What's in a name? Hopefully a lot.

Does the name of your company, technology, product or service have to hold meaning? What if you have the most innovative solution to a problem, does it really matter what you call it? The short answer is yes.

The brand name is one of many tools available to you to make your offering not only stand out, but also competitive. The objective may vary, based on the market landscape, but having a name that can help market the brand can be a true asset.

So how do you get started? There are many software programs that generate lists of names based on relevant prefixes and suffixes. Sometimes companies will conduct a contest among employees. Other times internal code names stick like tar. But are these the best options for cultivating a relevant brand name?

Developing a brand name necessitates deep thought and a strong conviction to adhere to a number of important criteria. Difficult as it may be, it’s a time to park personal likes and dislikes and approach the project from the customer perspective, competitive landscape and strategically what you hope to accomplish with the brand.

Think of a brand name that means something to you and ask yourself the following questions:

1. Does the name capture some attribute of what makes the brand truly unique?
2. Is the name different from competitors – not different for the sake of being different, but different in a meaningful way?
3. Does the name convey some type of value to customers?
4. Is it easily to pronounce and globally appropriate?
5. It is available and protectable from a URL and trademark perspective?
6. Is it memorable?

Depending on what you are naming, there may be additional considerations. For example, if it’s a trade name for a drug, there are myriad issues that need to be addressed to make sure the name is compliant with regulations and viable. Does it avoid making a direct claim? Is it unlikely to be confused with the names of other marketed products? Is there enough distinction from its generic name?

Another thing to consider is not to overburden the name. Remember you can have a descriptor (a brief statement that adds practical context) or even a tag line. The name alone can only do so much.

Ultimately, brand naming takes experience. It’s part art, part science and (when it comes to availability) even part luck. How a name fits its brand, and possibly its family of brands, is an important decision that you will live with for a long time. It warrants the proper consideration and investment in the development process.

by Jonathan D. Katz