BRAND BUILDING: Creative naming lead, Jason Hall, on keeping names alive after the final presentation

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BRAND BUILDING is a blog feature in which our experts present an in-depth POV on topics ranging from branding to design to experience, all through the lens of simplicity. In this post, creative naming lead Jason Hall shares five steps for keeping names alive after the final presentation.

Words to live by

The big naming presentation is over. The agency delivered a great set of options that complement the offering and has everyone feeling confident for the future. The next step is for the client to do some legal work on the names and prepare to get final sign off from upper management. But something always happens at this step in the process. A name at this stage is like a fragile bubble…one wrong move and it bursts! There are many reasons it can be dismissed:

  • Uninformed parties weighing in
  • Time-strapped executives making snap decisions
  • Irrelevant associations (that always disappear once a name is in context)
  • Inexperienced analysis of a language check
  • Faulty research
  • Trademark implications
  • “I just don’t like it”
  • Etc., etc., etc.

Up to this point, we are going to assume you’ve taken all the appropriate steps, including clearly articulating what story you want the name to support, informing and potentially including all relevant stakeholders, establishing a method for how you will choose the final name, etc. But let’s get real, there isn’t enough time to make all of this happen, and frankly, it’s our job to worry about naming and your job to keep developing incredible offerings. Therefore…

Here are 5 ways to keep names alive and kicking at this point in the process.

1. Keep it in the family, for now

It is best to keep names within a small, established group of decision makers. It keeps names from being unfairly dismissed by individuals who have not been through the process and don’t know how hard it is to get a name.

2. Do not “e-mail around” a list of names

This is the quickest way names get eliminated because there is no context to help bring them to life. In this scenario, a name is just a word on a screen and there are a million reasons why it “won’t work.”  This makes perfect sense because the people commenting likely haven’t been along for the ride. When you share names with someone, make sure they understand the project and the challenges of getting a name. Present the names in real context, e.g., on the packaging, within a press release, etc. If possible, walk the decision makers through the thinking behind the name, or have the agency do it so they can understand why and how the name works.

3. Instead of asking “Which name do you like?” ask “Which names work and why?”

This isn’t about what names people “like.” Sure, it’s great when a name is liked, but it’s more about what names “work” and how well they deliver upon strategic intent. Can you imagine what would have happened if someone said, “I don’t like the name ‘Amazon,’ that’s a big, dirty river” or “Crates and barrels aren’t premium, this will never work.” But they do work! Every name sets you up to tell a story. Some names make telling that story easier. And remember, a name can’t say everything. It can only communicate one or two ideas well. You can use other branding elements (design, messaging, etc.) to round out meaning.

If you’ve hired a legitimate firm, the names should all “work,” but names have strengths and weaknesses. That’s unavoidable. It’s now time to evaluate the merits of a name and see the potential. Just like in life, you can either focus on the positive or dwell on the negative, so let’s stay positive!

4. Get input, but make it clear who is calling the shots

While it is important to get input from the team, it should be very clear who is making the final decision. And, if at all possible, it’s best if it isn’t a democracy. We’re all for fairness and encourage input in earlier stages. But sometimes, when you take the “most votes wins” path, the least common denominator, or no name at all, is picked. In addition, once a decision is made, management should stand behind the name with vigor, enthusiasm, and passion.

5. Keep the momentum

Try not to drag your feet because the whole operation can stall for a variety of reasons—people get cold feet, budgets disappear, priorities change. Avoid this by setting review meetings and deadlines. Every day that goes by, crucial time is lost. Preliminary trademark screens and domain availability are snapshots in time and the landscape could change if you wait too long. From this point on, alert your legal and domain teams that names are coming and they’ll need to lock them down, ASAP.

Follow these steps and your names will live to fight another day. Internal buy-in of the names at this stage is essential and will postion the team to get sign off from upper management and bring this offering to the world.

If you’re looking for some tips on HOW to make a final decision on a name, be sure to read this. It’s not time for a beer just yet. Who am I kidding, it’s always time for a beer.

Jason Hall is the creative lead of naming at Siegel+Gale.

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