The Name Game

Picking a name, whether, for a new baby, pet, or blog post can be intimidating. But when it comes to naming an organization or initiative it can be an overwhelming task. Before settling on a name, do some due diligence.

Let me start off by sharing a few branding and naming personal pet peeves:

  • Name and/or tagline that is arbitrary, lacks meaning, is overly clever or “too insider”. Mudpie is a store that monograms nearly anything. They have really cute stuff but the name certainly doesn’t tell you about that. I’m not sure if they have a tagline, their website doesn’t. The name/tagline should give some indication as to what the organization, initiative, etc. does.
  • Over reaching. is the Purina dog food’s non-profit arm. If your one hope in life is dog-related, you either have a very nice life or are delusional.

Where to Begin

Start by creating a list of words that describe what your organization/initiative does. Then create a list of categories to help filter what words work best (remember the 5 Ws—Who, What, Where, When, Why). Categories could include:

1. Who will benefit—does your organization help moms or homeless; children or families?

2. What does your organization/initiative do—pass out food or blankets, arrange legal counsel, teach adults to read?

3. Where do you operate (geographic region)—is your organization global or country-specific; city-wide or a neighborhood collaborative?

4. When will you operate—year-round or quarterly; annually or one time only?

5. Why is your organization/initiative important/needed—will people go hungry or sit at home bored; gain literacy or clean up a park?

With your list of words now categorized by the Ws, you are on your way to an organization/initiative/business name and a tagline to support/describe what you do. While you may not use any of these words, these words should bring focus to selecting the perfect name.

Some basic rules for creating an organization name:

1. If your name does not express what you do, then the tagline must or vice versa. The name and tagline do not need to work independently of each other but one should support the other to build a strong understanding of what the organization/initiative/business is or does.

2. Once you settle on a few name choices, Google them. Are there similarly named organizations that already exist? Do they do the same thing? If there are similarly named organizations that do similar things, then it’s best to scrap that name. Selecting a name that is similar to another organization with a similar function will cause brand confusion.

3. After Google-ing a few names, check to see if the domain is available (.com, .net, .org, etc.). If one domain is unavailable (.com for example), check to see what is at that web address. Is it a placeholder site or a similar organization? If it is a placeholder site, the person who owns the domain address is likely waiting for someone to purchase the domain from them at a premium price.

4. Now that you have narrowed down your name, know that there are no similar organizations with a similar name and your preferred domain is available, I recommend purchasing all domains that are available. By purchasing .com, .net, you are preventing a similar organization from using the same name and creating future brand confusion.

Do you have any other naming guidelines? How did you come up with your name?

About Jocelyn Broder

Jocelyn Broder is vice president at Robin Tracy Public Relations. She has managed the communications efforts of one of the world’s most recognized brands–Coca-Cola–and launched turn-key communications initiatives for some of the world’s most respected ministries, non-profit organizations, authors, and publishers (including two book campaigns that made all four national best-seller lists). Before finding her love for PR, Jocelyn was a writer at The Oregonian, a top 25 newspaper.

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