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The naming process is tough, but this step-by-step guide can help.

The naming of a brand can be a doozy. With a good name comes a good deal of pressure.

Your name is where the story and the narrative begin, and this is central to what the brand promises to deliver. 

Our process for choosing a name for a brand has been proven successful on many occasions for some of the best restaurateurs, real estate developers, and consumer package companies. So we figured we would shed light on how it’s done.

Here are some tips and steps to follow when finding a new name for your brand, product, or project during a rebrand.

There is one rule - Go all in

When our creative team is undergoing a new name for a brand, we are all-hands-on-deck, and we ask the client’s team to do the same. Being fully invested is essential when thinking about how to build a strong brand personality/narrative / etc. A name can come from anywhere and mean anything, depending on the founder’s direction, or vision for the brand (or lack thereof).

So this process, though often tricky, should be a collaborative one. We need the entire team – and even the client, to help come up with the best name possible! And then after a name is chosen, the brand narrative, soundbites, and creative elements should fully commit to the core meaning.

Renaming a Restaurant, Business, or Product – Here are the Steps to Take:

  • Step 1: Name Ideation – This is where we Identify the brand’s vision and “why” so that there is a clear direction to follow in brainstorming. Otherwise, you will waste a lot of time and go down rabbit holes that are not productive for the naming process.
    • Identify themes – Build off what your creative direction is for this brand. The background of how it got started, the founder’s vision, its audience, and its competitive landscape will help you define what your name should communicate.
      • Use a master document to gather all of your branding ideas. Here is a downloadable template for naming a book, to give you an idea of what the sheet can look like. This can be used for any type of business.
      • In a sheet, identify different buckets of themes and directions that name ideas can take. Themes should be things like what the brand stands for like the mission or “why”, or types of creative approaches like Homonyms, or multiple-meaning words. List the themes that are relevant to you, and populate them with name ideas.
      • Next, draft a rationale for each naming theme identified to help explain to the client your reasoning behind the choices that fall into each category.
      • Now, it’s time to brainstorm. This is the time when you should start coming up with rough ideas. Ask everyone to contribute their own as well. Remember, this is a total brain dump to get as many ideas on the page as you can, so don’t delete anything.
      • Once you have what is likely a very long list of ideas, organize each into a spreadsheet by theme and start to choose your favorites among each category.
      • Regroup with the team to share your ideas, get theirs, and identify your overall 3-5 favorite suggestions. Options are good, but too many ideas can be overwhelming.
  • Step 2: Name Incubation
    • Now, we can start to narrow in. During the incubation phase, it’s important to ensure your top choices are available. You don’t want to spend too much time on a name that is already taken. There are plenty of great tools out there that you can use to determine this:
      • Start with an initial availability search to see if there are any other brands within the same industry with this name. This can be a simple Google search, a search for social media handles or domain names, and/or a quick search of the Trademark Database.
      • Don’t get too hung up on domains if the most streamlined option is taken (, there are always creative variations you could explore.
      • NOTE: Unless there is very clearly a brand with the same name in the same industry that holds the trademark, any comprehensive trademarking searches and recommendations should come from a trademark lawyer.
  • Step 3: Testing the Names
    • The last phase is about testing the strength of your top names. It’s also where you’ll start to build out narratives for each name. It’s crucial that the name feels right and tells a larger story about the brand. This is how we do it:
      • Write a narrative for each of the top 3-5 favorites. This narrative will help pitch each idea to the client and paint a picture of the brand.
      • Identify iterations of the name if relevant. For example, small tweaks, modifiers, variations, etc. Make a section in the spreadsheet for iterations.
      • Compile name recommendations into a presentation. Include your reasoning, how you arrived at the name, and the messaging or narrative that might help people understand the brand story. Remember, a name is only as strong as the story behind it.

Do you have a need to work with a creative team to help you name or rename a project?

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  • A word on focus groups
    • If you’re torn between a few names or want to make sure you’re choosing the right one, conduct an informal focus group of family and friends, ideally in the target demographic of the brand. This focus group should not be used to choose a name, but rather inform our recommendation of the top name. Questions should be quantitative, not qualitative. DO NOT ask what name they like best. This just garners subjective opinions. And without a brand behind it, people will automatically gravitate towards the safer (and less memorable) name option. Instead, ask questions like, Is it easy to spell? Easy to pronounce? What images/emotions come to mind? Here’s the template we use.

Once the final name is chosen, reserve domain names and social handles and file a trademark application. Start practicing the use of the new name immediately, and don’t be afraid of the initial adoption of your name is slow or difficult. After a while, it will become second nature and you’ll forget how difficult the naming process was, to begin with!

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