while I wanted to tell the story of journeying somewhere, it was very important to me to also include the concept of staying rooted to home. I’ve discovered the paradox of feeling like multiple places are home. When my husband and I go back to BC to visit our family and friends we always talk about going “home to BC”. Then, when we are there, we talk about going “home to Alberta”. Truly, we have home in so many places!
I also wanted to tell the story of where I grew up on the coast of Vancouver Island, BC – a place full of tall, green trees, wild waves and misty air. Although I love living in Alberta now (and I love that my son was born here!), the West Coast still has so much space in my heart and I wanted to honour that. I really wanted an element of invitation – that people would get to know me a little better and hear a little bit of who I am and where I come from – it was an invitation into relationship).
Once I wrote these things down, I realized that I really wanted something that would speak of Vancouver Island, I knew immediately that I had to throw out the word “East” because it didn’t represent the West Coast properly. So at this point, my top idea of East & Bute was out (Bute was out before and then East was thrown out). However, I really liked the combination of direction and street name. That was when I discovered North + Morello, for better or for worse.
Morello is not the street I lived on for 20 year on Vancouver Island, but it’s how you get there. Vancouver Island really only has one main highway running north to south, so to get to my home I would simply tell you to “go north and take Morello”.
As soon as the thought entered my mind, it felt right. North + Morello. I was sold. It only took a short while longer to design a logo and realize that North + Morello felt exactly right – on my tongue and on paper.
YOUR TURN: Have you discovered your new name yet? If not, spend a little while longer playing with what you came up with. You could even start over if you feel like you went down the wrong track – just backtrack to where you went wrong and start again! If you don’t feel inspired, try putting it aside and coming back to it later. In the meantime, do something that will get your creative juices flowing: listen to music, read something inspiring or doodle (or whatever helps you feel creative!).
Now that you’ve gone through this creative process, it’s time to see if your new names stands up to the test! Perform the following checklist to see if your new name is The One!
- Ask 5 friends to read your name aloud – do they pronounce it correctly or do they stumble over it?
- Google your business name – are there a million results? What’s on the first page of Google – if you launch yourbusinessname.com will you end up at the top or fighting for space?
- While we’re on that topic, is yourbusinessname.com even available? (Try this tool to check)
- Is your name simple? (yes, I know North + Morello breaks the rules, but your name should ideally be 1-2 syllables and 5-10 letters long)
- Are you spelling something a weird way? (99% of the time, this is a bad idea)
- Have you included a geographical location in your name? (DON’T! If your business grows you’re going to have a tough time expanding to other markets!)
- What does your target market think? Do they nail right away what your business is about? Does it tell the story you are trying to tell? (ask a few people who don’t know anything about your new business/blog what your name says to them)
Let’s Journey Together
I would so love it if you share in the comments the name you came up with or any ideas you have! I’d also love to hear your feedback about whether this was helpful or not. I know that my creative process might not be the right path for everyone, but hey, anything is worth a shot when you’re harassing your friends for ideas/staring blankly at a wall for hours on end right?
Helpful Naming Your Business Article and Resources
If this didn’t help you, maybe something else can! Below are some of the best articles and resources that I found while researching business naming suggestions! In fact, I recommend reading them first before undertaking this whole naming process!
Lastly, share this article now on social media or send to a friend you think might benefit from this tool!