“Names should map back to your strategy.”

So you’ve removed your creative thinking cap and your eyes are glazed over from all the screening results, but you have a list of options that have passed the preliminary trademark screening and now you’re ready to shortlist.

Pick the very best names only. In this case, “best” can mean anything. But it should primarily mean the following:

  • Names that adhere to all of the basic criteria of good naming
    • Easy to pronounce
    • Easy to write
    • Easy to remember

  • Names should map back to your strategy
    • Do they communicate key messages that you targeted with the “what you say” portion of your strategy? Which themes, and ultimately names, really are the strongest?
    • Do they adhere to the expression, construct and tone direction you established in your strategy? Are they different from the competition?
    • Are they relevant to your audience? Is it a name that you think will resonate with them? Compel them to act? Or simply and quickly understand your company?
  • Names that veer away from the strategy – essentially they are outliers – but they are magnetic, unexpected and completely fresh amidst all other candidates. You don’t always have to include these kinds of candidates, but we find they often are useful in the mix.

Names that deliver on the above are what you should deem the “best of the best.” That’s your shortlist. And keep it to about 10-15 names to share with the rest of your core team. More could confuse people, less might not be enough. Also, surveys can gauge consumer feedback.

In many cases, we find it helpful to conduct surveys to gauge reactions to names. Depending on your timing and budget, a name evaluation could be a sophisticated qualitative or quantitative survey, or it could be as informal as asking employees what their thoughts are.

Note that this feedback, although very useful, shouldn’t necessarily dictate the final decision. When faced with a range of names in a survey, consumers tend to say they prefer more familiar, expected names, which are not what great brands are built on. If companies always relied on focus group results for a name, there would be no Google, no Nike, no Amazon, no Uber.

Also, the leap from a name in a survey to a full-blown out brand is significant, and consumers don’t necessarily see that. But you and your team should.

In short, these surveys should primarily be used to understand how your audience actually reacts to a name, and to help you make a more informed decision about which name to pursue.

For more tips on naming a company, check out our new FREE naming guide.

Jill Stanewick is Naming Director at Tanj, a boutique naming, language and brand consultancy in NYC. Follow @jill_at_tanj for Jill’s latest thinking and updates.