How to prepare for a brand naming brainstorm

You have your new product or service – and you know you need to find a name for it. So you call your colleagues together and say: “What shall we call this thing?”

At first, everyone looks uncomfortable, and then someone says: “Well I always like straightforward names. Shall we call it the Pay Quicker Mortgage?”

People nod heads around the table. You scribble the possible name down on a flip chart. It all goes quiet again.

A name can make or break a product – or at least make the job of taking it to market and getting people to know and love it much easier or harder.

In our experience, naming is often left until the very last moment. You can find out why that’s not such a great idea here. Also, the process for coming up with names can also be very ad-hoc and un-thought-through. So here’s what we suggest you do to prepare for a brand naming brainstorm.

1. Create a workshop structure

Getting people together to share thoughts can be a great idea. Several heads are often better than one. But only if you can create a safe and interesting environment and direct the way people will think.

So before you start, think of some themes to explore – and some ways to explore them. Thinking about benefits is always a good way to start. What’s in it for the customer of your new thing? Maybe your mortgage allows people to pay faster without penalties. So what are the benefits of that to potential customers?

  • Debt-free faster – how does that feel?
  • Being in control – how does that feel? What else could you be in control of?
  • Going faster – what does that feel like? What else goes faster?

Already, you have three key themes to explore in your workshop: Freedom, Control and Faster.

You’ll get the best results if you create some fast-paced exercises to get people to explore these themes. Perhaps you could run an exercise where you get everyone to write down words and things they associate with freedom. Then they could chop up the words to make new words. Or you could get them to find images and words associated with “faster” in magazines and make collages or mood boards. Or you could ask them to discuss “faster” in the voice of Minions – and record them doing it. They could come up with some great-sounding possible names just from playing around.

2. Invite a broad range of people

Diversity is a key ingredient of creativity. So if you want great ideas from your workshop, invite a broad range of colleagues to it. That chap you know in actuarial might not strike you as the most creative person you’ve ever met. But you never know. It might be when his life experience and views collide with that colleague of yours from marketing that the best ideas start flowing.

3. Come at it sideways

If you ask people directly to create a name for a new product or service, they’re likely to go straight into serious, rational thinking mode. This is usually the exact opposite of creative mode – which is where you need people to be.

So don’t ask them to. Maybe don’t even tell them you’re inviting them to a naming workshop. Instead ask them to come and participate in a creative session. When people ask: “What’s it for?” tell them you’re not quite sure yet, but you’ll keep them updated.

Through the workshop, tease ideas out of them by putting stimulus in their way and asking them to react to it.

4. Create a safe, easy space

You want people to be creative, so try to make the venue as creative as possible. If you bring them into a meeting room, they’re going to behave like they’re in a meeting room. They’ll think rationally. They’ll find reasons why not. They’re likely to defer to the most senior (or dominant) person in the room – and they’ll find it way too difficult to pull off being a Minion.

If you can go off-site, do. If you can get people to dress down, even better. Low lighting and availability of booze, nibbles and nice soft drinks can help. Basically, whatever it takes to get people feeling less inhibited.

And set out some rules – no naysaying, no censuring, only positive reinforcement. At this stage, nothing is stupid or inadmissible – if it’s in your head, say it. You have to be an example of this all the way through – and if you see criticism or negative commenting going on, break it up and shower it with kindness and enthusiasm.

Also, don’t get the whole group to take part in your exercises together. Get people to work in twos and threes so it’s easier for everyone to voice an opinion. And keep it moving. That way if there’s a really dominant person, they won’t get to dominate the same group for the whole session. And of course, mixing it up will give you more diverse and interesting ideas.

5. Set the pace – keep it short and fast

It’s really difficult to be very creative for a long time. So maybe keep your brainstorming session to an hour. And keep it moving. Fast-paced exercises will stop people over-thinking and self-censuring. Let people laugh – some of what they’ll be doing will feel absurd, and laughter can help people to feel more relaxed.

6. Record, record, record

Take photos, make sure you keep everything people write down. Record people Minion speaking (or any other type of speaking) on your phone. Much of it will be junk. But there will be shining gems hidden within, for sure. And if you don’t make sure you keep all the outputs, you’re going to have nothing to work with when you come to narrowing down to some good naming options.

This kind of workshop or brainstorming session will help you far more than all sitting around a meeting room table. If you’d like to talk about product naming with us, please do get in touch.