How to Create a Catchy Name

In the past, many businesses chose names that focused on the founders -- Merrill, Lynch, Pierce, Fenner, Smith or Bristol Myers. It felt solid and trustworthy. Businesses develop catchier names these days to create attention, competitive differentiation and appeal. They want to stand out in a crowded marketplace. Catchy names strive to get closer to the benefits their customers realize, such as SnapChat or Facebook, or they contain elements of the business' vision and value, such as Accenture -- accent on the future.

"Catchy" should be synonymous with sticky. Your name becomes a marketing tool that stays in customers' minds and brings a uniqueness of purpose and approach to business issues. Look to generate catchy names that are simple, short and easily understood.

Look Through the Eyes of Your Customer

Make several horizontal lists -- you might find it helpful to use a spreadsheet like Excel. Start with the points you want to make and what you want your customers to know in the left column. List your answers to these triggers in the columns to the right. Keep it to three or four answers per point. Each entry should be short, just one or two words. Here's an example for your left column:

  • Your product or service characteristics or features
  • Competitive differentiators -- what makes your product or service better than the rest?
  • How customers use your product or service
  • Benefits your product or service offers your customers
  • How your product or service makes your customers feel

Use Your Answers

You can take one of several paths in using this input to come up with names. One approach involves marrying words or parts of words from your answers to come up with a descriptive, hybrid name that surprises and satisfies. Think of associations, like action/reward as in SnapChat, feeling/feature as in Hootsuite or differentiator/benefit as in Whole Foods.

Consider using humor in the form of a play on words, such as Groomingdale's for a dog grooming company. Play off popular culture, such as The Codfather for a fish restaurant. Humorous catchy names for consumer companies generate buzz and bring in the first sales.

You might discover an avatar that encompasses many of your list entries. A giraffe might make a good avatar for a business because it has a huge heart and can see beyond the horizon. Combine this with another element from the lists and you've got a corporate ear worm.

Pick Your Three Strongest Candidates

Select your favorite names and bounce them off your customers for feedback. Choose a panel from your major customer groups -- three to five people from each. Show them your choices and listen to their input. Explain how you came up with each name and gauge their reactions. Ask them for their advice.

Only you can make the final decision. You have the strategic vision and the sales knowledge -- it's the suit of clothes you wear to go to market.