What do I call this thing? Name your brand.
Naming a company is like naming your first child. I remember when I was getting ready to have my son. For the months leading up to his birth I researched names, the meaning of those names, created lists, culled those lists, and nervously imagined how I would be able to capture the magnitude of the small person in one little word. What was missing from this exercise was the visual identity of his little human face. What would he look like? Would any of these names I had listed possibly capture something so precious?
This process did not feel unlike naming Petalfox, although the process had to be done much quicker and with slightly different criteria. The brand name felt just as important to the identity and potential future of the company.
Having been through many product and company branding [and rebranding] decisions I was aware that I needed to take several things into consideration:
Would the name be used to communicate our identity to a consumer or business marketplace? or potentially both?
Would people be able to quickly look at our name and both say and pronounce it quickly without thinking about it or hesitating? Could establish immediate familiarity with our brand name?
Would this name have the capacity to scale with the business? Would it leave room for larger ideas of where our company may pivot or explore?
I am a sucker for simplicity. I wanted to name this company Petals & Paper. After some initial research, I quickly realized that it would be very difficult to “own” the search terms, intellectual property and mindshare for this company name. I like to also consider the meaning of the word and name as it pertains to other languages. I’ve introduced products and brands to 70 countries, so I like to keep my global options open. Identifying the competitive username and hashtag landscape on your primary social media channel (ours is Instagram) is paramount. Finally, it’s not insurmountable to teach people that your domain name ends in a .co, .io or other url extensions, but securing .com for your brand offers immediate authority.
Sketch it out.
Once I had a few names that I liked, I imagined what they would look like both in print and on a screen. I used a journal first to draw these names in all caps, all lower case and everything in between. I used an online word document to explore combinations of both serif and sans serif fonts. I printed these words out in all different sizes, taping them on everything from a big box to business card. As I continued to play with physical materials, I felt the brand come to life.
As I continued to play with physical materials, I felt the brand come to life.
Say it out loud.
One trick I picked up early in my career was to consider the number of syllables our brand name should have. You’ll notice that depending on the industry, brands will have a specific numbers of syllables in their name. For example, Google, Facebook and Uber are all 2 syllable words.
Alliteration is one of life’s little joys. As I started drawing names and words in a journal, I began to play with iterations of words that felt easy to say. Petals and something? What word would also fit with flowers? I discovered that it was fun to say chewy consonants in close proximity to each other. [Note: I have a brand crush on Poketo.] The word fox was a fit and a playful descriptor for both male and female identities. I glowed with the idea that as we built our community, we would call our tribe the foxes.
Have others say it out loud.
Show your name to your friends and have them say it out loud. Rate their confidence on a scale from one to ten. Then go to a coffee shop and ask 10 strangers. Out of curiosity, tell them you’re starting a company with this name and ask them what they think your company will do?
It’s important for your brand name to feel comfortable and conversational. I wrote down common phrases where Petalfox could be used:
My Petalfox flowers just arrived!
How does Petalfox work?
Have you heard about Petalfox?
How did you hear about Petalfox?
If you’ve checked these boxes, you’re on your way :)
Write down your favorite brand names and ask yourself why you like each of them.
When you have something you like, cyber-stalk your idea.
Get physical. Doodle, draw and print until it looks and feels right in multiple mediums.
Try it out! How does your name roll off the [universal] tongue?
Go for it. You’ll grow into your name.
After I had my son, I waited until the very last minute before leaving the hospital to write his name down on the birth certificate papers. The decision felt monumental. Would I get the verbal identity of this little human right? But I had it all wrong. A name is just a word. That word now embodies my son and, in turn, holds the meaning and value of who he is and what he’ll become. He hasn’t grown into his name, his name has grown into him.