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The Art of Naming

Sara Tetreault

Brand Strategy Director, Forum One

The art of naming comes with many challenges, but it can also be lots of fun deciding on a name that is timeless and represents the brand vision of your organization. We have three tips to focus on when thinking about a new name.

Naming an organization, project, program, or event is much like naming a new pet or baby: important but challenging. Starting from scratch for a new organization or product is just as difficult as thinking up a name once an organization has been around for many years. There are lots of questions to answer and stakeholders to be consulted and informed. 

Start with your brand strategy

Your brand framework is the foundation for everything you create related to your brand. Ideally, a new name is in sync with your brand promise, brand value, and brand voice. Basing your decisions about a name in the brand strategy and asking yourself questions such as, “is this name specific enough to reflect our brand?,” and, “does this name represent something that we don’t stand for?,” will help you make more objective decisions and mitigate arguments amongst your internal stakeholders. Consider proposed name options through the filter of your brand pillars to help your stakeholders decide if a name authentically represents who you are.

Determine what type of name suits you most

Before getting started on any branding, a landscape analysis will be invaluable in helping you understand how your competitors are communicating their brand values. By looking at other organizations in your space, you’ll see that there are many types of names: acronyms, abstract, explanatory, and several others. Knowing what’s out there gives you the option to stick with the pack or break away from the crowd. 

Based on what you learn about the landscape and what best represents your organization (your brand framework), you can work with your key stakeholders to determine what kinds of names are going to be most appropriate for your organization and your audiences. This will help focus your brainstorming when it comes time to think of new names. 

If you are renaming your organization, think about how a radical change in your organization’s name type (e.g., going from explanatory to abstract) will feel to your most devoted audiences, and if there is a transition that will be more effective and inviting.

Check out what’s available

Before you get too far into the process, you will want to check if the name you like is available! Names are considered intellectual property and are typically trademarked, which can make the search harder especially if you are looking for a simple or short name. Before getting too wedded to a name, do a cursory Google search to see what other products or organizations already have similar word structures for their name. 

As a next step, check on social media to see which handles are taken, plug in potential URLs to see if they are available and how expensive they may be to purchase, and do a quick US Patent and Trademark Office check to see if someone else is already using the name(s) you’re considering in an existing trademark. Before creating any logos or visual designs, consult with legal representatives to engage in the intellectual property process.

Naming doesn’t have to be hard! Have fun with it and try to come up with potential names that you will enjoy telling others about when you share what you do or where you work. These tips are relevant not only for naming an organization, but for any product, service, event, or program.

Written By

Sara Tetreault

Brand Strategy Director, Forum One

Need help naming something? Get in touch!

Forum One works with mission-driven organizations across the globe to build and optimize their brands for impact. If you are embarking on a new naming project for your brand, we’d love to talk.