Take a look at the image we chose for this post.
Ten years ago, any woman reading this would have looked at the woman’s hair and thought, “Oh, her roots are growing out.” If a woman lightens her hair and then doesn’t repeat the procedure, her natural hair color starts growing in, and you see the effect above — the hair is lighter at the bottom, darker at the top.
Over the years, hair salons have earned millions of dollars helping women to keep this from happening to their hair. Until a few years ago, that is.
Now, that hairstyle has a name — it’s the “ombré effect.” According to Wikipedia, ombré “… describes the gradual blending of one color hue to another, usually moving tints and shades from light to dark.”
That’s the transformative effect of a perfect name.
The right name can legitimize a style, an approach, or a movement. It can make something that was unacceptable suddenly acceptable — even desirable!
How can you find the perfect name for your next product, project, event, or service? That’s what we’ll cover in today’s post.
The right name makes everything OK
Ten years ago, it was rather embarrassing to admit that you planned to use your vacation time to stay at home. What a lack of initiative, right?
Enter the “staycation.” A staycation is when you take time off from work, but rather than travel somewhere or plan an adventure, you don’t go anywhere at all. You stay at home.
As soon as taking time off work and spending that time at home had a name — staycation — it wasn’t embarrassing anymore. You could confidently proclaim that you planned to spend your vacation days on a staycation, and everyone understood, nodded in agreement, and thought about planning one of their own.
Can a superb name create fun where fun isn’t supposed to exist?
One thing I’ve had to adapt to since I joined the Rainmaker Digital team last year is weekly meetings with different team members so we can make decisions together and keep projects moving forward.
And meetings aren’t inherently fun, are they? Although I have to say, we manage to make them pretty fun around here. 🙂 We share information and make decisions, and our conversations are spiked with laughter and good-natured ribbing.
One of my weekly meetings is with Chief Content Writer Demian Farnworth and Editor-in-Chief Stefanie Flaxman. In this meeting, we set the upcoming editorial direction of the Copyblogger blog.
We finalize details about the posts we’re going to run in the week ahead and take a look at what we want to accomplish in the month as a whole. We discuss the images we need to create and any bonus content we can develop.
Fascinating stuff. But a meeting is a meeting, right?
Except early on, Stefanie made the brilliant move of naming our weekly meeting. It’s now called “The Thursday Dream Team Meeting.”
That name reflects the epic nature of what we do each week and inspires us to rise to the occasion each time we get together.
The right name can legitimize a movement
The concept of crowdfunding has been around for a long time.
Think about the local playground that was upgraded when everyone in the community chipped in a little to make it happen. Or The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, which has raised more than $700 million in funds to repair, restore, and maintain these two important pieces of American history.
Around 2006, we began to call this kind of social fundraising “crowdfunding.” It happened at about the time this started to become a common practice online.
Sites cropped up that allowed aspiring product developers to post their ideas and get funding so they could manufacture them. Other sites allowed people to post descriptions of important causes and ask for donations.
Crowdfunding became a thing you could easily do online. And that concise word described a complex social interaction in a way that made it easy to share the concept. It legitimized something that might have otherwise been seen as risky.
Names can describe a market you may not have realized existed
Doing business online has been called a lot of things over the years:
- Electronic commerce, or e-commerce
- Online marketing
- Internet marketing
Lately, we’re using the term digital commerce to refer to the subset of e-commerce companies that create digital products and services. These products and services are marketed, delivered, and supported completely online.
(By the way, have you seen our Digital Commerce Academy? It's designed to help you build a successful digital commerce business. Take a look.)
For everyone who’s been creating ebooks, online education, membership sites, downloadable software, and offering web hosting and software as a service (“SaaS”), digital commerce describes your business.
What kinds of things deserve to have a special name?
As we’ve seen, a thoughtful, well-chosen name can add an air of legitimacy to new ideas. It can lend authority to brand-new concepts. It can rally the troops around a job to be done.
The perfect name can change everything.
Obviously, your business and your website need a solid name. But what else could use a special name?
- New products: the right name will help prospects grasp the benefit they’ll experience from using your product.
- Ongoing projects: even if it’s just used as an internal reference point, a solid name can help keep everyone focused on the ultimate project goal.
- Upcoming events: the perfect event name creates excitement and shares why potential attendees should aspire to attend.
- Work teams: help members of a team stay on track when the team name reflects what the team is contributing.
- New services: the right name uses aspirational language to explain the service and how it will help those who use it (more on this below).
How to create a memorable name for your new “thing”
Be specific, but not too specific: Your name can be a double-edged sword if you’re not careful. On the one hand, it might perfectly describe the market you want to reach and how you serve those people.
For example, the name “Copyblogger” combines copywriting and blogging. It’s a brand we’re proud of — but on the other hand, it became limiting as a company name.
That’s one of the reasons our company rebranded under the Rainmaker Digital banner.
Ideally, you’ll find a name that appeals to the market you want to reach, but uses words that can be interpreted in multiple ways. You want to aim for a remarkable name that’s also flexible enough to grow with your business.
Use aspirational words: As Darren Rowse mentions in his excellent post, The 3 Ingredients in Our Best Selling eBook Titles, including aspirational words that evoke emotion can help position your product, service, or team in a way that makes those on the outside want to join in or buy.
Aspirational words like stunning, ideal, beautiful, perfect, and confident invoke the feeling you hope people experience when they buy your product, join your program, or become part of your team.
Words to avoid when creating your name
Avoid nonsense words: Google, Kleenex, Trello. We know these names now, but each of these brands had to spend time and energy associating these made-up words with their product or service.
Unless you have a lot of time and a big advertising budget, it’s best to avoid made-up words. The English language has plenty of words that can be combined in original ways to come up with new words that have specific meanings baked in.
Avoid proper names: This one might be a bit controversial — and of course there are exceptions to this rule — but if you’re naming a business or website, it’s generally more effective to aim for a name that explains what you offer rather than a proper name.
Take “Pamela Wilson & Associates.” What does that company do? Proper names have the same problem as nonsense words: in and of themselves, they don’t say what the business offers.
You have to spend marketing time and energy establishing the relationship between the proper name and the product or service. And if the person who owns the name decides to exit the business, things can get tricky.
So unless you’re a fine artist, musician, actor, or other creative, stick to a name that describes the benefit that will be experienced by the person who buys, joins, or attends — and avoid proper names.
It’s all in the name
The right name can inspire, motivate, and have a direct effect on your bottom line.
The stakes are high, but it doesn’t have to be daunting.
Follow the guidance here, brainstorm lots of options, recombine them in different ways, and keep at it until you’ve come up with the perfect name for your next big thing.