good names, portfolio, startup naming, testing & focus groups

Startup Naming Checklist

A good name has to be short bla bla bla. Not.




Hundreds of tools, principles, rules, tips, tricks and ‘how to’ articles are now available online preaching on how to fix up a good name for a startup. Yeeey. I would have loved this experience 8 years ago, when very little information on this subject was shared and I had to read whole books.

But you know what? All these helpers hardly work for anybody who’s not a naming specialist or even a person in love with words. If you’re not into cooking, the greatest recipe in the world won’t help you prepare a decent meal.

Here is the proof and more proof is available here.

Similarly”, thanks to Nancy Friedman, you can get closer to a very well documented analysis on the startup naming issue.

My secret intention is to help you find out if your startup has a powerful and money-saving name or you’ll have to think again and this time, explore the possibility of hiring a naming specialist to do the sexy nasty trusty job for you.

Manu, CEO at Thinslices has recently asked me if I can prepare a startup naming checklist in order to help his clients get a closer look at their names so as to see if there’s room for improvement. Here it is:


First thing

The good old and only purpose of a name is to differentiate you from the others. That is how people can refer to your brand in every possible way: see it, ask for it, talk about it, find it, remember it, recommend it and sing it in bed with their wives. So, practically, what you’re looking for in a name is the “hand wave” effect.

Keeping that in mind, here is a set of questions to which a good startup name would respond affirmatively.

  1. Is it remarkable? Put it in a list of these year’s startups and see if it’s something to stop and look at. And wonder.
  2. Is it courageous and unexpected in the field of activity you’re in? Of course Virgin, Apple, Blackberry, F.C.U.K., Yahoo! and TomTom are already taken but there is also a naming trend in every domain that you can avoid and revolt against.
  3. Is it attractive? Are people fascinated by it, do they feel anything when they hear/see/spell it? Ask a young kid to pronounce it. You’ll get instant proof.
  4. Is it non descriptive of what the product/service does? As you know, many changes and new opportunities appear in the development of a startup. People, interests, target audience and even the main idea. Facebook is a very good example here but also a very popular brand.
  5. Is it user-friendly? Ask a stranger, on the phone, to send an email to your company. See how many times you have to repeat or spell the address. Call him again after a week and see if he/she remembers your name.
  6. Is it extensible for a range of features and products? Is it easy for you to picture how your branded services or product collections will be called?
  7. Are you extremely proud of it? A good name would not only make your mouth smile when you talk about your business but also your heart. If you love your name just as much as you’re passionate about what you do, everybody will feel it and understand how determined you are.

Relevance, trademark availability, .com availability, integrity, energy, cultural aspects and length are details. They can all be conquered because everything is possible. As a startup entrepreneur, you know that very well.

A great name reinvents the wheel and makes a great coffee with it.


How to turn off a naming specialist and be that client

From what I’ve heard in my office 


To many people, strategic naming seems as easy as preparing instant coffee. The seduction of “Do it yourself” is still there, although you explain naming, practice it and charge it like medical research. Making people understand that they are going to use the name more often than their toothbrush plus the importance of a wise choice in real sales is not the easiest job on the planet. Therefore, there are frequently moments when communication between the naming specialist and the client hits the limits of understanding. Goodhearted experience teaches you into becoming calmer than Xanax&Valium.

Here is a list of delicious DON’Ts:

Tell them exactly WHAT SHE SAID when she saw the proposals, your wife that is.

Call your friends, business partners or competition the moment when you see the proposals and ask them on the phone what they think about it. Make the naming specialists hear everything.

Tell them the proposals are too different from the mainstream and the competition.

Tell them none of the proposals made you fall in love or fall from the chair.

Tell them to change the slogan, after one year, because somebody who you don’t remember told you so.

Tell them you believe that the name would be a bliss for a particular other client, not you.

Tell them you made a poll on Facebook with the short, powerful and available on .com proposals. Also show the results.

Tell them you know your current name is very bad for business but you’ll stick to it because you’re superstitious.

Call them names. Dreamer, inspired, obsolete, too young, very talented, too creative, artist, bohemian.

Call them geniuses but then ask for other naming proposals.

Let them know the name should inspire experience, quality and professionalism.

Tell them that the proposals don’t say anything about what the product does and so they might confuse people.

Tell them that your architect came up with a better solution and he has also managed to create the logo.

Tell them they’re absolutely right but you’ll do otherwise. Because you’ re afraid of your audience.

Tell them that one of your employees is threatening you with resignation if you choose one particular name.

Tell them ivory means death for you.

Tell them you haven’t been sleeping for 2 weeks because of the naming proposals.

Tell them you don’t have the time for the briefing sessions or answering the briefing questionnaire.

Wait up to the last minute to purchase the available domain, especially on .com.

Last but not least, make the naming team think about your mother while delicately asking them to give you feedback on some of your friends’ naming proposals.

Luckily enough, a name developer would remain human and continue the naming process.

Do you have one for the list?

convincing arguments, naming process

Best argument for hiring a naming specialist

Best namers know exactly how to say it:D The Beginning Coffee Brewery Logo

“And you know what I’m going to say: Send me about five grand and scratch “come up with new company name” off of your To-Do list. Think how often you use the front door of your office. What did you pay for that door? Think how often you use your desk. What did you pay for that desk? Think of how often you use your computer. What did you pay for that computer? Now, think of how often you or your customers or your employees or your investors will use the company name. How often will they say it, how often will they type it, how often will they write it down? How often will it be printed on your little league team’s t-shirts? How often will you have to say it in a crowded cocktail party? How many of your customers will need to use the name – 90%? 95%? 99% How many times in your first year of operation will you say, write, or type the name? Now, if you needed a fine door, you’d go to a carpenter. When you needed an impressive desk, you went to a furniture store. When you needed an up-to-date, hard-working computer, did you make it yourself (I know, some people do)? So, now you need a name. Imagine what-all work that name is going to have to do, think about how powerful, useful, and alluring it will have to be. Why are you making it yourself? Call a carpenter.” Name Consultant – Mark Gunnion


Brands that don’t give a damn about Romania, on a naming daily basis



Fa, especially talking to women – In Romanian,” fa” is a derogatory appelative for a cheap woman.

Blackberry Curve – In Romanian, “curve” means whores.

Benq Qisda – “qisda” sounds exacly like a slang term which may reffer to vagina or easy woman.

BTS – on several brands accesible in Romania, even on products for children, in Romanian – BTS stands for sexually transmited diseases.

You are invited to find others!



PILOS DAIRY NAME FAIL (sana, lapte, smantana)

In Romanian, derived from French and the older Latin – “pilos” means hairy. Who would want that in a dairy product? And the marketers could find this information with the minimum naming research. So why try to enter the Romanian market with such a stupid approach? Why cut your strings from the beginning of the show, when there are brands that use a lot of different naming approaches to pet different markets?

Take the great example from ALGIDA. The same ice-cream as Langnese/Wall’s is sold under different names around the world:

Algida (Albania, Kosovo, Greece, Italy, Poland, Romania, Russia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Turkey, Hungary, Croatia)

Bresler (Chile)

Eskimo (Slovenia, Croatia, Austria)

Frigo (Spain)

Frisko (Denmark)

GB Glace (Finland and Sweden)

Glidat Strauss (גלידת שטראוס) Short: Strauss (שטראוס) (Israel)

Good Humor (Canada USA)

HB (Ireland)

Holanda (Mexico and Latin America)

Kibon (Brazil)

Langnese (Germany)

Miko (France, Morocco)

Ola (Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands and South-Africa)

Olá (Portugal)

Pierrot Lusso, Short: Lusso (Switzerland)

Pingüino (Ecuador)

Selecta (Philippines)

Streets (Australia, New Zealand)

Tio Rico (Venezuela)

Wall’s (Indonesia, United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Pakistan, Lebanon, Singapore, Thailand and Maldives)

Kwality Wall’s (India)

And that’s only the first example which came into my mind.


How I Met Your Mother – Names of clubs



Naming is all about having fun!

“Barney : Let’s see, what club should we hit first ? There’s club “Was”, there’s “Wrong”…

Marshall : Those places shut down a long time ago.

Barney : Oh no!

Marshall : Yeah “Oh No” shut down too!

Ted : There’s “Where”.

Jerry : Where’s “Where”?

Lily : “Where”’s where “Was” was isn’t it?

Barney : No “Was” wasn’t where “Where” was, “Was” was where “Wrong” was right?

Jerry : Okay…

Ted : No “Okay” that place is lame.

Robin : “Okay” is lame ? I thought “Lame” was a gay bar… Or is that “Wrong”

 Marshall : That’s wrong, that’s not “Wrong”.

Barney : Guys, focus!

Robin : Oh I like “Focus” let’s go there!

Ted : Where?

Robin : Not “Where”, “Focus !

Lily : I thought “Focus” was closed?

Barney : No, “Was” was closed, once “Was” shut down it reopened “Is Closed”

Marshall : “Closed” is opened!

Robin : No, “Closed” is closed.”


Kind of  “Zed’s dead, baby! Zed’s dead!”

Read more:


Bio Products – A Tell Tale

I have this beautiful TV reporter friend who comes from a very into questioning everything family. Truth be told, being just an ordinary Romanian makes you do that, but that’s another story. So, one day, the TV reporter’s brother gets aroused observing hundreds of synthetically weird products in a shop, all wearing the scarlet letter of big price – the BIO logo. Confused by the clear call to action these products were shouting, with truthful radical colors, mature content ingredients all shaped to cherish evolution and fine cuts, he asks the shop assistant: How come they’re labelled Bio? Based on what? With a preciously flavored smile she replies: Oh, Bio is the name of our boss.

A classic.