How to name your product, service, or startup

When creating something new it is essential to name it. Whether it’s a product, service, or startup that you’re working on it has to have a name so you can identify it, identify with it and start telling others about it.

No Name Street sign
Photo credit: No Name Street © 2009 Electropod

Naming is tough. When getting started you’ll probably experience all of these, and more: “it doesn’t sounds/look/feel right”, “all the good ones are taken”,  “it doesn’t mean anything” and “my friends don’t like it”.

Don’t worry though, even though naming is hard it’s certainly possible! I’ve collected some practical tips below to get you started.

A naming process

Below is the outline of one naming process, feel free to adapt it to meet your needs.

1. Prepare:

  • Set yourself a deadline.
  • Be conscious of what it is you’re trying to name.
  • Define your requirements or ‘success criteria’ for the name.

2. Create words:

  • Throughout the process jot down all the words that are even remotely interesting.
  • Look at competitor’s names – you’ll probably like some and hate others. Why? Try to find an objective measure and add it to your name requirements. Then forget about the competition.
  • Look at other brand names outside your field. Treat these as above.
  • Download word lists and sort, cut and dice them in various ways. Combine. Separate. Reverse.
  • Use dictionaries and thesauri to find interesting words, synonyms and antonyms. Consider languages other than English.

3. Refine words into name candidates:

  • Compare the tentative list of words to your name requirements. Cull anything that doesn’t fit the bill.
  • Check domain names. Cull anything you can’t get the dot com for. Seriously.
  • Do a Google/Yahoo/Bing search online. Generally the fewer results you get, the better. This way you can treat the prospective name as a ‘blank canvas’ and build its meaning as you go.
  • Check that your name candidate doesn’t mean anything rude in the major languages.
  • Check the name registries in countries you’re planning on doing business in.
  • Rinse and repeat until you have a short list of about a dozen name candidates.

4. Validate name candidates:

  • Share this list and your name requirements with friends and colleagues. Get feedback and listen to it.
  • If you can, test a handful of names with the intended audience for your product or service. Remove any candidates that don’t test well.

5. Select the name:

  • On the day of your deadline, choose the name that best meets your name requirements.
  • File business name applications, register a stack of domains etc.
  • Enjoy your freshly created name!

Name requirements example

Here’s the list of requirements I had before selecting the name ‘Volkside’ for the business:

  • Memorable: Easy for people to pick up, write down and remember
  • Easy to pronounce in English and Finnish
  • Rhymes nicely, not too soft or hard
  • Unique
  • Cool but not ‘trendy’ – long lifespan
  • Adaptable to new areas of business
  • All key domains available
  • AU and FI business names available
  • Short
  • Preferably starts with an early alphabet
  • Needs to encapsulate message of the ‘manifesto’

It’s up to you to decide how well ‘Volkside’ meets these name requirements 🙂

Your list may be substantially different; that’s ok. The idea is to have some measures to compare name candidates by and make the whole naming process less subjective.

Enjoy your naming!

Naming resources

Articles and blog posts:

Naming tools:

Naming and branding companies:

This page last updated on 26 Jan 2011

Author: Jussi

Jussi Pasanen is the founder and principal at Volkside

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