Brand Naming Tickles The Word Geek in All of Us


Learn how to name a business or product with this useful guide.

Brand Naming

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Have you ever wondered what was behind some of your favorite brands? Even if you haven’t, you’re going to LOVE my latest read, Brand Naming: The Complete Guide to Creating a Name for Your Company, Product, or Service by Rob Meyerson

I found this book to be a refreshing, relevant and practical distraction from the heady and philosophical books I’ve been reading recently.

Yep – There’s Such a Job as “Brand Namer”

Author Rob Meyerson is a professional brand namer. He didn’t start out that way, but with a degree in cognitive science with a concentration in linguistics, he has a unique background (and talent) for coming up with cool names. 

While you may not know his name, you’re probably familiar with some of the names he’s come up with over the years. I won’t list them all, but but his past clients have included AT&T, Disney, GE, and Microsoft. 

You can also hear and read more of  Meyerson on his blog and podcast “How Brands Are Built”

Brand Naming is a Fun and Practical Guide to Building Your Brand

Granted, I’m a marketing person, so I’m in LOVE with Brand Naming. But if you’re NOT a professional marketer, you might like it even more because many of the concepts Meyerson covers will be a peek behind how both good and bad brand names are born.

The book comes in four parts:

PART 1: Is a primer on the basics of brand naming including the types of brand names and a basic naming process. 

Part 2: You’ll learn how namers generate hundreds of ideas for names.

Part 3: The step by step instructions on how to narrow your choices to one final name, including preliminary trademark screening and linguistic checks. (Too many people skip this step)

Part 4: (This is the best part) This section includes a ton of reference materials and resources, websites and templates. 

Meyerson does a masterful job of sharing his knowledge, personal stories, trends and brand name origin stories in a way that informs and educates you as a reader without making himself look like some superhero.  Although I will say that it does take a certain combination of skill and talent to come up with a good brand name. 

So, Will You Be Able to Come Up with Brand Names as Good as the Pros?

While you may not be ready to be a professional “namer”, “Brand Naming” will definitely increase your naming skills for your next business or product.

Here are a few of the most impactful sections that I think will make the biggest difference for you as a business owner. 

The naming brief: Like most things, the naming brief is something most business owners do “in their heads” but that requires putting it down on paper.

Here’s what to put in the naming brief:

  • A description of what’s being named in plain language.
  • Ideas to convey through the name
  • Any naming criteria; does it need to be descriptive, using real words or made up.
  • Name tonality: what feelings should the name evoke?
  • A description of the audience for the name.
  • Competition or peer names
  • Other optional information.

You can already see how having a little focus written down, can help you move your project in the right direction. 

brainstorm chart from brand naming review

Here’s an example of an initial mindmap that explores the brand characteristics if “light as a feather.”

The meat of the book is all process and outlines exactly how to go through the brainstorming process.

Some Pro Tips from Brand Naming 

While I’ve done a few naming projects for myself and a few clients, I can see some of my same process in “Brand Naming”  the biggest difference is that I didn’t have the kind of rigor in the process that’s required.

For example, I found this list of pro tips very helpful:

On brainstorming…

“Building  a solid list of ames often comes down to finding interesting and unexpected ways of conveying ideas (or tonalities, in the case of abstract names). TO that end, any method of spurring creative, lateral, or divergent thinking can lead to interesting name candidates.”

Here are a few exercises you can try:

  • Freewriting: Write down everything that pops into your head. 
  • Random entry: Pick a random word from the dictionary, encyclopedia or elsewhere and see how you can best connect it to your naming assignment.
  • Provocation: This is a bit unusual and super fun.  A provocation is an impossible statement that’s used to provoke unexpected ideas. Something like “A spaceship flies underwater”

On shortlisting…

Keep the brief in front of you: “Remind yourself of the strategic criteria the name should meet so that you’re not selecting names that just sound good.

Don’t fall in love too soon: Having favorites is ok, but don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Don’t shortlist alone:  The reason for this goes beyond the obvious…ok, I’ll tell you.  After being said too many times, words tend to lose meaning.  Having a group, helps you stay focused.

On doing a linguistic check…

The world is a small place.  And you already know how disastrous it can be to pick a name that means something cool in one language and something nasty or inappropriate in another. So I won’t go into those examples.

What I did want to cover are Meyerson’s tips on how to avoid these pitfalls.

Here’s a list of what to look for:

  • Any negative meanings or connotations.
  • Any negative associations
  • Pronunciation difficulties – especially for the country where the brand will be featured

“Brand Naming” is a Desktop Keeper

I have several practical books and guides on how to think creatively, and “Brand Naming” will be joining that list.

This book brought a much needed level of usefulness and practicality to my reading list.  It’s free of ego and superhero stories and full of practical how-to tips on something that every small business owner has to do a few times in the life of their business.

Any DIY marketer and small business owner will appreciate Meyerson’s generosity in sharing his process.  If he wrote this book to get new clients, I’m not sure he succeeded because we’re all going to be much better brand namers now.

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Ivana Taylor Ivana Taylor is the Book Editor for Small Business Trends. She is responsible for directing the site’s book review program and manages the team of professional book reviewers. She also spearheads the annual Small Business Book Awards. Ivana publishes DIYMarketers, where she shares daily do-it-yourself marketing tips, and is co-author of "Excel for Marketing Managers."