(So is naming the website or the product or the event or the series or the new recipe. Etc etc etc.)
Naming your whichever-thing-it-is (let’s call it your Pursuit for simplicity) is a point where lots of brilliant endeavours get well and truly stuck.
- You can’t think of one single possible name.
- You come up with fifty possibilities, but they all suck.
- You came up with the perfect name, but it’s taken, and now your brain is in vapour lock and refuses to think of any other ideas.
The worstest part is that there’s usually a point where you can’t make any further progress without the name. You can’t register the domain name, or get the designer started, or submit the grant application, or create the YouTube channel, until you have a name for this damn thing! AGHHHHH…
Chill, lovely. Here’s how to find a kickass name.
When you find the right name, how will you know?
Will you start laughing? Will you go very quiet? Does the right name feel light or solid, smooth or prickly? Does it need to be easy and unambiguous to spell? Do people need to be able to say it over the phone?
If you’re struggling with this, think about any rejected names you’ve thought of. Why didn’t they quite work? What was missing?
Very often, this is one of the most important questions I ask. If you don’t know where you want to end up, it’s really goddamn hard to get there.
What’s your most important message?
Names are, generally speaking, short. (Sure, if you’re Rob Zombie you can name a song “El Phantasmo and the Chicken Run Blast-O-Rama”, but that’s the brilliant exception rather than the rule.)
Since you have to keep it short, you have to be completely, utterly brutal in trimming out everything but the core of your message. You only get to communicate one concept, and you have to choose which one it is.
Oh no, you say. But my idea is complicated and nuanced and has all these Totally Important Details and things!
See, this is why you’re stuck on a name. You have to reduce it and keep reducing it until you get down to the core.
You know you’ve gotten there when you can’t take out any word without changing the meaning.
The core cannot possibly express all of the amazingness smooshed into your Pursuit. Accept this. It can’t, and it honestly doesn’t need to. It just needs to provide a clue to the right people that your Pursuit is worth learning a wee bit more about. (Which might mean clicking on a link, or watching a video, or opening your brochure, or looking at the recipe, or whatever. The name is a breadcrumb, leading to your amazingness.)
So you have to get meaningfully simple. What is the one thing you most wanna communicate? Make a name based on that.
Evocative or descriptive?
Imagine a nice long continuum, with 100% Descriptive at one end and 100% Evocative at the other.
The Descriptive end has names like South Side Clown Supplies, The Vienna Boys Choir, The Wilderness Society. Names that tell you quite specifically what they represent, what you can expect.
The Evocative end has names like Spoonflower, Mudhoney, Illuminati. They don’t tell you what do, they tell you how they feel.
Whereabouts on the continuum do you want your name to live? At one end? Somewhere in the middle?
There are absolutely no wrong answers here. It depends entirely on you and what you want to be saying with your Pursuit. But coming up with a name is much, much easier when you know where you want to be on that spectrum – and even more importantly, where you don’t.
Throw the net wide!
Play with as many possible ideas within your new beautiful constraints. Riffle through the thesaurus. Come up with metaphors and similes (“If your Pursuit was a person, what would their favourite song be?”) Get lateral and literal and everything in between. Reject nothing, explore anything, and start to follow the resonances.
And then, refine. Find powerful words. Use tension and juxtaposition. Make your ideas fight in a cage match.
Keep going until one of three things happens:
2. You have a name that you like, but you’re not 100% sure it’s the right one yet. You want to try it out for a few days and see if it’s the one.
3. You have a bunch of ideas, and you want to let your subconscious play with them for a bit.
Sometimes you go through a rinse and repeat before the right name appears.
Sometimes you think you’ve got it and then the Absolutely Perfect Name pops into your brain at 3am.
Sometimes the right name is one you just liked at first, but it just kept growing on you.
But one way or the other, you will end up with a kickass name for your kickass thing.
Do you want some help?
The Kickass Naming Service and I are standing by to assist!
First, click that shiny button down below. It’ll take you to PayPal so you can securely and safely pay. (If you don’t have a PayPal account, no worries! You can still use your bank account or credit card.)
Soon after, you’ll receive an automatic email from me with:
- a link to my scheduler
- a lovely list of questions to ponder before our session (hint: Some of them are listed above.)
You can email me with your replies to the questions, or just think about them before we meet. Whatever works for you.
And then, we’ll have an hour-long Skype call to dig and play and push and combine until we either:
- Find the perfect name
- Fill your brain with options and let it loose for a few days.
If you need more input, we’ll back-and-forth via email a few times. If you’re really stuck, we’ll meet up on Skype again. (It’s rare, but it does happen.)
And luckily, I always record my Skype calls and I’ll send the recording to you via Dropbox when we’re done. Because you will say so many smart things that you’ll want to go back to later, I promise.
So there you’ll be, with a kickass name that you can finally take to the screenprinter/website/tender/YouTube channel/whatever, plus an hour of brilliant insight into your work, plus the incredible goddamn relief of not having to worry about the name any more. Huzzah!
How much does the Kickass Naming Service cost?
It comes in two flavours, lovely.
First, there’s the standard version, which costs $US180.
There’s also the Committee option, for people who need to get the buy-in of others (the board, their sister, the band, whatevs) before they can sign off on the name. The Committee option includes an extra half hour of Skype time after you’ve gotten feedback, to tweak and refine and change as you need. It costs $270.
Are you ready to find a kickass name for your kickass thing? Choose the option that suits you and let’s get started!