From time to time I’ve been asked—often by a college student or a copywriter—to recommend resources for learning the craft of name development. I’ve sighed and shook my head: It’s all about on-the-job training, I’d say. That’s how I learned to do what I do. There were no books, no courses.
I’m happy to report that I now have a different answer. Brand Naming, a new book from naming expert and podcast host Rob Meyerson, is a 162-page guide to just about everything a namer needs to know to get started and build a practice. (Disclaimer: I received a complimentary review copy of Brand Naming, and I’m cited a few times within its pages.)
The cover of Brand Naming is your first lesson: It includes some of the more than 100 alternate titles Meyerson developed—Namecraft, Naming Names, Verbal Identity, and more—before opting for the clear, straightforward, easily searchable choice.
Unlike a lot of the advice you’ll find online, Meyerson doesn’t pretend that brand naming is easy. In fact, one of his first sub-headings is “Naming Is Hard,” and he has the what-were-they-thinking examples to back up that assertion. (See: Boaty McBoatface, Consignia, and Mondelēz.) Instead of promising fast results, Meyerson provides a thorough, step-by-step process—from the essential naming brief (“a short document—five or six pages or presentation slides—that outlines objectives and parameters for the name you’re developing”) through basic name generation (begin with words in the brief, then dive deeper with creative exercises like “conceptual spelunking”) through shortlisting, trademark searching, and presentation.
I am especially glad to see that last step given so much thoughtful attention, because it’s too often overlooked or poorly handled. But the way you present names is crucially important. (In fact, I’ve written about the subject myself.) Meyerson devotes a full chapter to presentation, emphasizing that getting a client to agree to a name is “1 percent creativity, 99 percent psychology.” He insists on presenting names in person—no emailing a list of names and asking people to vote—and following a careful strategy. Start by reviewing the naming brief, then remind your audience that names that work aren’t necessarily names you “like the most.” Present the right number of names: “too few, and the audience will feel your exploration didn’t go far enough”; too many, and “the decision-making team may be overwhelmed and suffer from paralysis by analysis.” He even gives some advice about the order of the names presented: “get expected names out of the way first,” and put the strongest candidates at the beginning and the end, taking advantage of cognitive biases toward first and most-recent experiences.
I also appreciate the Resources section, which includes “The Namer’s Bookshelf” (an eclectic selection, from The Dictionary of Imaginary Places to Dreyer’s English), a glossary of naming terms (from abbreviation to wordmark), and a template for creating a naming brief. A nice touch: My copy of the book came with a bookmark containing 20 techniques for name generation. One of them is “Take a field trip.” I’m going to do that right now.
You can read an excerpt from Chapter 1 of Brand Naming here.
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