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Naming Things

This week, Dream Year is talking about Naming Things.

This is an easy area to get wrong. The wrong book title. The wrong project name. It can make or break your idea. We get stuck on a name we like and refuse to change regardless of whether it hurts us. Here are some quick guidelines:

1. List all of the possibilities

Our tendency is to pick a favorite name early and stay biased toward it throughout the naming process. The brand consultancy Interbrand reported that they came up with over 1,000 names for Microsoft’s search engine “Bing” before they decided on it.

2. Find strong associations

“Krispy Kreme” uses two contradictory but ultimately delightful concepts to describe their sweet pastries. You can almost taste the word in your mouth.

3. Build the meaning into the name

Great names shouldn’t require a subtitle. There’s no question what “Groupon” is all about. If you can interchange your name with any company, any book, or any product, it’s too cryptic.

4. Use the name as an entry point

All of us are convinced by our own ideas. But not everyone else is there yet. Let’s say you’re launching a humanitarian organization. You may see your role as an essential human responsibility at the sight of injustice. But if you’re going to convince others, you’ll need to appeal to their heroic and compassionate sensibilities.

5. Survey people with your options

One Dream Year participated surveyed 120 of her Facebook friends with 5 names. One was her top choice. Three were throwaways. Her friends picked a throwaway and tossed her favorite.

6. Create natural uses for words

Inventing new words can give your brand a unique identity, but if the uses are too unnatural, they could flop. People should be able to pronounce it, spell it and find it online without a spell check.

7. Find deep meanings for the name

Interbrand explained that “Bing” is the sound of a discovered idea, the sound of something completed, done or received electronically.

8. Use words that have a history with you

Just as your dream has a history in your life, certain words carry greater meaning. The word “history” has always meant a great deal to me since the seventh great. My non-profit organization is called Historytellers. My first church was called History Church. And my annual creativity conference is shortened to STORY.

9. Match the name to the personality

Every organization has a personality, and the name should define it. My team capitalizes the word STORY in all of our correspondence, even text messages, to underscore the stature of the event in our minds.

10. Adapt the name if necessary

Sometimes the best names emerge from nicknames or alternative uses of them. Mark Zuckerberg eventually changed the name of “The Facebook” to just “Facebook” and Kentucky Fried Chicken is now only known as KFC. Go with it.

Join me in Charlotte on Jan 27-29 for Dream Year Weekend