Naming in an A.I. Age Episode #8
When clients across domestic and international markets meets a guaranteed preliminary trademark screening in the naming world- trouble usually ensues. NameStormers never wants to hand a legally unavailable name to a client which is why we include preliminary trademark screenings as a part of our creative process. When clients come to us with a list of countries where the trademark needs to be secured, names get knocked out quickly the longer the list. Listen to this week’s episode to hear how Mike and his team encourage clients to establish clear priorities throughout the NameStormers process.
Episode Eight of “Naming in an AI Age” Podcast
Welcome back to another week, another episode of “Naming in an AI Age” with the NameStormers team. Again, we have Mike Carr, our founder and CEO, and I am Adelaide Brown, your host for these first couple episodes. Um, we are just gonna jump right into global naming trade-offs. Um, a lot of our customers are domestic or are within one country, whether that is an international country, um, or the United States or Canada. Um, but when you expand either a product or a service and its launch into another country or to a global scale, the trademark services and screenings that we offer becomes a little bit stickier. So, we have Mike here with 35 years of naming and trademark screening experience to speak to these issues that pop up, and when customers get a little wishy-washy or back and forth on specific non-negotiables, um, what we do, what process we take, and how we really emphasize communication throughout our process. So, Mike, welcome.
What would you say are some of the often or maybe some of the primary focuses of your clients, either when they’re looking for a name or looking for that SOW, where you’re screening? What are some non-negotiables that they, they come to you with?
Right. And so, the common request is we want to use the same name in every country that we operate in, and we’re a global company. And so, then the question we always have to ask is, well, what do you mean by global? Cause we’ve never had two clients that are in exactly the same countries. And often when they say global, there are really only a handful of countries that are really critical. They may sell into dozens of countries, but 80-90% of their revenue comes from a few key countries around the world. And that makes everything much easier. If they’re truly global though, and we have clients that are in, you know, 130, 150 countries, uh, our statement to them is, there is no one name you’re gonna be able to use in every one of those countries without compromising your branding and your marketing campaigns.
So, it’s, it’s really a question of trade-offs and balances. And I think everybody understands this going into the process. What they don’t necessarily understand is the degree of compromise they’re gonna have to make. But for instance, this has happened with some of our technology clients over the years, a name that really resonates in English-speaking countries, right? Let, let’s say it’s a new chip manufacturer and they’re coming out with a new, a new graphics processor that’s just super, super fast and operates in, in very low voltages so that it is sort of the best of both worlds, right? You can put a lot of these things into servers, they’re gonna really speed up everything and they don’t just suck up all the energy. And so, they want a name that conveys those two characteristics, you know? High speed, low energy consumption. Well, that’s pretty easy to come up with names that resonate well in the English-speaking countries, but that same exact name may perform very poorly in Mandarin, Cantonese in China, or in India or in Farsi in, in the Middle East. I mean, who knows, right?
And so as soon as you say we’re really in all these countries, then you, if you really want to use the same name, if you really are, are adamant about that, it’s gonna be a coined/made up word that doesn’t telegraph either one of those characteristics in English. It won’t scream speed and it won’t scream or telegraph low energy. It might hint at those things, and it might sound fast. And then you’re gonna have to build the story around it. And often that’s a trade-off that doesn’t make sense financially, right? That, that a name that really telegraphs a benefit in your core markets is a better bet because you get traction quicker. You generate higher growth with less investment and less time versus coming up with the same name everywhere. That takes longer to really get traction in the key markets you’re after. And so, it’s those types of discussions that we’ll typically have with a client. Is that okay, when you say you’re global or you’re international, how many countries, what are the countries? What are the other countries that maybe aren’t important? And if you really want the same name in every country or the same brand in every country, let’s talk about what some of those trade-offs might be.
Yeah. So how would you say that screening, you mentioned this a little bit, but screening, screening names on an international scale complicates projects, especially when different clients fall in love with certain names. Um, I think this is a huge reason we have linguists on our teams so they can provide feedback on, you’ve mentioned even the more controversial or edgier names, but some that in one language mean one thing and another and in another means something completely different and sometimes borderline offensive. Um, but how would you say screening overall complicates things when you’re doing it on that international global scale?
Right. Well, there just, there, there’s usually a checklist of criteria the client wants, and the longer the checklist, the more problematic it becomes. So, they might start with things like, we wanna short name, we wanna name that we can register as a trademark. We want a name where we can secure the .com or the URL. We want a name that is easy to say and easy to spell in different languages irrespective of pronunciation. And then we also want a name that relates to these other things. And, and, and some of those are sort of contradictory, right? I mean, the shorter the name, the less meaningful it’s gonna be. In most cases. The shorter the name, the more difficult it is going to be to get through trademark as well as to secure the URL. Uh, there aren’t very many short real words or even pseudo real word names left, uh, that aren’t used for a .com or URL by somebody.
And, and the ones that are left usually are pretty pricey. So, it’s really a discussion around what are your criteria and what are really the most important of those criteria. And we have some guidance there, if, if they want to listen to us and if they’re, if they’re open, if they already know what they want, then that’s fine. Uh, and then what’s actually not as important usually is cultural nuances, unless they’re really offensive or inappropriate or just overly complex, right? So often people will say, well, this, this name doesn’t mean anything in, in Mandarin, or it’s just, it, it is, it’s associated with something totally different. And unless that is a real negative or a real problem, that’s not as big a deal as can we legally use the name, and can we build a brand around the name? And part of that’s because English brand names are already pretty well accepted around the world.
And so, in most countries there’s already a, a realization and a recognition that some of these great American brands or some of these great European brands won’t necessarily make any sense in my native tongue. But that’s okay, right? I already have brands that I love, and I buy, and they make no sense at all. And so, I, I’m sort of used to that. I’m not saying that’s the preferred outcome, but when you have that long list of other things that you’re trying to go after, that’s often one that’s less important or that you can have some compromises around than some of the other things like legal availability, which, you know, you really can’t compromise on that at all.
So, you mentioned some of the guidance that’s usually innate to a certain, um, company or client when they give you that original guidance, sometimes it changes, um, especially from round to round and we screen names for every round. So how do you and your team incorporate new guidance or kind of connect the original to the new, or how can that sometimes create a problem when, um, the guidance just kind of builds on itself?
And this is, this is a really common situation, so it’s not something that I don’t think anyone should, should not anticipate, nor is it something that I think someone should view as problem, right? That this is going down a path that you hope you didn’t want to go down. And I think the, the simplest explanation is it’s very hard for folks to articulate what kind of names they want until they see some examples. So, we’ll have we’ll have extensive effort upfront to try to listen to them, ask questions, understand their business, understand the competitive set, do the SWOT analysis, all these other things. And we all are sort of in agreement, okay, here are the kinds of names we want and here’s what we want the names to do. And they might even give us examples of names that they like. But when they actually see names that we come back to and they listen to the story, then they can give us much better guidance.
And, and, and so it’s, it’s sort of an iterative refinement that’s hugely important in the creative process. When you see something, even though we think, and maybe even from a purely definition standpoint, the name does relate to or convey certain things the client knows based upon their industry, based upon their customers, that name’s just not gonna work. And there may be another name that doesn’t really convey anything as strongly that the client said they wanted and it lights them up and it’s, and it’s for something that they hadn’t even articulated initially. But once they see that idea, it’s like, okay, that, that could really work for us. And so, you have to give, I think anybody you’re working with a wide variety of names, pushing their comfort zone in different directions initially, and expect that that guidance is gonna change or at least be refocused a little bit after that first round, once they see some concrete examples. And then the next round might nail it, or that might also involve some more refinement, sort of like going down the funnel, right? You start at the top of the funnel with the widest set, the greatest variety of names, things that they’re not gonna like, and we, we maybe anticipate that, but we still wanna push their comfort zone. Then the next round is going down that funnel. It’s more focused, it’s more narrow, it generates less pushback until you’ve sort of nailed it. That’s, that’s typically how I would describe that process.
Sometimes, and even recently, we’ve run into some issues though, where we’ll start at the top of the funnel and kind of narrow things down and then we’ll get to the middle part of the funnel and we’ll kind of stay there so then gets a little stuck because clients will go back and forth on the kind of guidance that they’re giving, um, and so will come back with some more contradictory guidance than they had from the last round. Um, so when you’re going to some of those later rounds, maybe the fourth or the fifth, um, how some of those rounds are typically preceded by more difficult conversations. How do you tend to initiate those with clients and take on that kind of role of true consultant in these projects?
Yeah, I think it depends on the client, right? What we believe the business we’re in is primarily not coming up with a name. And that seems a bit weird or bizarre. Our real business is in educating people about naming and so it’s a journey. And if they’ve never done this before, they may have some expectations that just can’t be met. And so part of what we’re trying to do in trying to help them understand is, in today’s world where anyone can get on the internet in any point in the world and Google anything, you know, is, it is truly global and you know, they’re all types of possibilities of problems and challenges and confusion and someone else swiping this name or a conflicting, uh, website or social media handle, who knows what? I mean it’s just a very messy, very noisy, very complex world.
And so sometimes clients will come to us with this desire for this very clean, pristine name that has none of these issues, and they’ll cite an example of a name that was created 15 or 20 years ago mm-hmm. And our statement is absolutely, you know, 15 or 20 years ago we were creating names like that; you can’t find a name like that today. They’re just not, the world is so different, it’s just not possible. They hear that, but they don’t necessarily understand it. And that’s not their fault. It’s just they haven’t done this like we have. And so, I think by the time we get to that fourth or fifth round, they’ve seen enough examples and they’ve had enough internal discussions that they’ve started to mature in their, their view of what makes for a great name. And they understand that, you know, realistically, they’re gonna have to either go with a name that’s a little bit riskier perhaps from a trademark standpoint, but it sort of checks all the other boxes they have in terms of what it conveys and how easy it is to say and how engaging it is.
Or they’ll have to sort of balance and make trade-offs in a different direction. So, I think when we get really into the weeds after several rounds of creative, the value we’re bringing to the table is helping them in those really hard discussions. And those really tough strategy sessions about we can’t, we can’t find the quote perfect name cause it just doesn’t exist. We’ve got some very close to perfect names, but we’re gonna have to give a little bit on these criteria, now let’s talk about what makes the most sense for us moving forward with, from a strategy standpoint. And some of our clients, strategically, are willing to take on a lot more legal risk, and so they’re willing to go with a name that maybe has some potential issues, but they’re not quite as concerned about those. Other clients are just uber, uber conservative in anything that presents any kind of potential risk in terms of conflicting with someone else’s usage, knocks the name off the table. And so, every client’s different. Their appetite for risk is different, but those types of conversations are super important to have and we’re, we try just to help them through that.
That’s some great insight into the client mind, especially one that is engaging, um, a consulting firm like NameStormers. Um, I’m excited about next week’s topic, existing names versus new names. And this is really where some of our consulting savvy and your years of experience come into play. Um, when a company or client comes to us and is curious about the naming, NameStorming process, what that new name development looks like, but also when it’s smart to stick with an existing name, especially if it has that brand equity, so we’re really gonna be getting into some of the more marketing/branding sides of the naming process next week. So, I’m looking forward to that conversation, but thank you for sharing more about, um, the global scale and our screening process. I hope you have a great rest of your day, Mike.
You too, Adelaide. Have a good one. Bye-Bye.