Choose a Brand Name Like You’re Hiring a CMO

A name has work to do. Create a job description for it.

It’s natural to put together a list of asks for your name that includes things like credibility, trust, reliability, honesty, transparency, quality, yada yada yada.

But a name is a specialist, and these types of foundational brand positioning qualities are common to every business in existence. They need to be established by the other touch points of your brand. “Not my job”, should be the response of any name candidate asked to perform these duties. In fact, using such qualities when grading name candidates will result in the best qualified names not even receiving an offer:



Credibility, Trust, Reliability, Honesty, Transparency, Quality



Credibility, Trust, Reliability, Honesty, Transparency, Quality



Credibility, Trust, Reliability, Honesty, Transparency, Quality



Credibility, Trust, Reliability, Honesty, Transparency, Quality



Credibility, Trust, Reliability, Honesty, Transparency, Quality



None of the over-performing names above can pass the Credibility, Trust, Reliability, Honesty, Transparency, Quality test.

Which is great, because your audience doesn’t look to your name for these sort of reassurances. But more importantly, it leaves the name free to have the kinds of qualities it needs to be exceptionally good at its job : Unexpected, Human, Engaging, Thought Provoking, Memorable, Disruptive, etc.  


Here’s what a job description for a name should look like:




Demonstrate to the world that you’re different, creating clear & wide separation from your competitors.

– Go viral, propelling itself through the world on its own, becoming a no-cost, self-sustaining PR vehicle.

-Redefine and own  your category.

-Reinforce a unique positioning platform.

-Create a positive and lasting engagement with your audience.

-Provide a deep well of marketing and advertising images.

-Be the genesis of a brand that rises above the goods and services you provide, so that you’re not selling a commodity and/or competing on price.

-Be unforgettable.

-Support the positioning of the product/company

And so on.




Depending on the positioning of the product or company the name will represent, you’ll further screen name candidates for specifics, such as:

Personality – Warm? Fun? Futuristic? Mysterious? Sexy? Scientific? Confident? Superhuman? Quiet?

Communication Skills – What part of the conversation in you industry should the name address, define, redefine, express, demonstrate or dominate?

Personal Appearance – The way a name looks and sounds can communicate volumes, independent of the meaning of the word.  Computer processor name “Trillium” has as a sci-fi look and sound, though it’s a type of flower.  A.I. company name “Megagon” has the attitude of one of Godzilla’s rivals, though it’s a mathematical term that describes vectors, harmony, and a million things coming together as one.

But what if you find the perfect candidate, except they have a criminal past? As long as they can carry out the Responsibilities and have the Qualifications, it’ll be fine: Hotwire, Accomplice, Wheelman, and walking the talk, Igor.

Bad breath and a ghoulish smile? Don’t count them out: Bluetooth.  A complete lack of experience? Sign them up: Virgin.


Sidebar: B2B vs. B2C Brand Naming

And while we’re here, let’s once and for all time bury that old, shriveled chestnut, “That’s fine for B2C, but a B2B name needs to play by more buttoned up rules.” It comes from a core belief that businesses make buying decisions for purely business reasons, and are immune to the emotional branding that captivates the B2C consumer. It’s what lead most experts to wrongly assert that the emotionally branded, impractical, keyboardless, overpriced Apple iPhone could never displace the utilitarian, more secure, cost effective Blackberry’s hold on the B2B market. Even the once ultraconservative B2B cardio surgery device sector, where buying decisions are literally a matter of life and death,  began giving their products memorable, disruptive names decades ago – to great financial and brand equity reward.  Final relief from this old trope may have arrived in the form of Slack, but stoic B2B diehards will cling to the notion that Slack is an aberration, or that their own company is the exception. All the merrier for B2B branders who know the truth – that language, words and names have a universal way of tapping into our collective consciousness, effecting, connecting and inspiring people – B2B and B2C people alike.

Names are market agnostic.

They should never be asked to communicate foundational assurances. It leads to garbage like “Truist“. 

Slack certainly hopes their competitors never learn this lesson. 

More Unsolicited Brand Naming Advice:

Want To Create A Powerful Brand Name? Beware The Literalist.

Igor Brand Naming Guide 

“Vanillacide”: How Radical Concepts Are Destroyed By Too Much Consultation

Performing a Competitive Name Analysis is Essential 

Outwitting Squirrels