RECAP | Homegrown: The Power of Naming with Lauri Maerov

At this month’s Homegrown, Lauri Maerov explains the power of naming. Lauri is Creative Director & Chief Storyteller of her own indie consulting firm, WriteThink. She helps companies and individuals discover their unique voice, brand identity, and the most compelling story to ignite a powerful, emotional connection with their audiences.

I’ve worked on naming projects before, and never know where to start, so I was very excited to attend this Homegrown session.

Choosing a name is intimidating. Every name tells a story and becomes a part of the words and language our civilization is built on. Lauri started her presentation by giving an overview of business names that we are all quite familiar with.

Steve Jobs wanted a name that was less technical and he thought Apple was fun-spirited and intimidating. It also has layers of meaning behind it. Apples are a universally known fruit that is the symbolic fruit of the tree of knowledge. The bite taken out of the apple logo represents people engaging with the apple.

The name is a play on the word “googol,” a mathematical term for the numeral 1 followed by 100 zeros. The name has since become a verb, which is the greatest thing that can happen to a brand name.

There are a number of categories and styles in naming.

  • appropriated
  • benefit-driven
  • coined
  • function-driven
  • emotional/feeling
  • evocative
  • experiential
  • figurative/abstract
  • hybrid/portmanteau
  • idiomatic
  • literal/straightforward
  • non-associative
  • shelf evident
  • story driven
  • wordplay/puns

As you begin the naming process for a new business or product, keep in mind that you want to select a name that has resonance and power. The top ideas will have a number of these characteristics:

  • design inspiration
  • disruptiveness
  • emotionality
  • layers of meaning
  • memorability
  • musicality
  • originality
  • personality & positioning
  • simplicity
  • storytelling
  • wit & wordplay

The more of these characteristics a name has the stronger the name is. Of all these, simplicity is key component. Rhythm and rhyme are also important. Names like Twitter and Google, have these aspects that help you remember their names.

Lauri outlined her name creation process before leading us in a naming brain storm session.

  • research competitive
  • naming trends in the space
    • strategic positioning
    • stalk your territory
    • anti-trend: break the rules
  • focus brand identity
    • personality & archetype
    • tone of voice and style
  • categories -> brainstorm
  • name exploration/redirection
  • trademark/domain check

Then she gave us some rules for the session:

  • say yes to all possibilities
  • no critiquing, defer judgement
  • go out on a limb, get crazy, welcome ideas
  • one person speaks at a time, no side talking
  • break the rules (except these rules, of course)
  • go for quantity, think fast
  • have fun, laugh

And a list of questions to guide us. The questions are meant to lead you away from a brain dump and focus on attributes that help you get ideas find different directions to go in as you generate names. Following the brainstorm session synthesize the results and start to categorize them into groups based on the kickstarter questions below.

Kickstarter questions

  • what benefits does it offer
  • what functions does it perform
  • what does it sound like
  • what’s out brand personality
  • what does it feel like
  • who do you feel when you use it

Once you have come up with your name options and are ready to present your ideas to your client, only show them the best ideas and give solid reasons for why they are good names. Present only one name per page. On a following page list the qualities the name has that make it a strong choice.

By Amy Lyons
Published May 15, 2016