I mentioned doing some brainstorming for product names in my latest developer journal but I thought it’d be valuable to document things I’m considering when picking a name.
Gibberish vs Jargon
There are tons of successful companies out there who are named based on gibberish words. Lots of young startups try to emulate this with their own naming. I do not recommend it. The problem with gibberish names is that it costs a ton in marketing efforts and time to teach people your name.
I prefer jargon words. Take some time and observe your audience. How do they describe the problems? How do they describe the solutions? These are the words they are going to search with. These are the words you want to relate with.
Word combinations are a very popular way to produce something unique. Take a mix of nouns, verbs and adjectives and just bump them up together. Take a good jargon noun, an example from my past: “Profit” for an invoicing tool. Then come up with a positive, simple, visual word to pair with it. For me the word was “Train” and thus we had ProfitTrain. Don’t be afraid to open up a mind mapping tool like MindNode or even a simple thesaurus when looking for those positive words to match.
I suspect lots of people start the product name hunt with a domain search. If you are building a web app this might have some credence but otherwise I would prioritize other aspect of the product name over a perfect domain. It’s very acceptable these days to augment a domain with things like “get____.com” or “____app.com” if you need to.
As for domain extensions, I would try to stick to
.com for most things. I think
.tv are great for the podcast and streamers out there. I personally dislike the misuse of
.io to sound geeky or to follow other similar trends.
As for search tools, I really like LeanDomainSearch. It does a good job at accepting a keyword and seeing how that word might be paired with others to find an available domain. If you are doing a gibberish word, try Wordoids.
For registration and management I use Hover as of late. They can even be a middle man for domain acquisition but I’ve never done that so I have no real feedback to share.
Depending on the nature of your app this may or may not be important. It’s usually pretty easy to see if a username has been taken with the standard Twitter UI. If you need to register a new account remember that mail hosts like gmail let you use the
firstname.lastname@example.org format for using your main email but a unique email address. This comes in very handy if you need to have multiple accounts on sites like Twitter.
Search Results, Typos and Other Confusion
When you have your prospective name you’ll want to make sure that if someone searches for you with that name you will easily be found. The best way to help guarantee this is to be proactive and do those searches in advance. Search Google, Bing and DuckDuckGo. How many results come up? The less the better. Are there common misspellings or typos that would lead a customer elsewhere? Does your name mean something negative in another language or culture?
While on the topic of search, once you do pick a name be sure to come back to these search engines and signup for search term notifications to see where your new product is being mentioned across the web.
When I first started products I did not prioritize trademarks that high but after having multiple trademark and copyright disputes on the App Store I’ve changed my thinking. The App Store forces you to prove your innocence, so if someone files a complaint against your name it will be harder to defend unless you have a proper trademark. In current times, I think it’s very helpful to get a trademark to help protect yourself. I wouldn’t worry about acquiring the trademark on day one, but it should be something scheduled on the calendar. Search for known registered trademarks.
Easy to Say, Easy to Spell
How does the name sound off the tongue? Is it hard to say? Can people mishear it as something? How well can people spell it?
Write some copy as if you are a journalist. Does the name feel natural? Try to avoid unnatural capitalization in your name. You want people to be able to include it as a first word in a sentence or article headline.
How will you visualize this name/brand? What kind of imagery comes to mind? What kind of colors?
Use Your Gut
While it’s great to get some feedback from friends and other people you trust, at the end of the day this is your baby and you’ll be saying the name more than anyone else – so make it something you like and are proud to say.
Did I forget anything? Let me know.