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Navigating the World of Branding and Naming in an AI Age


The introduction of AI has brought significant changes to the naming process. Whether you’re naming a new product, business, or service, artificial intelligence is now a valuable tool that marketers and branding experts leverage. 

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Navigating the World of Branding and Naming in an AI Age 

AI’s Transformative Role in Naming 

The introduction of AI has brought significant changes to the naming process. Whether you’re naming a new product, business, or service, artificial intelligence is now a valuable tool that marketers and branding experts leverage. 

Where AI Shines 

Mike Carr provides insights into the areas where AI truly shines. The power of AI becomes evident in basic research and brainstorming. By using various AI tools, like Chat GPT and Bard, companies can delve deep into industry research, assess competitors, and gain valuable background insights. AI speeds up the process and offers intriguing directions for naming projects. It’s a true asset when you need a creative boost. 

AI’s Limitations 

AI, while a remarkable ally in many aspects of branding, falls short in certain critical areas. One of the most significant challenges is its difficulty in generating names that are truly unique and innovative. AI tends to provide names that fit neatly within established norms, which can be a roadblock for brands aiming to stand out in a sea of sameness. 

Understanding Your Audience 

Megan Dzialo underlines the paramount importance of understanding your target audience. Your brand name is a crucial part of your identity, and it should resonate with the right people. It’s not about creating a name that appeals to you or your team; it’s about crafting a name that speaks directly to your intended audience. 

Competitors and Value Proposition 

One of the pillars of a successful brand name is differentiation. Mike and Megan discuss the need to assess your competitors and find your unique value proposition. By understanding what sets you apart from the rest, you can craft a brand name that’s memorable and impactful. 

Defining the Name’s Purpose 

Megan stresses the importance of clarifying the purpose of your brand name. Do you want it to establish you as an industry leader, define a new category, spark excitement and buzz, or provide straightforward communication? Understanding this purpose is crucial for creating a name that serves your business objectives. 

Name Style and Length 

When it comes to the style and length of a name, there are choices to be made. Do you prefer an “empty bucket” name that allows for interpretation and the creation of a unique story, or a “fuller bucket” name that is more descriptive and carries the story within itself? Megan explores these concepts in the naming process. 

Embracing Controversy 

Controversial names, when done right, can leave a lasting impact. Mike and Megan discuss the potential benefits of embracing a bit of controversy in your brand name. Such names have the power to create buzz, stir conversations, and make your brand unforgettable. 

Examples of Successful Names 

Real-world success stories like Angry Orchard and Liquid Death demonstrate how branding strategies and innovative names can drive engagement and loyalty. They showcase how a name can become more than just a label – it can become a memorable and impactful story. 

AI’s Challenge in Simplification 

AI has a tendency to generate massive amounts of content, and this can sometimes complicate the decision-making process. The challenge lies in simplifying and finding the perfect balance between creativity and clarity. 

In conclusion, the marriage of AI and branding is transforming the world of naming. While AI offers efficiency and inspiration, it’s crucial to be aware of its limitations and the need for a human touch to infuse creativity and uniqueness into the brand name. Understanding your audience, competitors, and your brand’s purpose is the foundation of a successful naming process. 

Stay tuned for more insightful discussions and explore the dynamic world of naming and branding in the AI age. Whether you’re a business owner, marketer, or just curious about the naming process, the podcast episode and this blog post have something valuable for you. 


Megan Dzialo (00:03): 

Welcome back to naming in an AI Age with name stormers, founder and CEO Mike Carr. And I am Megan Dzialo, naming director and strategist here at name Stormers. So Mike, we’ve covered a lot about AI’s impact on naming, so can you just high level recap where AI shines? 

Mike Carr (00:27): 

You bet. And I think this is evolving of course, every week it seems like there’s something new that pops up, but based upon all the research that we’ve been doing for the last six months and trying chat GPT and Bard and all these other APIs and writing some Python code, the two areas for us, and I think for most agencies that we’ve talked to, where it’s really helped is in basic research. You’re going out and you’re trying to do some industry research, some basic background research on competitors or on the environment that the name’s going to have to work in. You always have to check it, right? So the problem is it does hallucinate, so you always have to check and make sure that what it’s saying and the sources it’s citing are in fact legit sources, not fabricated sources. Because we’ve seen some of that and that the summary, the recap that it’s giving is legit and seems to reflect what’s out there, but it is been very helpful in that space. 


And then I think as a creative partner, when you think about ideation and brainstorming and name storming, our team will go down certain paths and then you sort of feed that into one of the AI engines and it might suggest other paths, and I think it sort of helps our crew get started in a new direction. Now, I don’t think it’s very good at figuring out what to do with that new direction, but as far as a partner to come up with some additional ideas to throw up on the whiteboard and then go from there, I think those are the two areas that has probably done the best in for us. 

Megan Dzialo (01:53): 

Right. Yeah, I agree. What about where AI falls short, which I know are a lot of ways, but what are the top ways that you’ve kind of seen where AI falls short in the sense of naming? 

Mike Carr (02:05): 

And I think it has to do with the mentality of the project and our customer customers that really want a Me Too name or a me too brand or their strategy is very similar to their competitors. Well, AI shines, right? Because ai, especially LLMs, the large language models, they’re built off historical data and if they’re fairly current, they’re going to be able to assess and I think a reasonable way, well, okay, here’s out there today historically, and so another name, another strategy that sort of fits within the existing space might be this. 


The problem is from a branding standpoint and from a naming standpoint, that’s really not what you want, right? Me too is the death nail. That’s the recipe for disaster. What you really want is something that is different, that is disruptive, that is innovative, that isn’t like all the other stuff that’s out there. So I think AI’s biggest shortcoming is this sea of sameness or this ocean of sameness that it tends to come back with copy if it’s copywriting or a blog post or an analysis that’s very much in keeping with what’s already been said, already discussed. But it’s not different. It’s not exciting, it’s not a new perspective. That’s where I think it really falls short and where that human coming in there and maybe taking some of what AI has found and then doing something more exciting with that is the key to success, at least with most of our engagements and what most of our clients have been telling us. 

Megan Dzialo (03:46): 

And one of the big questions we ask people is, well, what are you doing in the future? Where are you taking this? Where are you going? Where do you see the future of your industry? And that’s not where AI can help. As you had mentioned, AI can only pull from what’s happened historically and in the past and that me too and that sea of sameness. And so it really doesn’t help whenever we’re trying to propel a lot of our clients into the future and set them up with a name that’s really timeless 

Mike Carr (04:11): 

Right now. Everyone has to understand. I think a lot of folks that are really into this get this, but I think a lot of other people don’t. There are all kinds of different AI tools under development. The ones that have been popularized and everyone knows about a chat GPT or a Bard. Those are what’s called an LLM A large language model. So they’re built off this mountain of data, but there are other AI technologies and techniques and methodologies that don’t work that way. And they may in the future be able to come back with greater insights and really be able to discern and maybe make some even new discoveries or new suggestions that are a little bit more creative and novel. They’re not there yet, but I don’t want everyone to think that, well, the only way these things work is historical data and it’s just sort of this pattern recognition thing where it sort of figures out what the next likely word is or the next likely phrase is granted. 


That’s where the technology is today, but I think we’re going to see some new developments in the future. Having said all that though, Megan, one of the things I wanted to ask you and get into is, I mean I’ve been doing this since 1985, so I’ve been doing this for a while. You’ve been doing this for five or six years, and I think you bring a millennial perspective to the table. There are certain basic principles that are never going to change. It doesn’t make any difference what AI is doing in the future. You’ve got to go through the same steps because it’s human nature, it’s the way that we are built, it’s in our DNA, it’s how human beings process information. And I think it’ll just be helpful to talk about, here’s some basic things, whether you use an AI or not, that you’ve got to do for a successful branding project or naming project. And so one of the things I just want to get your perspective on is what do you think the most important question is to sort of get out on the table at the beginning of a naming project for one of our clients? 

Megan Dzialo (06:05): 

Yeah, this one’s easy for me. With as many projects as we’ve done now, I mean, the biggest question that we ask is who is the target? Who is your name for? And it’s a simple question, but it can be really difficult to answer depending on who you’re talking with. If it’s a large company and the c e O is on the call, it can be really difficult to convince them that the name is not for them or even their executive leadership team, or even if they are convinced that the name needs to be for their target, when it comes down to assessing and looking at names, they will still campaign for a name that they like or resonates most with them. But your name is for whoever is really going to be making you the money. That could be B to B, it could be B to C. And then from there, you need to consider their age, their lifestyle. Are they male, female? What’s their socioeconomic status? What’s your target’s driving force or their intent behind purchasing? And it can be a lengthy discussion, but it’s really the most important question to answer because if we don’t nail a name for your target, then we really failed you. Yeah, 

Mike Carr (07:09): 

I think that’s a great point. And I think this awareness amongst a lot of our clients in their decision team that we’re talking to, that they’re often not representative at all of 


Really who the name needs to work most importantly for. And if they bring to the table, and some of our clients do, they might bring some millennials on board if that’s the target, or they might bring more of a particular gender or ethnic mix. So it’s a more diverse representation. It’s just so important. And if that’s not there, at least the recognition that, hey, we need to go outside and do some testing of whatever the shortlist is before 


We lock and load. The other thing that ai, I think really can’t do, and I’m not sure it’s ever going to be able to do, is what are the priorities when it comes to multiple targets? And that’s different. That’s different for every client. So we’ll get a startup and their priority is not the customer at all. Their priority are the investors. They need another round and they maybe got their A round in, now they need to go for a B round, which is much larger. They’re really targeting the VCs that are out there. They’re targeting the industry analysts that maybe are following them. So if they don’t get that funding, the fact that the name doesn’t necessarily resonate with the customers doesn’t make any difference to them. Now, that seems a bit unusual, but that does happen. And then for our B to C clients, sometimes again, it’s not the customer, it’s their distribution partners. 


So if they’re trying to get into why distribution, like lots of brick and mortar stores or lots of e-commerce platforms having a name that the buyers at a Walmart or at a target feel like, Hey, that name’s really going to work for the people that are walking through our stores or that are clicking through to our website. And so it becomes a different mindset, then that will first and foremost, what are the buyers that control those distribution channels that we have to get into? What’s going to resonate with them and how do we pitch them? Now, ideally, a name that works for the customers with the data that supports that would convince the buyers, the distribution partners that, hey, that’s a great name for them. And the same would be true for the VCs and the investors out there, but not always. And I don’t think there’s any way that AI is ever going to come back and recognize that kind of subtle difference, but it’s hugely important at the start of a project to identify that. If we switch into the creative brief, what are some of the things, because one of the things I know we try to do, Megan, is we talk about the target and some other things. But when you think about the creative brief itself, what are some of the other issues that you think are just fundamental basic? You got to cover whether you’re using ai, whether you’re using some other techniques to move the project forward 

Megan Dzialo (10:07): 

Besides the discussion about your target, we want to discuss the competition and what sets you apart from your competitors? What is your value proposition and how can we really capitalize on that differentiator in just a few letters or words, which a lot of people really want their name to cover all the bases. We want it to be short, but we also want it to kind of be like our competitors, or we want it to really hit the ground running, but we also want it to be descriptive, but then we want it to be evocative and we want it to really bring in people and it’s like, okay, okay, so one name or just a few letters, can’t do all of those things, but let’s figure out one thing and let’s get clarity on that big question of what you want your name to do. And so as I just said, it sounds like a simple question to answer and even maybe even a silly question, but when we ask teams, it really does kind of get fuzzy and it can get confusing for people, but it’s one of the single most important questions to get the answer for. 


And so maybe you want establish, you want this name to establish you as a leader in your industry. Maybe that’s the number one goal. Or maybe you want the name to define a whole new category that you’ve innovated that’s never been created before. Or maybe you do just your primary target is to just spark a buzz or excitement and intention with a name that’s a little edgy and controversial. Or maybe you just, like I said, want a name that’s really straightforward and direct that everyone knows exactly what you do and what you offer. So there’s a lot of answers to that question, but it’s so clarifying and it helps us to get the naming right. And just to give an example of this, this is one of my favorite stories, nature Sweetss Tomatoes, desert Glory, I believe is the name of the client based out of San Antonio. 


But they wanted us to help them create a name for their grape tomatoes, which was interesting because at the time, nobody branded their tomatoes. You go into the store and you choose your grape tomatoes, your cherry tomatoes, your Roma tomatoes, but Desert Glory wanted to brand and have a name for their tomato. And they had this limiting brand budget, but they wanted the brand name to really hit the ground running and be as viral and as self propagating as possible. It really needed to connect with the consumers in a way that would get them to remember and prefer and choose this specific tomato time and time again. And so the name that we gave them was Cherubs. The name was really easy to say and spell. It was really unexpected in the space for tomatoes. It connected to this emotional and fun and memorable way with consumers because it alluded to the cute and small and sweet red cheek angels and sheriffs was immensely successful. 


I mean, we’re going on, what, two decades now? I think I was probably 12 or 13, but I’ve had sheriffs ever since I was little. And backstory, my mom used to work for you, Mike, and I remember this project whenever I was little, so I may have only worked with you for five years, but really I’ve been a part of the name Stormers family for much longer. And so anyway, going back to Cherubs, it’s not because nature Sweet made magical tomatoes. They didn’t put magic in their tomatoes or really anything proprietary about them, but because the name paired with the incredible logo and packaging became a story, it wasn’t just a name. It became something that you really gravitated towards. You weren’t buying the tomatoes, you were buying the story that came along with it. And so full circle, the team at Nature Suite or Desert Glory really knew the answer to that question. 


What do you want the name to do? They knew what their primary target was, which is to really engage emotionally and to tell this story. And I really think they hit the ball out of the park. So asking about your competitors is one, what sets you apart? What’s your value proposition? What do you want the name to do? And then we do start to get into things like what style do you want? What length of name is something that you would be into? Do you want something that’s more empty bucket or fuller bucket? I think you were the one that even coined those terms, Mike, of empty bucket, meaning a little bit meaningless, a coined a made up name. Something that you can wrap your own story around or fill with meaning. And then fuller bucket, meaning a name that’s a little more descriptive and kind of carries the story itself. So those are just a few things that we dive into for creative brief, and there’s much more beyond that. 

Mike Carr (14:36): 

And I think Megan, the thing you started with is so important. It’s worth reiterating that the narrower the focus, the stronger the name, 


Stronger the brand. I mean, some of our engineers like to say it a little bit more complicated. The strength of a name is inversely proportional to its scope. So if you try have the name mean too many things, or if you’re trying to check too many boxes, well no name’s going to check every box if you’ve got a long checklist. So you end up with a name that doesn’t do anything very well, 


And it is just sort of this ho hum, compromise boring name. The other thing that I would say is it’s worth considering a name that’s a little bit controversial, and this is another area that I think AI has great difficulty in understanding, is that it’s difficult for almost any AI engine or model that we’ve used or algorithm to discern the level of controversy that is perfect, right? Not too much and not too little, because it’s very nuanced and it brings in a lot of understanding of culture and everything else. So I’ll give you an example different than shares, but we’ve worked with most of the semiconductor manufacturers for years. So you think about the chip set that’s inside your smartphone or inside your notebook or pc, and they’ll all come to us and say pretty much the same thing that, well, we want to a name that conveys speed, the fastest, latest generation. 


It’s maybe a little bit smaller in size. It consumes a little bit less energy. Those were sort of the three cornerstones for years about naming the newest, latest, greatest generation of chip that went into all this technology stuff. And there are only so many ways to do that, and it’s hard to say, well, it’s faster, it’s smaller, and it uses less energy in a single name. So pick one of the three. And it often came down to speed. And so I’ve suggested this name. I never got anyone to take me up on it. They felt it was a little, 


Millennials thought it was too old, and the folks that were Gen X from my age thought it was too controversial. And so you think about streaker conveys speed, it conveys a lot of other things too, right? It might cause some chuckles, it might cause some raised eyebrows, but it’s an example of the name that it’s different enough than what’s out there. And it’s also got a little bit of an edge or an attitude or controversy to it that it’s not boring and some companies are too buttoned down and they would never take the risk of the political incorrectness associated with 


That style of a name. But from a branding standpoint, that’s almost one of the things that’s a secret for success, that if the name does raise some of those eyebrows, then people do want to talk about it. And then it spreads almost organically through the social ether, through the digital universe. And before you know it, everyone’s heard of the name without you having to spend hardly any money and in much less time than if you were out there pounding the pavement and doing all the things that everyone tries to do today with digital and all the different social platforms, because the name was just inherently a ya. So that’s part of, I think, go ahead. 

Megan Dzialo (18:07): 

Oh, it just reminds me of, we did that a little bit with Angry Orchard, which we’ve talked about. That was another name that kind of pushed the envelope, but even more so than Angry Orchard. Liquid death is what comes to mind is that is the drink that everyone’s buzzing about right now. It’s about murdering your thirst and it’s just water. And people are spending all of this money on water simply because of the name and because somebody decided to really risk it, and they reaped the rewards. 

Mike Carr (18:35): 

I think there’s so many examples today, and I think we can see more of that in the future. One of the biggest challenges with AI is the opposite of simplification. AI tends to be really good at just providing mounds and mounds and mounds of content. And Me Too kind of ideas and names that are these mashups that sort of sound like all the other names that are out there. It’s almost overwhelming. It doesn’t really simplify. It sort of makes it so much easier to increase the sheer volume of things you have to think about and paths to go down that it just causes frustration and angst and delays what we think are some really important decisions. So we will next week talk more about this and some of the other basics that we’ve sort of seen important to follow, whether you’re using AI or not, and some of the watch outs and some of the gotchas. But Megan, thank you very much for your time and for the listeners, please tune in again next Week when we continue this conversation. 



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