Unstuck Graphic

How to get unstuck when naming your company

People describe stuckness in different ways. I have heard people say that they can almost grab the word or phrase they are looking for, but it feels like their brains are gummed up. It feels like a thickness, like old motor oil, or those dreams where you just can’t run. 

For me, it is different. My brain feels like a high desert scene in an old Western. It is an arid emptiness — the occasional tumbleweed entering and exiting the frame uneventfully. So, I need to fill the space to get going again. Here are three scaffoldings that I have used successfully.

Consider different name types

We all have favorite name types. In order to overcome my bias and stagnation, I force myself to work on a specific type of name for a couple of days. This creates focus and purpose. And often, when focusing on one, I will generate my best ideas for the other types. Here are some of the types of names I consider: 

  • Real words (Amazon)
  • Foreign language (Prana)
  • Made-up/obscure origin (Zillow)
  • Affixed (Spotify)
  • Compound (Snapchat)
  • Blends (Pinterest).

Mess with meaning

If name types are on one axis, the other axis is meaning. When talking about meaning, you have to talk about trademarks. More descriptive names often have trademark challenges, so tread carefully here. List your brand tones. What are the metaphors for those tones? If it is speed, a suggestive name might be Greyhound. Arbitrary names are metaphors one step removed. Nike is the goddess of victory, but most people wouldn’t know that. And coined names aren’t meaningful at all. They are (mostly) empty vessels and strong trademarks.

  • Descriptive (General Motors, American Airlines) 
  • Suggestive (Dove)
  • Arbitrary (Apple)
  • Coined (Skype)

Focused research

I left off two types of names in the above list: people and places. While research can be the best stalling tactic in the world, it can be a great method when focused and productive. Look into the history of your industry. What are the people and places that are meaningful? Along the way, you might find yourself looking at lists of terminology that can be great real-word names. Or, you might see a foreign language term in a technical description. Pay attention and stay focused. 

  • People (Tesla, Ford)
  • Places (Cotopaxi, Patagonia)

If you are lost in the desert like I occasionally am, start with these three methods. They work nearly every time. If not, call us. We can fill your list quickly.  

Brad Flowers
Brad Flowers
Founding Partner

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