I’ll willingly – nay, happily – answer a lot of questions about names and naming without charging a dime.
I’ll give you tips about strategy. I’ll offer examples of effective names and bad names. I’ll suggest an outline for writing a naming brief. I’ll talk about URLs and searchability. I’ll show you how to create names with emotional appeal. I’ll set you straight on naming myths.
I’ll do a lot without a signed contract and first-installment check, but there’s one thing I won’t do.
I won’t give away names.
Allow me to explain.
I hang out on Quora from time to time, answering questions about names and naming. I don’t get paid. I consider it an educational service, and – I freely admit it – a tiny marketing tool.
Many of the questions that come my way are appropriate and interesting: “Is there a way to find a huge list of company names for research purposes?” (Yes.) “How can one determine if a name is too generic or eligible for trademark protection?” (In the U.S., the standard is likelihood of confusion.) “Can one survive solely as a name developer and a tagline writer?” (Eventually, yes.)
But then there are questions like these – questions that, all too frequently, the questioner has directed specifically at me as an “A2A” (Ask to Answer):
What are some good names for investment companies? (I answered that one, but probably not in the way the questioner had hoped.)
Can you suggest a cool name for a billing & client management system? (I passed on that one.)
And then there was this one, an A2A directed at me, which I reproduce here in full:
Can you suggest business names that would work well for a platform website best described as a community for vetted business subject matter experts? 5–7 characters long, if possible. thank you! Maybe something with “SME” in it? Some other words of inspiration: Wisdom, Insights, Cognitive, Knowledge, Fraction, Authority, Piece meal, Granular, Captain, my favorite: Essence.
This was, to paraphrase someone who may have been named Winston Churchill, a degree of chutzpah up with which I would not put.
I wrote a reply that began:
I’m a professional name developer, and I charge a fee for my services. I don’t develop names for free for strangers on public forums like Quora.
I then gave the questioner a list of links to blog posts I’d written to assist do-it-yourselfers. I was clear, polite, and (I thought) helpful. And that, I thought, would be that.
It was not.
Quora notified me that the questioner had commented on my answer. Here is what the comment said:
Is there a way to super down vote this answer? On crack?
Needless to say, this response did not increase my sympathy for the questioner. Nor did it move me to regret my original response.
I wasn’t the only Quoran who replied to that particular request for free names. There are a few regulars on the site who, unlike me, readily contribute lists of names. These people fall into three categories:
- Domainers – people who buy up Internet domains and sell them at a profit. (Examples of names these people have suggested: Athta.com, Teacherr.com, Quicklify.com.)
- Crowdsourcing agencies. There’s one in particular that’s always happy to jump in and offer to host a naming contest in which “thousands of creatives across the globe compete with each other and suggest their ideas. … It’s quick, simple, and costs a fraction of an agency!” It is also a terrible idea.
- Nonprofessionals who offer the first names that pop into their heads.
Groups 1 and 2 aren’t being altruistic: they’re selling names – or just domains – for a profit. As for the people in Group 3, they have no experience with, and often no talent for, name development, and no interest in or motivation for creating an effective solution to the questioner’s challenge.
I could be wrong – please let me know – but I doubt that anyone who’s received free “advice” from these folks has found it satisfying.
I don’t give away names on Quora, or other public forums, for three primary reasons:
- Name development is my livelihood. My intellectual property is the product I sell.
- Name development is a craft. It’s taken me more than 20 years to develop my skills. And it takes, on average, four to six weeks to dig into a naming project, do the necessary research and screening, and present and discuss name candidates that suit my client’s very specific company or product. When I see a Quora request like “Name my bar,” I ask: Where is the bar? Which city, which neighborhood, which street? What are your specialty cocktails? Where do your customers work? What music do they listen to? What do they wear? Why would they come to your bar and not to the one a couple of blocks away? What makes your bar different from every other bar in your town? I’d want to know about you, too: Why are you opening a bar? Where did you grow up? What’s the first cocktail you ever drank? What’s your favorite cocktail? What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever heard at a bar? What names have you already considered and discarded? Why? What do you want customers to think and feel when they see or hear your bar’s name? In other words: anyone can toss out a name. It take skill and experience to create a meaningful name.
- Name development is important. It’s not a game. Your name is the title of your story, a symbol of your brand, the word by which you’re known. It’s not something to entrust to random strangers with no investment in the outcome.
Here’s my own A2A, addressed to all those Quora questioners looking for free naming work: Do you plan to give away your own product? (Free food delivery? Free healthcare? Sign me up!) Are you also asking, say, CPAs for free tax services, or a designer for a free website?
I think I know the A to those Qs. It’s spelled N-O.
The bottom line: If you want me to take your business seriously, please take my business seriously. I’ll do a lot for the love of names, but give them away? Nope, I won’t do that.
Take it away, Mr. Loaf!*
* Contrary to what you may have read, the New York Times has never referred to Meat Loaf as Mr. Loaf. However, I just learned that there is a breadmaking machine called Mister Loaf. I’ve added it to my long list of mister names.