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Why is Company Naming or Product Naming So Darned Hard? Four Common Creativity Barriers and Solutions 

by Marcia Yudkin

I run a naming company, and more than 80 percent of the time, clients come to us after they have tried to name their company and donít like what they have come up with. (The rest of the time, they simply donít have time or energy to handle naming.) I've also taught seminars on naming and supervised people trying to come up with names. So I've been in a position to observe the reasons why people get stuck in this process.

The four most common reasons why the naming process gets stuck are as follows:

1. Ignorance of fruitful brainstorming. Typically, people come up with 15-20 ideas and then they run out of steam. When I look at their lists, I can see that they're barely getting started. Most experts on creativity teach the importance of generating hordes of possibilities, the more the better, regardless of their quality and only later narrowing down to the best options. 

When it comes to naming, a thesaurus is the most obvious brainstorming tool, but getting other people involved Ė friends, colleagues, staffers, even kids Ė is helpful, as is looking at random lists of business names in other industries for inspiration.

2. Expecting to fall in love. It does occasionally happen that the perfect name appears across a crowded room with such blinding rightness that you know itís "the one." However, most of the time determining the best name is a matter of carefully weeding through the possibilities for their pros and cons, tweaking some names, deciding on the finalists and sometimes repeating the brainstorming to get more possibilities. 

You can actually select a great name without falling in love with it.

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3. Committee-itis. The naming process often goes off the rails when you involve too many people, whether co-workers, people who get a vote but don't really care, or just friends and family. Why? Because most people approach naming in terms of love/hate or opinion rather than setting out objective criteria for what would make an excellent name. If naming is nothing but opinion, of course it's hard to reach consensus. 

Avoid this obstacle by creating an explicit list of criteria for your name and using the list to decide which candidates become finalists and which, while interesting, get tossed.

4. One-track minds. Even the most creative people can have limitations in their imaginations, where they always think up a certain kind of name or idea and never go beyond that. For example, they always turn to puns, or to compound words with animals in them, or to nerdy made-up names. Sometimes this limited focus works out well, but more often, people in this situation get stuck and don't understand why. 

The solution is to consciously pursue many different types of names and name ideas. For instance, looking at a list of companies in another industry can trigger lots of names that you wouldn't otherwise think up.

Follow the time-honored principles of productive brainstorming, donít expect a pitter-patter in your heart to signal ďthe one,Ē create a list of naming criteria so youíre not approaching it as pure opinion and travel many different avenues in your list of name possibilities. Those are four of the secrets to successful naming!

Copyright 2011 Marcia Yudkin.  All rights reserved.

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