There’s lots of advice out there for creating company and product names. (Some of that advice is available righthereon this blog.) It’s much harder to find out what to do after you’ve developed and vetted that list of names. How should you reveal your top name candidates to your co-founders, the executive team, or the board of directors? How best to persuade and guide your audience toward making or endorsing a decision? How to respond if someone says, “I dunno … I just don’t like it”?
In my experience, this can be the toughest stage of the naming challenge. Here are five tips for making your case.
Consider the business name Pubmission. If I told you nothing else about it, what would you imagine the business to be?
You might imagine something like this:
That’s where my imagination went, anyway.
In fact, Pubmission has nothing to do with English taverns and 18th-century Spanish outposts. It’s a website that “digitizes the slush pile and matches writers with publishing professionals.” According to Publishing Perspectives, a news and opinion site, Pubmission is intended to be used by editors and agents—“anyone with a slush pile,” says owner Wolf Hoelscher—as well as by authors seeking publication.
So Pubmission is a portmanteau of “publication” or “publishing” and “submission,” as far as I can deduce. If you’re an author, an editor, or an agent, that meaning probably shouldered itself to the front of the line in your brain, far ahead of any associations with British pubs, Mission-style furniture, or public commissions. (Or emissions, for that matter.) You were already thinking about publishing and submissions, and “Pubmission” clicked.
My point is that context matters in naming. It can create some useful limits within which to start your name exploration. If your product or service has a niche market with a specialized vocabulary, you might consider using that vocabulary in your name to establish credibility and connection with your audience.
For example, University of California librarians didn’t need to be told the etymology behind Melvyl, the name of UC’s online library system: They recognized the name of Melvil Dewey, father of the Dewey Decimal System. Dewey’s first name is obscure to us laypeople, but that’s OK with librarians. They probably appreciate being spoken to in a sort of code.
Now, I don’t think “Pubmission” is a great name. It has that computer-generated, one-from-column-A-one-from-column-B look. It’s forced and unnatural-sounding, and it doesn’t communicate a benefit. But to its target market, it has the virtue of conveying a valuable sliver of meaning. In context, it’s a not-too-bad name, and sometimes—at least while you’re still in beta, working out the bugs—not-too-bad can be good enough.
Speaking of slush piles, Slush Pile Hell gives you some insight into why the submission process deserves to be digitized. Hat tip: Karen.