How to choose the right name, without losing your mind or your job.

When you look at a car, you don’t think of it as wheels, windows and an engine. You think of it as a car.

But why is that? Why do our brains process things as whole objects rather than the parts they’re made of?

It’s because our brains crave simplification.



By Jon Dunn


Research shows that the average consumer is exposed to approximately 74GB of information each day. Brands and names have become a mental shorthand that simplifies this daily media blitz.

With our attention now being switched on and off rapidly, we quickly work out what is worth paying attention to and what we can filter out. Science calls this selective attention.

The goal is to create a name that is worth paying attention to.

Today, If you want consumers to remember you, embrace the one thing that will help them do just that… stand out.

There’s no point in coming up with a name that makes you sound like everyone else and then spend a large proportion of your marketing budget trying to convince consumers you’re different.

Approach Boldly.

Naming is not for the faint hearted, It takes courage, objectivity, both commercially and emotionally.

Seeing the potential isn’t always easy. So when you’re comparing names against the competition, remember that you’re comparing a new proposed name with an existing brand name. It’s a little bit like looking at a baby in a crib and saying, “There’s no way he’ll be the next Richie McCaw.” (Not with that attitude he won’t).

Here are some old and new brand names that without some courage would have never seen the light of day and the comments that were levelled at them at their time of “conception”.


Full of worms
Easily bruised
Fall from grace
Doesn’t sound like a computer


Says “We’re new at this”
Nobody will take us seriously
Religious people will be offended

One NZ

Linked To Right Wing Extremists
Confusion with One News
Impossible to Google
Colours are a Kiwibank rip-off

Focus Groups.

You can’t definitively “focus group” names because creativity is difficult to test and harder to quantify. It would be like coach Ian Foster relying on an algorithm to select the next All Blacks® squad.

Here are is what research and experience tells us:

    •  People participate in focus groups for a variety of reasons and not all their motivations are equal.
    • Focus group participants can be untruthful and thankfully, for the most part not deliberately.
    • People have a natural tendency to work to enhance their own image of themselves.
    • Most of the thoughts and feelings that influence behaviour occur in the unconscious mind.
    • The focus group setting is unnatural.
    • Focus groups usually compel people to make snap judgments about concepts and products they haven’t seen, used or understood.

Some situations where a Focus Group may be helpful.

    •  How do consumers pronounce the name?
    • Do differing ethnicities have a negative understanding of the name?
    • Better understand the tonality of the name.
    • What emotional reaction do people have with the name?

Focus Groups can have a place in the naming process. Just make sure you are working with the right people and are clear on your objectives……… Just don’t use a focus group to pick the name!

Reaching Consensus.

Nothing blocks creativity like too many cooks in the kitchen.

Just Imagine…..

You ask 10 people for their takeaway coffee orders from your local cafe with one condition: they all have to agree on one flavour.
The outcome would be chaos or at best 10 flat whites that the majority don’t want.

Groups of people rarely agree on what’s new or innovative, if they are friends they agree on what’s easy to agree on,
if they have an ill-defined relationship they tend to argue, it’s just human nature.

So don’t be tempted to pick a name because it’s an easy or safe option.

Don’t Ask.

This applies to people outside of the brand naming process. we’ve seen naming projects derailed because “Graham from accounts, doesn’t like how it sounds”. People will be happy to give you their opinion, typically delivered in a manner relative to how they actually feel about it.

Everyone is a brand expert!

So before embarking on a brand naming project, decide what the approval loop is going to look like and who has the final signoff.

It will save, time, energy, frayed nerves and relationships.

Top 10 guidelines for choosing your new name.

1.  Select a realistic time frame: Good things take time.

Depending on the company, a thorough naming process usually takes 4–6 weeks, not including time for research and legal vetting.

2.  Use your imagination: Kiss some frogs

When iterating names, you can literally “go nuts”. There are few rules and lots of options. Remember If your sector is super competitive, conflicts or trademark screening may preclude a lot of them.

As a guide pre-screen 50 or so and conduct a full audit on 10.

3.  Don’t decide by committee: Death by a thousand cuts.

Your goal is not a name that no one objects to, but a name that differentiates and engagingly expresses your brand.

Structure your decision-making so that only those with veto power get to engage and make sure your team is briefed and fully invested in the process.

4.  No matter how good your name is: It won’t tell the whole story.

Your brands origin story gives the deeper narrative, web site, packaging, logo, advertising, and other brand touchpoints give context and work to tell your brand’s story.

Don’t expect your name to say it all. Names that try are almost always, dull.

Building some intrigue into your name leaves your audience wanting more.

5.  URL choice: You have options.

A memorable name that needs to be modified with a descriptor for domain purposes is often a better marketing

choice than a less distinctive name that’s available as an exact.co.nz or.com domain.

We now have the choice of .nz, .kiwi, .online, .store or even online!

6.  Beware of dumbing down: Don’t underestimate your audience’s intelligence.

Don’t be overly literal or reject a name because of an unimportant association, even if it’s negative, as long as the

name’s other higher order meanings work for the brand.

Your audience will work it out, and remember your physical brand assets will give context.

7.  It’s not all about “Unicorn” names: Mythical creatures can be hard to work with.

Don’t get bogged down in searching for a name that’s never been used before. You can often adopt a name that’s similar to one used in an unrelated sector. Think Apple Mac Mini and Mini Cooper. Or iconic New Zealand brands, Barkers Menswear and fruit product pioneers Barkers Of Geraldine who have happily coexisted in the New Zealand retail landscape for over 50 years.

8.  Get past personal “baggage”: Just let go.

It doesn’t matter if a potential name reminds you of your old geography teacher or 80s synth rockers, Depeche Mode no one else remembers or even cares.

These are idiosyncratic, personal associations that few if any of your audience will share.
Look beyond them, stay objective and open.

9.  Embrace the unusual: Difference not indifference

Don’t veto ideas that may seem a little odd at first. It’s in our DNA to be more comfortable with ideas and concepts

we’ve seen before. Don’t be tempted to follow the flock. Your name must work to differentiate your brand.
If in the back of your mind you’ve seen this name before in you brands competitive ecosystem, then usually so has your audience. Don’t try and “wing it”, the internet is an unforgiving place. Due diligence is essential.

10.  Perfectionism: Objectivity takes the pressure off.

When we were thinking about our own name, Spruik® we wanted something that was in the dictionary, short, easy to pronounce, original, curiosity provoking, cool-sounding, meaningful, searchable, trademarkable and available as a .com! We ticked nearly all the boxes except, pronunciation (For some people Spruik® is not easy to pronounce, but it’s a fun, memorable conversation and for those who find us online, our name is in the dictionary).

Just prioritise your wish list and be prepared to choose a name that meets only your top criteria

Remember every great name has its downsides, from Apple to Xero and no name will tick every box.



If you are thinking about naming from scratch or renaming our company, more often than not, you’re going to need help, so don’t be afraid to connect with someone on the outside, someone who can look at your brand with the right balance of empathy, objectivity and truth.

At Spruik, we go through brand-name assessment with our clients to help define their brand’s origin story and uncover the essence, passion and truth that can only happen through an exercise like this.

Defining your brand’s identity is a journey that can lead you to inspiring places within your business. your brand and your heart.