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Navigating the Art and Science of Naming in an AI-Powered World: Insights from a Naming Expert

Key Takeaways:

  1. Evolution of Naming Trends: From tech-inspired suffixes to organic, abstract identities, naming trends have evolved significantly alongside the surge in trademark registrations. 

  2. Client Engagement and Strategy: Effective naming involves navigating diverse client preferences, from those seeking ‘aha’ moments to others valuing strategic alignment and legal compliance. 

  3. Strategic Approach to Rebranding: When rebranding, balance preserving equity with refreshing identity to meet evolving market demands and business strategies. 

  4. Types of Names: Understanding the nuances between descriptive, evocative, and abstract names empowers brands to choose names that resonate deeply with their audiences. 

  5. Memorability and Longevity: A successful name is memorable, pronounceable, and scalable, reflecting the brand’s essence while allowing for future growth and adaptation. 

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In today’s digital age, naming your brand isn’t just about creativityit’s a strategic decision that can impact your legal standing, customer perception, and online visibility. One common question that arises is whether it’s permissible to use the same name as another company. Let’s delve into this complex issue and explore the considerations that can guide your decision. 

The Evolution of Naming Trends 

Laura Schroeder’s journey into naming began unexpectedly, sparked by a fascination with the strategic role of brand identity. Reflecting on her career, she notes a significant shift in naming conventions over the years. Initially dominated by tech-inspired names with trendy suffixes like ‘K’ and ‘X,’ today’s landscape favors more organic, abstract identities. This evolution parallels the exponential rise in trademark registrations, now exceeding a million more than when Laura started in 2005. 

Adapting to Changing Client Needs 

In a world where distinctive branding is key, clients often seek names that defy expectations. Laura recounts insights from Liquid Death, a brand that embraced unconventional naming to stand out in the beverage industry. Such names, she emphasizes, must be backed by a clear and unique value proposition to resonate effectively. 

Navigating Client Expectations 

Handling diverse client preferences is a hallmark of Laura’s expertise. From clients seeking ‘aha’ moment names to those preferring a methodical approach, Laura underscores the importance of thorough research and multiple rounds of evaluation. She shares anecdotes where initial favorites gave way to names that better aligned with legal and branding requirements. 

The Art and Science of Naming

Laura attributes her success to a blend of linguistic prowess and strategic intuition honed over years of practice. Her multicultural background and love for language play pivotal roles in crafting names that resonate globally. She emphasizes the importance of scalability and longevity, advising against names that may limit future growth or brand evolution.

Challenges and Strategies in Rebranding 

For clients facing the need to rebrand, Laura’s approach combines preserving brand equity with refreshing identity. She shares experiences from large corporations navigating name changes due to acquisitions or evolving market perceptions, highlighting the delicate balance between continuity and innovation. 

Engaging Clients in the Naming Process 

Central to Laura’s methodology is engaging clients actively throughout the naming journey. From initial brainstorming sessions to comprehensive surveys, she ensures every stakeholder’s voice is heard. This collaborative approach not only fosters buy-in but also enhances the likelihood of choosing a name that resonates deeply with the brand’s essence. 

The Power of Abstract Names 

Discussing different naming strategies, Laura distinguishes between descriptive, evocative, and abstract names. Abstract names, like ‘Apple’ or ‘Hulu,’ often employ unexpected metaphors or word parts, intriguing consumers while maintaining distinctiveness. She advocates for names that are memorable, pronounceable, and aligned with the brand’s narrative, steering clear of arbitrary choices that lack relevance. 

Final Thoughts 

As our conversation draws to a close, Laura leaves us with a crucial takeaway: a great name should be memorable, accessible, and able to withstand the test of time. Whether creating a new brand identity or refreshing an existing one, her advice resonates with clarity and experience gained from navigating the ever-evolving landscape of naming. 

Connect with Laura Schroeder 

For those inspired by Laura’s insights and seeking naming expertise, she can be reached through LinkedIn or by searching ‘Laura Schroeder naming.’ Her wealth of experience and passion for crafting compelling brand identities make her a valuable resource in the realm of naming and branding. 


Mike Carr (00:10): 

Well welcome everybody to our weekly session on naming in an AI world and we have a special treat today we have Laura Schroeder. 

Laura Schroeder (00:19): 

I started off my career actually in the whole internet boom and I was there when all the VCs were happening and I was a project manager then a product manager. All this, I was fully invested, but I never really had much of a passion for it, I have to be honest. And I met somebody at a party who was talking about what they did and like you and I know when people ask naming what’s naming people don’t even realize it’s a job. He worked for a company named Interbrand and it really intrigued me. I was like, oh. So then I had that always in the back of my mind and then maybe a couple years later, one of my good friends from college I heard was director of verbal identity at guess where Interbrand and I said, I’d love to get into this. Can you just at least let me help with some name generation, I’ll work for free just to get my feet wet. And that’s really how it all started. 

Mike Carr (01:21): 

Looking back, is there one or two or maybe even three things that were the greatest surprises to you compared to your expectations when it came to developing a name? 

Laura Schroeder (01:33): 

Well, it’s interesting because I just think even the way you create names is very different from when I started and a lot of that has to do with kind of names that were trending. There was a lot of tech companies coming up and they wanted to sound techie and of course now we’re like anything that ends in K or X or we kind of want to get away from that. People are going into more the organic nature, abstract names, but a lot of that has to do of course, that we have over a million more trademarks registered than when I started in 2005. 

Mike Carr (02:11): 

Why is that? I mean, what do you think has changed the world so that today a very different kind of name is really what needs to be created and suggested to a client? 

Laura Schroeder (02:23): 

I think some of it is just trends and I think some people want to follow those trends like the misspelled words, the dropping, the vowels, all those things. And some just want to be more of those challenger brands like Liquid Death for Water. 

Mike Carr (02:40): 

How do you guide a client on a journey or where do you start so that a name like Liquid Death would even be in the consideration set. 

Laura Schroeder (02:50): 

We actually had somebody come to speak to us, Andy Pearson from Liquid Death a couple months ago, and their strategy was do the opposite of what you expect. It does not work for every brand. If you’re going to go out there with a more unique name, which I’m all for, it really has to be backed up by that unique value proposition because those names are inherently intriguing, they’re tantalizing, they draw somebody in, but if you draw somebody in and you’re saying the same thing, it sort of loses its oomph. 

Mike Carr (03:26): 

How do you handle the situation? We’ve had this happen, you probably have to where the most senior person or somebody on the call says, well, I’ll know the name when I see it. I am expecting the aha name right that name. Just to jump off the page at me, the 

Laura Schroeder (03:42): 

Way that we were presenting names is that we would present to the core team first who then would share with actually the founder and CEO of the company. So he obviously has a very vested interest. I mean, talk about emotional connection. The first round we felt went very well. The founder was not seeing it. He’s like, you know what, just give me another round. And we had about 10 to 15 names for this round, and on the second name he said, that’s the one I want it. And didn’t even want to see anything else. So of course the name that he loved, we did a comprehensive search and it didn’t work and that’s why we always want clients to at least consider eight to 10 would be ideal to put through that full legal search. Once that didn’t work, we did have other name presentations and the name that they ended up choosing was actually on that second presentation of ones that he never saw. 

Mike Carr (04:48): 

What do you think is your superpower when it comes to naming? I mean, you’ve been doing this since 2005. You’ve got a tremendous number of clients and projects and successful names under your belt. Why are you so good at what you do? 

Laura Schroeder (05:04): 

A good namer usually has good vocabulary. They love words. I grew up part of my youth in Puerto Rico, so I was surrounded by Spanish speakers all the time. I Latin for three or four years. So those kind of things just help to having your wheelhouse. But then the other thing is how do you go to explore those metaphors? And one thing I can say with AI that has helped a lot with research. 

Mike Carr (05:36): 

Are there any other tricks or are there any other things that you think you’ve learned as a name or having done this so long that are sort of, you just do it intuitively because of your language background because you’ve been doing this for so long, but folks that have never done this before, it’s like don’t forget 

Laura Schroeder (05:55): 

This. One thing we find a lot of times, and I’m sure you have too when you’re presenting names, there’s often somebody in the crowd that says, oh, I used to work for a paper company that had that name. I used to work for this company that had that name, names that are completely in a different category, different trademark, and they might not be that big. Now if you’re trying to do Apple in another category, there’s some brands that are too big that you don’t want to cause confusion, but at the end of the day, that’s what it is. It’s like could somebody potentially be confusing this name with another brand? The other thing I would say, when people talk about, oh, I want an intuitive name, I really want to know what they do, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, your value proposition may change over time. You don’t want a name to limit you and what you might do in the future. You really have to think about where’s my company going to come be in 20 years names? You can’t just keep on swapping out every five years when your business change. So you really have to think about that scalability of that name. So have a name that captures more of those enduring ideas, 

Mike Carr (07:04): 

But where have you run into a situation if you have where a clients come to you and they say, look, we just need a new name. This name is either tarnished because of some bad press or perhaps is too limiting. We want to retain some of the equity we have, but we also want to sort of come up with something new and different. 

Laura Schroeder (07:23): 

I have worked with some large companies that have rebranded themselves. A lot of times the rebranding could be that maybe one of their other brands has the same name and they want to set themselves apart from that. And then we have other companies who’ve acquired some other companies. So their value proposition has truly changed. 

Mike Carr (07:47): 

Tell me what you guys have done before. I think it was similar but not quite the same thing before you opened up the conversation. 

Laura Schroeder (07:54): 

So we present all the names and at the end we have a survey and we would have all the names listed. We would also include the rationale or name story just so because people don’t always remember. And then we would have them vote yes, maybe no, essentially. So maybe it was always on the fence, not sure, let’s discuss kind of idea. Then what we would do is you can very quickly, in less than five minutes, you have the results and then you show them what are the top eight names and it really helps. And then you also talk about names that aren’t in the top eight because somebody might just have a strong point of view and really love one name that nobody else did, and I’ve seen them convince everybody else that let’s bring this one into the short list as well. 

Mike Carr (08:43): 

Is there anything else, Laura, that you’ve done maybe in general across all clients or maybe for a few specific clients that boy, if we hadn’t done that, it would’ve been disaster or we didn’t do it and man, we’re really having now to change course midstream, 

Laura Schroeder (09:00): 

We were working with a big healthcare company and they were naming a foundation on health equity. We showed them our findings and they were like, great. And they’d say said, well, we’d like something a little bit of each. We are not going to use the founder name. We don’t want to use our name, but explore the spectrum, but based on who they are and just start experience and working with them before we thought it would be beneficial to do something what we call a tissue session. And that comes from the old advertising way of presenting something on tissue page where that’s just meant to foster ideas and just get their initial reaction and then you can crumple it up and throw it away. So what we do is we come up with names. We either divide them by type of names, like Real Words and invented for example, or by theme, just depending on what it is. And they’re usually not legally screened at all because we’re just trying to get their reaction. So it turned out that they really liked these invented words using Latin roots, and that learning was invaluable because when we had our name presentation, we had hardly of any of those, I would say 75% of our names like Bell and the other camp. 

Mike Carr (10:29): 

Share with us a little bit about when you would advocate for an abstract name, what you mean by an abstract name, how it’s different than an arbitrary name. 

Laura Schroeder (10:39): 

In general, you have your more descriptive sounding names that say exactly what they are. Then you have something like enhanced descriptive, which might use a more evocative term paired with a descriptive term like Beach Body Fitness, right? The beach is a little bit more evocative. If it was just called beach, nobody would know what it is. And then we have something called evocative, and so those are those names. Ance heard the Anthem holding Co where you look at it and you think, oh, well, that kind of sounds like relevance. It kind of sounds like advance. It kind of sounds like Elevate the average user, average audience could kind of figure out what it means. Then you have abstract names and abstract names are the type of names that do have a story behind the name, but they use unexpected metaphors or unexpected word parts that might not easily be obvious to the average person. 


And our famous example is like Apple. That was a big disruptor. Or if you think of a name that’s more, you think of something like Hulu, which was inspired by the hula hoop, which is a project I worked on, and they wanted something that sounded engaging, interactive, playful, and so that’s how Hulu was born. Then you have arbitrary names and I can’t actually think of any, but it’s actually like a name that has no relevance or anything in anything. Actually, Xerox might not be a bad example, so I wouldn’t really advocate for those arbitrary names, but I do think abstract names have a lot of potential. 

Mike Carr (12:26): 

Is there any last thought that you’d like to leave the listeners or the viewers with that? Hey, if you just remember one thing that I’ve learned in naming for almost 20 years, the one thing that I would want to leave you with that focus on this or remember this, when you come up with the new name, what pops to mind? 

Laura Schroeder (12:48): 

I would say that, and we hear our clients say this to you, I want the name to be memorable. What does memorable mean? What makes something easy to remember? It’s that quick backstory. If you have to give me a paragraph about why this name makes sense, you’ve lost me. I want you to tell me Hoka, what’s the name? Hoka. It means to fly. Oh, they’re running shoes. I get it. It’s very accessible. It’s got to be pronounceable as we said. Say it out loud. Does it actually sound good when you present it? It should be easy to spell. It can still be a unique word, an invented word, but it has to be easy to spell real words. They’re your friend, but they’ve got to be a little bit more removed from the category. But the success of using a real word is people already have that emotional connection. If a name is unique, intriguing, distinct, that can do some of the heavy lifting, and a lot of times it’s really that initial investment that may be higher over the long term, maybe not because it has that stickiness. 

Mike Carr (14:01): 

Well, Laura, you’ve been awesome. If somebody would like to reach out to you because of all your experience and maybe look at you as a naming resource, how would they best get ahold of you? 

Laura Schroeder (14:11): 

You look up Laura Schroeder naming. I think you’ll find me. I can also be found on LinkedIn. If you look up Laura Schroeder brand. 

Mike Carr (14:20): 

Laura, thank you so much for your time. You’ve been just a delight to talk to. Have a great rest of your week. 

Laura Schroeder (14:25): 

Okay, you too. Thanks, Mike. You bet. All right. Bye. 

Mike Carr (14:29): 

See you. 

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