Intern’s-eye view, or (why it took me so long to name this blog post)

(Hint: Naming is hard.) 

I started at Salt as a Writing Intern in May of this year. As a branding agency, it makes perfect sense that Salt takes on the task of naming. But I had no idea there was so much to consider or that is was such a complex process. Here’s my ‘first glance’ take on naming.

Fun naming. Naming fun. Funnily naming.

That’s naming for you. Think of every single combination you can imagine. Then think about it some more. I was told that professional namers generally produce between 200-400 names for a half-day of work and 400-600 names for a full day of work. Whew!

On my first naming project I produced 80 names—and that was an all-day event. Not quite up to par with the pros, but it was tough, okay? How many different ways can you name a company? It was encouraging when I was told that most new people get 10-20 names before they think they’ve run out of ideas. At least I was ahead of the game.

One truism of naming I learned quite quickly is that it’s always done over multiple days. Name until you can’t name anymore. Sleep. Then start naming again. After a night of sleeping on it you’ll think of new categories, new links and new ways to imagine the brand. And keep a notepad by your bed!

I learned that you’ve got to dig deeper than spending hours in a thesaurus. There are many ways to go about this, and two resources I found really useful were Wikipedia and online magazines.

For example, with Wikipedia, you can start out researching the highest mountain ranges and end up reading about the different creatures living in the deepest parts of the ocean. How are these two topics related? Well, they aren’t exactly. But perhaps they have similar qualities to the name you’re searching for. Just remember, you can get carried away doing this; try to keep in mind why you’re there in the first place.

Magazines are also beneficial when naming. Perhaps you’re naming something in the technology realm. You can inspire yourself by picking up some tech vocabulary. But you can get more creative than that. Reading an outdoor or health magazine might spark your brain into thinking of other crafty ways to talk about technology that you wouldn’t have thought of in the first place.

A name I came up with that I thought was just great, fine and dandy, the best ever (at first), was ‘Dusk’. Quite an obscure name, but trust me, it (sort of) worked for this brand. This was all until I got some feedback, “Clients always want relentlessly positive…always.” So if I was going to pick a twilight time, I should go with dawn—it’s like sunset vs. sunrise.

This is a very good point. You have to have a company that’s comfortable with a name that skews negative. Dusk is a statement name that’s daring and most companies are just not comfortable with one of those. Know your client.

This is just one of the many ways Salt thinks through naming at a practical level. The variety of perspectives I have gained from the naming experts here at Salt are priceless. Each person has a different way of thinking about naming, and the more namers involved in a project, the better.

After spending lots of time creating lists and lists of names, there comes a point where you question what the name is really there for. To give face to a brand, yes, but there is so much more to a name.

Perhaps the biggest thing I learned was about the power of names. Brands don’t just sell products or services—they sell ideas. They play a role in people’s lives and they do this by telling a story. You have to ask yourself: “What name acts as an appropriate vessel for holding a brand’s story, products, and experiences?”

Yes. Sometimes names are literal and point directly to the product being sold. But, it’s important to also look at the bigger picture when naming. Add some emotion, tell a story, and sell a downright killer idea.