Google's rise to stardom was so meteoric its fans made it a verb. Shazam's in with the in-crowd too – you can usually find it backstage, confidently nodding along to the musical vernacular. While outside, the word ‘taxi' is staring nervously in the rear-view mirror, waiting for Uber to blaze a trail down the red carpet into the Hall of Name.
But just how is it that these three technology brands – and hundreds of others like them –have slipped so effortlessly into our collective consciousness?
Well it certainly helps if you do something genuinely new and category (or even world) changing. Like Facebook, or eBay, or Craigslist did.
To be a true Hall of Namer though, you must also take care over your appearance. And while many technology companies in the early boom days may have slipped innocently into their names, today's breed of emerging tech brands are much more considered.
Before committing to a name, they're pouring over the success stories of the recent past to identify types of ‘tech sounding' names, in the hope they'll spot naming trends and inspiration that will help them better coin what they do. Because, with all things being equal, sometimes being memorable is enough get your name up in lights.
So without further ado (and in no particular order) here are four approaches to tech naming that you can use, mix and blend to help find a perfect business name of your own:
1. Suggest activity
Take this approach and you'll come off action-packed and participatory. You'll likely end up with a call to action implicit in your name and a decent chance of making it as a neologism. The only watch-out when you Suggest Activity is it can position your name at the descriptive end of the spectrum – that's the end that doesn't usually pack an emotional punch.
Tech brands with names that Suggest Activity include: Stumbleupon, Couch Surfer, Hailo, Flip Board, Price Runner, Kick Starter, Just Eat, Pay Pal and WeChat. To create a name of your own that suggests activity, try the following.
- Add a positive suffix or prefix to your ideas. For example, 'we', 'up' or 'go'.
- Make a verb part of your name. Think 'flip', 'meet', 'chat', for reference.
- Make it sound affirmative. Use doing words like 'turn' or 'surf' or 'talk'.
2. Make tangible associations
Want to sound ‘big' yet grounded at the same time? Like yours is a brand with a thriving community? Then start thinking about Tangible Associations you can make between what your business does and pre-existing words that describe other things. When you've made them, start subverting them and see where it takes you.
Here are three ways to start thinking about Tangible Associations of your own – the only thing to be mindful of is that they sometimes sound a little passive:
- Make it sound like a thing or a place.
- Compound a noun onto the end of the word.
- Adapt your name from something real. Like Wikipedia did with Encyclopedia.
Some of the biggest tech-brand names fall into the Tangible Associations category, so you'll be in great company. They include Mumsnet, Facebook, Craigslist, Sharewall, Buzzfeed, eBay, Trip Advisor, and a little known up-and-comer called YouTube.
3. Be playful and childlike
What started as an intentional mis-spelling by one or two tech companies with their hearts set on urls, has spawned an entire sub genre of names so playful they're almost child-like. A close relative of the Smart Twist (read on for more on that), the distinction between the two categories is subtle but important – playful names are often phonetically softer.
A quick look around at tech companies with Playful and Childlike names amounts to a tech start-up who's who: Klout, Lyst, Napster, Nok-Nok, Rinbw Tumblr, Uber, Viber, to name a few. Clear, friendly and approachable these guys all instantly sound ‘tech'. On the downside, coming up with credible new names using this established approach may mean you come off a little manufactured and immature. It takes a deft touch. But if you'd like to give it a try, here are three tips to get you on your way:
- Keep it short: one or two syllables.
- Go for phonetically rounded words, just like Uber and Tumblr have.
- Leave a letter out or switch one in for an intentional mis-spelling.
4. Use a clever twist
Let your customers know what line of business you're in. Capture that so-hot-right-now techy vibe. Comfort yourself with the proof of precedence already set. These are the benefits you'll be aiming for if you shoot for a name with a Clever Twist.
What are the downsides? Well if you pushed us, we'd say “the future”. Because there's a chance the Clever Twist naming approach will date like there's no tomorrow. But we're in branding, not fortune telling, so let's not dwell on that. If you want to try a naming approach that will put you alongside Pinterest, Whatsapp, Spotify, Triposo, Mashable, Instagram and YPlan, start by following our pointers:
- Have a product or service that can be explained very simply and succinctly.
- Blend words, as Pinterest and Instagram have, to capture the essence of your concept.
- Add techy sounding suffixes, like 'ify', 'sy', 'lr'.
Well, there you have it. Now the only thing standing between you and your induction into The Hall of Name is: hours of brainstorming, competitor mapping, strategic positioning and creative directing, logo designing, url and trade mark checking, stakeholder managing, worksh....
Hold on a minute. If you're too busy, you could just ask us to help instead.
Simply email firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll take things from there…
Kevin Johns is Associate Director, Brand Language and Ferdinand Simon is Junior Writer at The Clearing