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Naming Your Invention

By Peter Lloyd

You've invented a product or service. Now, what to name your innovation? You can make the naming process even more complicated than the process of invention. Or with a few guidelines in mind, you can save yourself a lot of trouble.

Caveat: This is not a "how to name" set of instructions but rather a reminder of what you might want to keep in mind in order to avoid big mistakes and save a lot of time.

It should be relatively easy to find all kinds of professional naming advice online and in books. Maybe a little more difficult to generate a lot of name candidates for your invention. If you can't do it alone, get some help.

The most difficult part and the greatest source of grief comes from choosing a name from among all your creative alternatives. Choosing makes it all so final. And you have to throw away a lot of names you like. But unless you give your innovation an ever-changing name, you have to choose one.

1. Name of Distinction
The first purpose of a name is to distinguish your thing from similar things, especially those that pose the most likely threat of confusion.

Are Ramada Inn and Armada Inn owned by the same corporation? Or did somebody climb up on some Ramada signs and switch the letters around?

When I looked up "Armada Inn" on Google, it replied, "Did you mean Ramada?" Don't let this happen to you.

2. Put Your Name in its Place
Your name should look and sound like your baby belongs in the category in which it belongs. Without violating the first purpose, of course.

And there's the rub. As soon as you get into your category, you'll see how crowded it is with look-alike logos and sound-alike names. Your challenge is to distinguish yourself without positioning your invention as an alien invader.

Names of high-tech entities have given us more alphabet soup than we will ever be able to consume. This doesn't pose a problem for IBM, however. Establish long before the confusion, their name has been unforgettably seared into the top of our minds by the great Saul Bass. So if you must name your thing with an acronym, don't go near any similar combinations. I know, that's almost impossible.

Anyway, IBN has been taken already by the Islamic Broadcasting Network.

3. Love Your Name
Finally, and maybe the most importantly, find a name you like. Your market should like it, too, but you first. You have to answer the phone (or at least pronounce), "Ambidextrous Ophthalmological Manipulation Facilitator" for a long time.

Think of your invention, company, or product as you would your child. It will succeed or fail, not because of its name, but for a whole lot of other reasons. Johnny Cash taught us, in "A Boy Named Sue," that a bad name can cause problems but the bearer can survive, even thrive.

So don't overthink or over-analyze the name you like. Make sure it doesn't mean "your grandmother tortures kittens" in Tagalog or any other language, then go with it.

After all, if you think too hard about Microsoft, you'll notice that "micro" and "soft" mean "small" and "flaccid." Who knows what Bill Gates was thinking or how he felt about his manhood when he named his company, but the underlayer of meaning in Microsoft hasn't hurt one bit.

Related Right Brain Workout: Earth Name

Peter Lloyd is co-creator with Stephen Grossman of Animal Crackers, the breakthrough problem-solving tool designed to crack your toughest business problems.
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