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When a Name is More than a Name

Many companies realize they need a new company or product name, long before they know how to name it—assuming they ever figure that out. That’s because naming is hard. Don’t despair. We at TwoCents Riot have got you. We’ve created a process for naming that we call the three Cs—core values, creativity, and connection. Follow these guidelines and you’ll get to a name that resonates, stands out, and endures.

1. Focus on your core values

Before plucking a random name from the air, focus on the WHAT, WHY, and HOW statements that make up your brand’s core values. By core values, we mean the unique benefit your solution, mission and vision give customers.

What the WHAT?

The WHAT isn’t your product or service. It isn’t a description of your cloud data migration solution or your smart instrumentation to build AI sensor models. Rather, the WHAT is the advantage you are delivering to your customers at a deeper level. For example, data migration is about giving your customers a reliable way to innovate like never before. Cost-effective AI tools become the power to predict what matters most for less.

And WHY exactly?

WHY is your larger mission. The why goes beyond seeing a gap in the market to your reason for solving a customer need. A core value WHY might be your belief that customers should be able to build across increasingly complex and interdependent systems without being afraid things might break. Or, it might be understanding that engineers want to explain how AI works and you want to help them do that.

HOW now?

HOW is your secret sauce for how you uniquely deliver on your WHAT and WHY that sets you apart. For example, a HOW may be your new way of deploying AI to automate lead generation to improve the discoverability of high quality prospects or your team’s deep expertise in building observability across systems at scale so customers can troubleshoot issues more effectively.

It may seem like any organization should have already identified and gained internal alignment around the hierarchy of their WHAT, WHY and HOW. But that’s not the case. And we get it. It’s understandable that this gap would happen when customer needs and market conditions are evolving rapidly and the product team is trying to build the airplane while the rest of the team flies it.

2. Create room for creativity

Generating names that resonate with your team, stakeholders, and customers requires the ability to articulate emerging technology and market complexity as simple yet meaningful core value statements.

Time spent on establishing core brand values results in a visionary name that withstands evolving business models and shifts in market dynamics.

The next step is to get creative and generate a group of keywords from the core value statements. The keywords provide the organizational structure for brainstorming a first round of potential names. These can be literal or allegorical names but they should never lose a clear connection back to the core values. This through line from values to names allows you to cast a wide net to provide options in tone, cadence, and emphasis to choose from. Often clients don’t know what they like or don’t like until they see it and hear it.

By hear it, we mean listen up.

Pay close attention to how a word or word combinations sound. Many of our initial brainstorm names end up on the cutting room floor because they don’t sound good. How a name sounds is as important as what a word means in terms of gaining and retaining mind share. This is a subtle competitive edge that is often overlooked.

Naming is hard and so is simplicity.

Often our most creative work can be in stripping away the noise. When we present a deceptively simple word that is also powerful in its layers of meaning and complex in its clarity, our clients can feel like they’ve struck gold.

Creativity also serves to solve one of the biggest and most frustrating challenges in brand naming - copyright. It is crowded out there! While we are not trademark lawyers, we do advise our clients to keep an open mind to the more creative names because uniqueness in the marketplace often opens up usage rights, .com domains and trademark possibilities.

3. Connect the dots

From your creative brainstorming you’ll have a list of potential names you need to choose from. To decide, it’s useful to judge the name as one part of a whole package of interconnected language. There is an important hierarchy of messaging that layers in meaning around a brand name.

Think of a pyramid. At the top is the brand name. Next down the pyramid is the tagline, followed by longer descriptions and then a foundation of brand vocabulary words and phrases.

We’ve already talked about the brand name.

The tagline should catch your eye and your imagination.

Taglines are short, simple statements that support the brand name without explaining everything. Change the tagline and the meaning of the brand name changes. We come up with dozens of taglines varying in tone and connotation. One usually rises to the top to become the one most consistently connected to the brand name while secondary taglines can be mixed and matched to test messaging across audiences, collateral and platforms.

At the next layer down the hierarchy, descriptions support the brand name and tagline with more straightforward details about your organization or mission.

A short, one or two sentence description can be used in high visibility areas of marketing materials, such as on a website, sales emails and other communications. They can also be internalized as an elevator pitch or a quick explanation of the company in conversations. A long description is used when a more detailed or technical summary of the company or product is appropriate for particular marketing materials and can become part of the general pool of brand language to use as needed.

Repeat, repeat, repeat.

The base of the pyramid is a bank of brand words. While last, this certainty isn’t least. The bank of brand words is a reservoir of specific words and phrases documented as a resource in building a consistent brand voice with a specific tone. For example, a brand tone may be casual, irreverent, kinetic, authoritative or empowering. Word choice may include using platform vs. solution or enterprise vs. at scale or trusted vs. integrity. Consistency is key and overtime, small details like using one word instead of another builds a brand vocabulary that drives efficiency, brand integrity and loyalty.

Seeing the name in context with the supporting taglines and descriptions often results in big ah ha moments. Connecting the name to core values gives clarity to its meaning that brings the right name to life and makes the final naming decision one the internal team and external stakeholder can rally around.

Try following these three Cs of naming - core values, creativity and connection - to help turn what otherwise can be a very subjective and hard decision into one you can make with a clear understanding of where it came from and why it works for your unique brand today and into the future.

We understand that this type of brainstorming process is something most business owners and start-ups don't typically have the opportunity or bandwidth to take advantage of on their own. If you need a name or even a rebrand but don’t want to go it alone, we invite you to get in touch to learn more about how we could collaborate and make the three Cs work for your brand.


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