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Naming in an A.I. Age Episode #4

Essential to our NameStormers process is pitching a name and each presentation round is filled with dozens of names. In this week’s podcast episode learn how the NameStormers work to avoid decision fatigue in their clients, differentiate names from each other and from round to round, maximize the storytelling potential behind a name, and give feedback on legal use of names. Keep listening to hear about the ideal client involvement and key skills needed of a NameStormers team member.

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Episode Four of “Naming in an AI Age” Podcast 

Adelaide Brown: 

Hey, and welcome back to “Naming in an AI age.” I’m here again with our founder and CEO of NameStormers Mike Carr. It’s gonna be a good episode. We’ve got some, some pretty basic, but integral to our creative process, topics on deck for this episode. Um, we’re just gonna get right into it if you don’t mind, Mike. 

Mike Carr: 

You bet.  

Adelaide Brown: 

So just when thinking about the creative process and when clients come to you, they’ve given you their project, kind of their thoughts on what the name needs to be, how does your team kind of approach presenting either an individual name or a round of names? Do you wanna speak to that a little bit? 

Mike Carr: 

Right. So, this is absolutely a sales pitch, right? And, and so, the more energy, the more excitement, the more context, the more window dressing, you can wrap around the name, the better. I mean, a new name is like this fragile little baby, and they’re so fragile and they’re so easy to break and drop, and once they crack, it’s hard, it’s hard to fix ’em. And, and so if there’s no story behind a new name. There’s no context, there’s no familiarity, it’s just tough to get any traction. So, we try, when we present a name, and what we’d always recommend anybody do is, you know, put a tagline next to it, right? And hopefully a tagline that helps that name, you know, come alive. 

You know, so, you know, Nike’s tagline, “Just do it,” you know, it sort of gives you some context that, then oh, okay, well, tell me a little bit more about Nike. “Just do it.” That sounds interesting, right? There’s some energy there, there’s a call to action. You know, those types of things really help. And then maybe some rationale, right? 

Like, here’s the story. And today in particular, and we talk about an AI world and, and where everything’s going, we think story’s only gonna become more and more important, right? It’s, it’s what is, what’s the context? You know, how does that name come alive? And, and it can be, you know, something that’s really authentic in terms of, well, this name comes from a particular historical term that’s relevant to the project and the product, or the persona, or the brand archetype. 

Or it can be a little bit fiction, right? It’s like based on a true story, but you, you take some liberties, but it’s crafting something that’s relevant to the audience and that sort of differentiates that name from certainly the competitive set, while staying very true to what the client told us in terms of their, their positioning, their branding, what they want to hang their hat on in terms of a sustainable key differentiator, all those kinds of things we take into account, you know, when pitching and presenting these names,  

Adelaide Brown: 

That makes a ton of sense. Just thinking about the importance that’s been seen in research done around my generation, gen Z, um, the importance of the personality, at least within B2C companies has been so prevalent in where we’re willing to put our money, et cetera. 

So, the context and story around, especially companies staying true to the story around, a name is so important. So how do some of these client preferences affect the presentation of names when you’re working one with one client to the next while still staying true to that like NameStorming process? 

Mike Carr: 

Right. So, I think the key to a successful name, and this can be you guys doing it yourselves, uh, it can be an agency that’s doing it for a client. It’s the questions you ask, right? If you ask questions intentionally and mindfully that really are gonna help inform that process. It just makes a huge difference. 

And so, like one of the things we like to ask is, well, what names do you like? And they don’t have to be in your category. But more importantly, why do you like them? And the why you like them is often where we get the insights we need, because Typically folks will throw out a name that they like, and the name itself has very little to do with why they like it. 

It’s, it’s the context, it’s the history, it’s the story, it’s the familiarity, it’s everything that they associate with that name, that sort of brought the name alive for them. And so, hearing that, helps us understand, well, they want a more coined made-up name cause those tend to be the names that they think are gonna work the best for them, listening to the rationale. 

Or they want a more real world, real word, descriptive name, you know? Or they want a name that is based upon a certain etymology, a certain type of, of root word construction. Because it’s a global name and it needs to work well in the EU and most of the EU countries, their languages or romance languages, which are sort of coming from the Greek and the Latin of old, and so names that build Latin and Greek or built from Latin and Greek roots often work well. 

Whereas if they say, well, yeah, but we also need it to work for our Asia Pacific region. That’s a totally different animal, right? The Latin and Greek works aren’t gonna necessarily resonate with that audience. So those are some of the things that I think help in, in having that conversation with the client. 

Adelaide Brown: 

That makes a ton of sense. That background is so crucial from project to project, not only to get the context and story of either the product or the company or the product line, but also to better understand I think the personality behind project lead too. So, when thinking about your and the NameStormer process, what do you think makes the perfect presentation of a name? 

Mike Carr: 

Well, it depends on who’s in the room. And so certainly listening and reading body language is hugely important. And I think presenting the context upfront, like here were the objectives, so sort of recapping cause often you’ll have folks during a name presentation that weren’t necessarily involved at the outset of the project. 

You might have more senior leadership in those calls or in those meetings, and they weren’t involved at the outset. So just sort of resetting everyone’s expectations by reviewing, okay, here are the goals. Here’s what we wanted to name to accomplish. Here’s the value prop, or our mission or our culture that we wanted to relate to, reinforce and suggest and help us build. 

Here’s whom we’re targeting. That’s hugely important, right? Because the target often is not the same as the folks in the room. And so, making sure they understand that, that this target’s a little different than you in terms of their, their lifestyle, how they live, how they react to names, those all sort of help set expectations, you know, right up front. 

And, and so sort of going through that and then presenting the names, without them thinking about why a name won’t work, but having them think about why a name might work helps. And then having a discussion that’s very curated in terms of, you know, who wants to talk first about a name that they think might have some resonance with them, and you don’t want the most senior person in the room to go first, right? 

Because then no one will disagree with that, that gal or that guy. But hopefully someone will be brave enough to start saying, well, I think this is pretty good because of, of this. And then someone else will chime in and say, well, I didn’t really think about that reason. I like the name for another reason. 

And so, you have this conversation that you’re sort of moderating, that’s talking about, well, these names might work for these reasons. And that’s a conversation that your client has, right? And, and if you’re doing this yourself, it’s the people inside your organization. That you’re trying to, you know, help guide with this naming decision. 

If you’re an agency, of course it’s sort of the same thing, but you’re letting the, the stakeholders, uh, the people that are gonna be charged ultimately with making sure this thing delivers, sort of discuss and debate and very openly talk about their off the cuff thoughts and then saying, great. We get a lot of great super insight. 

Now, put this down, come back to it tomorrow or later today and drop all those names that we talked about in different context, right? Like how, how does this name work in conversation if you don’t see it? How does this name work on package or on a, a digital screen? Whatever that that context is, um, how it would work on a specification sheet, if that’s appropriate. 

How’s it gonna work on a trade show booth? When you start thinking about the name in a little bit more deeper way, often certain names will bubble to the top and others might drop down a little bit. The challenge there is not to overthink right? It, it’s very easy to start overthinking and not really mimicking. 

Most people don’t think about a name at all, and when they do think about a name, it’s usually pretty short lived, and it’s typically not in the context of why won’t this name work? It’s just like, well, do I like this name? And so those are some of the things that we’d suggest.  

Adelaide Brown: 

Yeah, and just to give listeners some context, when we’re talking about presentations in different rounds that we’re doing, they’re usually, I mean, 15 to 20 names that we’re giving per round, and so talking through and elaborating on, and I think it’s so important, you’ve talked about this before, making sure that they don’t get presentation fatigue when we’re talking to them.  

And so, differentiating each name and talking about putting specific bullet points that are still very readable and skimmable for those on the calls, just so they’re able to differentiate in their minds or we’re able to light off a couple of light bulbs for them as to why a name might stand out or really might work, um, but maybe one that they wouldn’t have thought about. 

Those are all points that you’ve brought up before that I think are really important in just the presentation perspective and then also creative development; understanding the repetitive process can be exhausting, but you have to find ways to kind of pivot or make things interesting here and there. 

Mike Carr: 

I think a couple points, Adelaide that you brought up that I haven’t mentioned yet, is the ideal number of people in one of these means is six to eight. Uh, that’s a large enough group that you have a really dynamic interchange often, but it’s not so large that people don’t get a chance to express their opinion. 

We’ve had sessions where you have the 10 to 12 to 15, and that’s tough, right? They tend to be larger sessions. People tend to lose interest or they’re doing other things, you know, texting or looking at their email or whatever, and that’s certainly not ideal. And then the number of names; we’ve, we’ve over the years, tried everything from six to 500. 

Wow. And six often doesn’t give you enough variety, at least on the initial round. Now, you’ll typically go through multiple rounds of creative, and so by the end, you know, six names may be perfect, but we certainly know that the, the larger the number of choices, the harder it is to get an optimal decision. 

And there’s a lot of research that supports this idea. If you give, if you give anybody too many choices, they just sort of give up cause they can’t think through all the different ways that each of these names can be used. On the other hand, especially at the outset of a project, you wanna give them a full menu of choices because then they can start contrasting different styles and types of names, names that are a little bit edgier, that sort of push the envelope of comfort a little bit more than others. 

Uh, names that are more emotionally engaging versus more analytical, you know, different, a full range of choices is, is usually very helpful. But 15 to 20 is sort of the sweet spot that we’ve landed on after doing a lot of these projects with our clients. It could certainly be a few less or a few more, but I, I would hesitate to recommend that anyone, you know, present, you know, 25, 30 or more names at one time and expect to get the kind of thoughtful, insightful comments back. 

It just tends to be overwhelming, and you can often sense this when you’re doing this in a meeting, you know, people’s eyes start to glaze over. They start fidgeting and at that point, you know, you need to really bring it to a close and, and maybe reconvene with a smaller group later if you haven’t covered all the bases. 

Adelaide Brown: 

That makes a ton of sense. When you’re taking a bit of a look more internally, you do a lot of work with freelancers, you have some part-time, some full-time employees. It’s been you and your partner, Kay, who have really spearheaded a lot of this full-time work. How do you navigate leveraging different team member strengths from round to round and making sure that you are putting forth the best effort, best energy for a client from the creative perspective?  

Mike Carr: 

Great question. We have a core set of folks that we like to use on, on every project that are really, really good at coming up with weird ideas. And, you know, there’s no such thing as a, as a bad name initially cause you, you rarely get to the great names directly, right? It’s usually a circuitous path. And so, if you start with things that seem ridiculous or crazy, that often gets you thinking about, well, that’s too far out, or that’s too weirdo, but here’s something sort of different enough but still retains why you maybe like that name, why that name caught your eye. 

So that process is hugely important. So, you don’t want anybody to be defensive. You wanna see sort of a brain dump, and then it’s a question of refinement, iteration and then screening for legal availability at some point. Of course, a lot of the best ideas are gonna be unavailable, and we think it’s a total waste of time to present names to an audience if you haven’t done some initial vetting, I mean, you can go to the USPTO site and do a quick and dirty search and that’s great. It’s not as good as what we recommend you do. We try to take a much more thorough look, but just that helps. Just doing a search on the internet helps, right? You know what’s out there already? 

Is there anything identical? Is it in a confusingly similar space? Just some of those things I think really help inform everybody and take some things off the table. And then when we bring in freelancers or outsiders, they typically are expert in that space. You know, if we’re naming a B2B product where there’s a technology or a sophistication involved, having some people that are in that space often helps, just depends on the project. 

Adelaide Brown: 

That makes a ton of sense. Well, thanks for sharing all these insights. This has been a super fun conversation. If you’re listening, join us next week as we talk more about kind of just naming styles and how you can leverage some AI and developing different styles of names.  

Mike Carr: 

Thanks so much.  

Adelaide Brown: 

Talk to you next week, Mike. 

Mike Carr: 


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