Playing the name game

I casually mentioned in my first blog post how we came up with the name Zao525. I didn’t really expound on how long it took or what we did to get there.

My favorite part about thinking

I’ll start out by saying that my favorite part of thinking is how entirely messy it is. Have you seen what the sheet(s) of paper looks like when you’re finished? Words here, pictures there, diagrams that mean absolutely nothing to anyone but the brainstormer. The messiness lends itself to a sense of accomplishment, and the fuller the paper, the more excited I get.

The messiness also happens to be my least favorite part. I am the kind of person who does not like to go back and re-do things. I edit and organize as I go. From grade school to college,  I have never written a rough draft unless forced to do so as part of my grade. I’ve actually been known to write my final, then go back and purposefully throw in mistakes and move paragraphs around to make it look like a rough draft.

So, needless to say, when our first brainstorming session did not produce the perfect name, I battled the conflict between my love for the messy paper with a hundred ideas that didn’t work with the overwhelming feeling that we just needed to PICK A NAME ALREADY.

Lucky for me, Samantha is the yin to my yang and is not fazed at all by striking out. She won’t settle for something as important as a name. Not for her company, not for a client’s company, and really, not anyone’s company (I really don’t think she would hesitate going up to a perfect stranger to tell them that their company’s name isn’t the best it could be…politely, of course).

It doesn’t matter how you get to Point B, but you have to be okay with it

So, she kept on keepin’ on. I say she – not we – because Samantha is the one who came up with Zao while brainstorming at Cafe Diem with Jen, the unbelievably talented (and endlessly nice) graphic designer we work with.  I can’t (and won’t try to) tell you how they got from Point A to Point B because that’s my second favorite thing about brainstorming- it doesn’t really matter how you reach your conclusion. This is not math class. You do not have to show your work.

What does matter is what you end up with and your comfort level with it. On a scale of 1-10, 1 being “I wouldn’t choose that if I was just naming a random pigeon that I would never see again” and 10 being “I’m considering changing my own name to this in a ‘Ron Artest- Metta World Peace’ kind of way,” you should find yourself at a 7 or above. If 7 seems low to you, don’t forget that you may have to compromise a bit based on factors like your company structure, target market and mission/vision/values.

Why market research is not always your best bet

When the magical moment arrives where you’ve finally chosen your company’s name, you’re ready to rejoice. You can finally start on your logo, start your legal work, start marketing yourself. You’re so excited you tell your friends.

Your friends don’t like your name. What? WHAT? They don’t “get it.” What’s there to get? You  try to explain Point A to to Point B…but I just told you that Point A to  Point B doesn’t always matter. I’m now telling you that it’s okay if people don’t ‘”get it.” Don’t settle for something safe that you don’t love or doesn’t mean anything to you just because you want people to like it. Don’t feed your brand conformity – it’s not healthy, and it tastes like cardboard (and/or rice wafers).

Goo-goo, ga-WHAT?

I’d compare it to naming a baby (sidenote: Samantha did actually say she felt like she was naming a child). You pick out a name before the kid is born. You get excited and tell people. All of a sudden, everyone has an opinion on your name. Polite people will say they like it, but even some of them will throw different names at you like you can be swayed. It’s annoying. Seriously.

But let’s try scenario two: you pick out the name. You don’t tell people. Later, when the kid comes out, you present said bundle of joy, saying, “This is ___________.” Only response you get is “WHAT A CUTIE!!!!!!!” You cut way down on name opinions when it’s obviously your final choice. If people are able to assign a name to something tangible, they stop focusing on the name because they are way more interested in what’s tangible.

Your baby, your business, is tangible when you decide it is- usually when you’ve completed your website, signed your incorporation documents, or seen your first share of revenue.

Find your flexibility

The final lesson for today is a quick one: you have so much flexibility when naming your company. Flirt with names that have hidden meanings, have nothing to do with your product or represent an inside joke. Pick letters you just happen to like. Use a dictionary. Use a thesaurus.

Let your brand help guide your name, and let your name guide your brand.

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The creation of Zao525
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Silly Stuff Can Actually Produce Serious Results

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