Tricks to Creating a Name

How do creatives come up with company or product names? Here at Zoom, it’s a ton of brainstorming and bouncing ideas off of each other (and don’t forget a browse of the thesaurus) to get the best and most fitting names. Below is an interesting article I found on the Graphic Design Blog sharing different tricks and naming styles and shows just how the most famous brands achieved their infamous names.

Ever wondered how great names like Nike, Mercedes and Google come from? Did they just pop out of nowhere? Or was there a premeditated strategy behind their evolution? I remember reading this great quote by Thomas C. Haliburton. “Nicknames stick to people, and the most ridiculous are the most adhesive.” That is exactly the case with famous brands like Yahoo, Google, Pepsi and Coca-Cola. Their names have such a connotation that they stick to our minds with ease and simplicity. But how to determine which name would be ideal for your company? There are many styles of naming a company. Some famous brands are named after their owners while others are suggestive in nature. Following are 8 universal style in which a company name is shaped:

1. Actual Names:
The most common style of naming a company is after the name of a real person. The real person might be the owner/founder of the brand, son/daughter of the owner or maybe a celebrity liking. But the name is real and genuine and not made-up. For example:

Ford – Named after founder, Henry Ford.
Mercedes – First name of the daughter of Emil Jellinek, engineer of the car.
Boeing – Named after founder William Boeing
Dell – Named after founder Michael Saul Dell
Getty Images – Named after founder Mark Getty

2. Invented Names:
Another creative style of shaping a company name is by inventing a word that sounds pleasant and catchy. One of the reasons for fabricating a name is to sound foreign (known as foreign branding). Another reason could be that the made-up word is a common term and memorable. For example:

CISCO – Not an abbreviation but short for San Francisco
Haagen-Dazs – Made-up name to give it a foreign sound, has no meaning
Dr. Pepper – Not named after a real doctor, just a made-up character.
Yahoo! – Founders liked the meaning of the word. “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle” is not an acronym but a backronym

3. Analogies and Metaphors:
One of the most trendy styles of coming up with a corporate name is using metaphors and analogies. Analogy is basically a term that bears resemblance, one way or another, to your business nature. Although the name itself might have no relation to your business, but it would clearly explain your business purpose. For example:

Apple – Told to be the favorite fruit of Steve Jobs or for the time he worked at an apple orchard.
Caterpillar - A company photographer resembled tractor’s movement to a caterpillar.
Adobe – From the Adobe Creek that ran behind the house of co-founder John Warnock.
Fuji – Named after Mount Fuji, the highest mountain in Japan
Virgin – Suggestion from a student saying “the company was virgin at business”.

4. Abbreviations:
One of the most convenient ways of naming a company is by abbreviating the name. It is beneficial of your corporate name is lengthy and also increases the level of recall of the brand. Some acronyms are pronounced individually while others are pronounced as a single word. Like my blog acronym GDB (Graphic Design Blog) is pronounced G, D, B separately. Other examples include:

FCUK – French Connection United Kingdom
DKNY – Donna Karan New York
BMW – Bayerische Motoren Werke
ESPN – Entertainment and Sports Programming Network
bebo – Blog Early, Blog Often

5. Conjunctions:
When you are running out of a single word to name your company with, try using a conjunction. Mixing two words together to form a new word is helpful especially when your business nature is extensive to describe. Examples are:

Microsoft – Microcomputer + Software
Intel – Integrated Electronics
Netscape – Net+ Landscape
Skype – Sky + Peer-to-Peer
Wikipedia – Swiki + encyclopedia

6. Derived:
Sometimes company names are formed out of a long and protracted strategy. The decision makers of the name use terms of different origins to connote their business to it. Popular terminologies include words derived from Greek, Latin and other mythical jargon. For Example:

Volvo – From the Latin word volvo, which means “I roll”
Starbucks – Named after Starbuck, a character in Herman Melville’s novel Moby-Dick
Coca-Cola – Derived from the coca leaves and kola nuts used as flavoring
Nike – Named after the Greek goddess of victory.
Xerox – Derived from the Greek xeros (dry) and graphos (writing)

7. Word Jumble:
When words are not enough to express your business nature, try combining a few numbers as well. It adds more attraction and ease to the company name. Moreover, using numbers work as a contraption. Like for the term “three” one can use the digit “3” instead to shorten the name. Some examples are:

3M – From the company’s original name, Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company
7-UP – A subsidiary brand of Pepsi Co.
20th Century Fox – Merger of William Fox’s Fox Film and Twentieth Century Pictures.
3Com – Network technology producer; the three coms are computer, communication, and compatibility
7-Eleven – Convenience stores; renamed from “U-Tote’m” in 1946 to reflect their newly extended hours, 7:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m

8. Playing with words:
On rare occasions company name just don’t come out as they were originally intended to be. Deliberately or accidentally the company plays with words and a new name is born. Sometimes, they are changed because another company already exists by that name. Sometimes a mistake or typo creates another word that generates more attraction. I’d like to call this the ‘twist of fate’ technique.

Google – An originally accidental misspelling of the word googol. – “Digg” was used instead of “Dig” because the domain name “” was previously registered.
Reebok – Alternate spelling of rhebok (Pelea capreolus), an African antelope.
Harpo Productions – Production Company founded by Oprah Winfrey. Harpo is Oprah backwards.
Adidas – Mixing up the founders name (Adolf (Adi) Dassler).

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