How To Present Names

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How does one present new brand names to a client?

When we deliver a naming project, surely the most important thing would be the development of the name. Seems obvious. Good quality names are what our clients pay for and what we’re obliged to deliver. However, there is more to it than that. There is the presentation of name candidates. You might think it’s as simple as the extreme offered by Paul Rand when he developed the logo for Steve Jobs’s NEXT corp. He created a single solution, sent it to Mr Jobs, and, so the legend goes, handed it over with the simple declaration: “Here you go. This is the solution. Take it or leave it.”

When we deliver a naming project, however, the first round alone may contain anywhere between 200 to 500 name options, all of which need to be exposed to the client in a way that is coherent, makes sense in the context of their project brief, and permits due weight and opportunity for the best candidate(s) to emerge.

Think of it this way: when you go to a movie, do you go to see a 5 second reveal of the ultimate plot point? Would that be satisfying? Would that be what you paid for? On any level of experience, would that be what you wanted? Of course not. You want a story with setup and context and exposition and development and, perhaps most importantly, at least in a great or provocative movie, you want something you can ponder after the film is over. Something you want to return to again to consider in its broader dimensions and depth.

It’s in the same spirit with the exposure of new names for consideration of a product, service, flavor, company, etc. When we present names, we could do so as a simple, raw list (and in fact we do submit master lists as appendices for archive and for reasons explored below). These candidates require multiple levels of context for meaning and message. Another level of contextual elucidation is the creative territory. These are zones of emotional organization where the name candidates are given further significance and sense. These zones are merely for internal review: they aren’t anything that a consumer would ever see. In our movie analogy, they could be considered subplots.

And each of these zones contains a number of “recommendations”. When we present the project, these lists of top candidates are by no means set in stone. They are examples of names which we feel fit the evaluative criteria, but they’re not the only possibilities for satisfaction of the brief. This is extremely important. Indeed, in one sense, the recommendations are just a way of starting a conversation, or providing context and rationale for the ways we — outside consultants — offer fresh perspectives on the ideas our clients are living and breathing every day. As we always say, and this is absolutely frank, we could easily pick another 5 or 10 names from any given grouping of names for discussion and rationale, and it is our hope, indeed our explicit request, that our client give such due consideration to each name on the master list after the presentation has occurred. This is why we always structure projects in at least two phases: because there needs to be a followup in which we discuss after the client has had a period of “digestion” and deliberation. As the rationales are explicitly tied to satisfying the project brief, they may well apply in full or in part to many other names on the master list.

This client obligation is tremendously important in the naming process. They are the audience, after all, in the same way the audience of a movie must be the final arbiter of whether or not that movie was successful, satisfying, and spoke to their heart. Something they’d like to return to. In the case of a name, after all, we have an asset they’ll be returning to it again and again, innumerable times, over the course of their future career.

The choice of a name takes time. It’s a living, breathing object. Our practice is called brand name *development* because the process is one of evolution, growth, progress. And this may extend not only through its years on shelf, or wherever it sits in the marketplace, but also its future evolutions, extensions, brand umbrellas, and so forth. That’s why the presentation of names is the telling of a story. And we always encourage our clients to approach the process in that spirit, a spirit of discovery, of possibility and potential, of finding something you hadn’t considered, and letting that surprise become a new reality, something that inspires confidence to build for the future.

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