Picking a Name

Now you’ve got a niche, and you’re ready to start a business, launch a product, write a book or a blog, or whatever.

What do you call it?

If you’re really good with names, you can skip this one. If you’re really good with names and can explain to the rest of us how to be good with names, please leave your tips in the comments.

I’m actually stealing this exercise from a church trip that I chaperon. The trip happens every year, and each trip gets its own name.

Naming exercise

Materials needed

  • Writing materials (it’s easiest if you have one that everyone can see, such as a wiki/online document, a whiteboard, or an easel).

  • At least 3-4 friends (works with at least up to 56; might work with more)


  1. Brainstorm possible names This is a purely-brainstorming activity, so no filtering or criticism is allowed: everything goes on the list. Keep going until everyone’s tapped out.

  2. First voting round Count up the total number of possible names, and divide by three. Everyone gets that many votes. Count the votes for each name, and discard the losers. This will usually cut the list down by 30% -50%.
  3. More brainstorming What do the names with a lot of votes have in common? Can any of them be combined into one? Did new ideas come to you during the voting? Write them down now.
  4. Advocacy Everyone has a chance to come to the front of the room (or the bus, or the chat room) and give a 1-2 minute explanation of why they think this name or that name is the best choice.
  5. Second voting round This time everyone gets fewer votes; somewhere between 3-5, depending on the size of the list.
  6. Optional: more brainstorming and more advocacy This is mostly for cases where you’ve generated a lot of names — in the 75+ range. Or if you’ve got a lot of contention in the group, and need to come up with compromises. In most cases, this won’t be necessary.
  7. Final voting round Everyone gets one vote. Whichever name gets the most votes is the winner.

Sometimes you’ll generate a list of names, and everyone in the room will realize that the third-from-the-last one is The Right Name. In that case you can skip the rest of the process and walk away happily.

And this process may not generate as good a name as you could get by sitting down with someone who’s really good with names and just taking their advice. But it will always get you a Good Name. And it’s better to have a good name for an existent product than a perfect name for a non-existent product.

Resources for Further Reading
How to brainstorm – Tips

  • K-eM

    I had to come up with a name about a year ago when I was just beginning to get started setting up my business. Since I’m the sole proprietor, I was on my own.

    One of the suggestions I received from someone in my field with experience was to do an internet search for the name(s) I came up with and it was really helpful. I had chosen a name several years before, intending to use it when the time came. When I searched for it, not only was it very unoriginal, the most obvious link was a porn site. Who’d ‘a thought!

    At that point I also took advice from a book called “A New Brand World” and did a “Big Dig.” Based on that I started choosing names that really went to the heart of who I am in relation to my business and why I do it. More internet searching whittled the list down to one that was very unique and fits well. I then tried it on close friends and family and they all agreed that while it was unique and maybe unconventional, it was just right.

    • apingel

      Thanks for the story! Figuring out who/what else has chosen that name is an important step that I left out. You can also use namechk.com to see if your name is available on social media sites.

      Also, a link to A New Brand World (non-affiliate, because I’m too tired to mess with the affiliate code right now.) A New Brand World