Naming a New Business or Product? Two Methods for Productive Brainstorming

Naming a New Business or Product? Two Methods for Productive Brainstorming

By Natalie Dewhirst Share This Story | | Tags   Branding

As a brand strategy agency we are often brought in to help with naming a new product, and it's one of our favorite things to do. Today we're going to share a little bit of our process.

At ThreeTwelve we've helped launch new companies from scratch and we've helped existing companies launch new products. The process of naming a new company or product is part intuition -- that gut reaction that something's right or wrong -- and part backing it up with a story and some research so the name has grip, weight and meaning.

Start with the story


Every brand needs a story. Your story is the foundation that gives everyone inside and outside the company a clear picture of who the brand is and what it stands for. People increasingly expect the companies they interact with to have strong humanity. Use this knowledge to craft your brand story and begin to think of your brand as a living breathing being.

Some questions to ask to begin crafting your brand story:

  • What role do you play in customers' or clients' lives?
  • What is the underlying customer need or motivation that your product satisfies?
  • What archetype does your product most closely fit?
  • What promise to your customers do you keep?
  • How do you want your customers to feel?

Answering these questions starts to breathe personality into your brand. Gut-check your ideas against this framework. The personality of the name should match the personality of your brand.

Once you are feeling good about your story, or at least are clear in its direction, here are two approaches to guide your name brainstorming.

Brainstorming - Random, Not Random 


The most productive brainstorming happens when you give it a little structure. There is something to be said for being put into a box - creativity often flourishes under restraint.

Try starting with these two boxes. Fill them with words that answer two questions:

1. What do we do?

2. What do we promise?

To begin the brainstorming process, we get out big, easel-sized pieces of sticky paper (we prefer them for this use to white boards, because you can keep them and they don't erase accidentally). Designate one person as the note taker / moderator. They write down everyone's ideas -- without judgement -- but also try to keep the group creatively focused, often by asking questions that trigger new ideas.

Side note: To create a really vibrant brainstorming session you have to create a safe environment. Obviously if people feel mocked or judged, they will clam up. Keep it playful and light. Try rotating the role of the note taker. There is no hierarchy at the brainstorming table and the intern's ideas are as valued as the CEO's.

Let the Names Begin

Now begin answering the first question: What do we do?

Don't limit yourself too much here. Think of words that explicitly say what you do and then think of words that only capture the essence of what you do. Break out the thesaurus, combine existing words, make up new words. But don't vet your ideas just yet. Let them come freely. "Bad" ideas often trigger really good ones -- so no censorship.

Names that come out of this type of questioning can be really strong. Think: Facebook, Lyft, Shipt.

Promises, Promises

Once you've thought of every possible word or word combo that says what you do, it's time to move on to the next question: what do you promise?

Answering this question puts you in your customer's shoes. How do you want them to feel as a customer? What is the end result of becoming your customer? What's in it for them?

This kind of questioning is really powerful and can even help strengthen your existing brand story if you haven't answered these questions before. It really gets to the heart of why your product or company exists. It's good stuff, I promise.

Some great examples of names that capture the promise: DuoLingo, Spirit Airlines, Intel, Yum.

Begin the gut check

Now that you have these large lists of words and ideas, start evaluating. For this stage of the process, we rely on gut check. Circle the ideas that feel right, that resonate, that jump out at you even if you can't say exactly why.

And now walk away.


Go for a walk. Eat a meal. Sleep.

We, as a team, have taken long silent walks together (not an easy feat with this group) and come back to share our thoughts with newly cleared minds.

Then look at these ideas with fresh eyes. You might wonder what you were thinking the day before -- we call it a brainstorming hangover. You need some distance between the creation and the evaluation of ideas. It gives clarity.

With the ideas you still love, start vetting. This is an entirely different and involved process that we'll cover in a separate post but you certainly don't want to go to far down a path with a name you can't use.

Thinking inside the box is not always a bad thing

These are just two boxes you can put yourself into to start your name brainstorming. The point is that giving some structure to your brainstorming can actually help you be more creative. It's random, not random.


You don't have to go it alone. If you'd like to hire us to help with your naming process, we'd love to help. Get in touch using the form below or call us (877) 434-4369.

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