One of the biggest challenges for any new company or an existing business looking to overhaul its image with a re-brand is deciding on a name. In the age of Apple, Google, and Uber, a clever name can make or break your company. It’s your first impression, and your sharpest tool for promoting brand growth and recognition. And while it’s totally acceptable to make one up, it’s also really easy to miss the mark.
Recent naming trends inspired by top tech brands like Facebook, Yelp, and many others include blending words, borrowing words (or parts of words) from other languages, delving into mythology for lost names and meanings, changing the spelling or pronunciation of existing words, or making up completely new words. (We draw the line at tech-inspired baby names. Sorry, little Hashtag.)
When you create a never before used name, you’ll have to infuse meaning through careful marketing and brand building. But you can only do this with a name that “works.” Think about Yahoo, which may have sounded silly a decade ago but is now one of the most recognized brands in the world. If the company’s impending sale to Verizon goes through, they’re going to have their work cut out for them imbuing the same recognition into their new name, Altaba. Sounds like a 90s remix of a 70s disco song.
So how do you know if a name works? One crucial—and often overlooked—step in the naming process is to try saying it out loud. This is one of our favorite tricks to test-drive copy, and it’s equally effective for test-driving prospective names. When a name hits the air, you’ll know right away whether it’s working or not. (Saying it in your head doesn’t count. It’s not the same.)
Many times a name that seems perfect on paper may not be quite so awesome when it’s actually spoken. If it doesn’t work the first time, take it off your list. You should also have other people try saying the name out loud, to make sure it’s easy to pronounce. After all, if no one can say it, or if they’re all saying it wrong, the name can’t do its job—to help your company grow and succeed.
If you charge ahead with an untested name that looks good on paper, you risk ending up like this guy. And no one wants to be this guy.