What’s in a Name? Four B2B Naming Pitfalls to Avoid

Do you know if your company’s name and identity are holding it back? Too often, a business’ name does not communicate the company’s focus, or a business has settled for name that is cumbersome, hard to remember and difficult to match to URLs.

To create a successful business name, avoid the following pitfalls.

Pitfall No. 1: Wishy-Washy Criteria

Too many naming exercises base success on whether the “right” person likes it or not. But the key to a good name is more than key people liking it — even if those people are the CEO or president. The first step to creating a name that resonates is having a list of criteria it needs to meet. Here’s an example. The name must:

  • Be memorable and evoke the brand feel and aspirations
  • Have an aspirational quality: a certain “bigger than your average business” sound
  • Sound different from other businesses, similar or otherwise, so there’s no confusion when searching for it

Every team member must agree to these and other criteria as a baseline for a successful name. Establishing such criteria mitigates the possibility that “likes” and “don’t likes” will drive decisions. Instead, the stage is set for future discussions in which name choices can be made according to whether they match the criteria.

Pitfall No. 2: Lack of Brainstorming Methodology

Typically, companies often gather the best minds and creative thinkers to brainstorm for a name. They come up with dozens of names – written on white boards, scribbled on pieces of paper, sent around via email and text in rapid-fire succession. They leave lists on each other’s desks, call each other with the excited “what about…?” and kick around the pros and cons of an ever-changing list of favorites.

Many of these tactics make sense and should be part of the creative process. But, unfortunately, brainstorming names without methodology often leads to creative ruts.

Strong methodology harnesses and guides creative powers in a purposeful, productive manner. At Mower, we intentionally steer team members away from looking for final name candidates from the start. The brainstorming journey includes group exercises, individual exercises and a process designed to keep the team from getting hung up. This disciplined approach can lead to a significant list of names that work according to the established criteria.

Pitfall No. 3: Rapid or Random Dissemination

Many strong names die as victims of rapid or random dissemination. The naming team gets excited about its finalists and decides to present the list to one or more decision-makers. Perhaps a meeting is set up or a group email string is started, with language such as: “We have come up with a shortlist of five name candidates. Here they are. Let us know what you think.” A quick response, such as “none of these do it for me,” can send the team back to its starting point after weeks or months of work.

In terms of time and energy, the cost of such failures is astronomical.

“Reference dependence” provides insight into why such approaches don’t work. Daniel Kahneman, Nobel laureate in economics and author of “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” writes:

“…reference dependence is ubiquitous in sensation and perception. The same sound will be experienced as very loud or quite faint, depending on whether it was preceded by a whisper or by a roar. …Similarly, you need to know about the background before you can predict whether a gray patch on a page will appear dark or light.”

We understand that when presenting any work, especially something as subjective as a name, we need to anchor each decision-maker’s reference point. It’s important to bring the decision-maker from whatever frame of reference they might have had before looking at a name to a new frame of reference appropriate for evaluation. This includes:

  • Taking them through all the steps of the process
  • Listing the agreed-upon criteria front and center
  • Presenting each name carefully with its interpretations, trademark issues, potential URLs, etc.

With their reference point adjusted, the conversation stays focused on whether a name works based on the established criteria for success rather than simply if they like it.

Pitfall No. 4: Careless Rollout

A careless rollout might look like the following letter or email:

Dear Company,

We have chosen a new name for our geothermal division. We’ll update you soon about what it will look like and any tagline we come up with. We hope you like it.

Jane Doe


Just as you need to take decision-makers through a journey to help them appreciate and decide among name candidates, you must take internal — and eventually external — audiences through their own journey.

The most important part will be helping employees understand what’s special about a new name and how it advances the company’s goals. This will ensure that the new name will create a surge of enthusiasm among employees who feel a new energy about the organization and its purpose, rather than creating headaches. For many companies, this is tantamount to rebirth. It should be reflected in marketing materials and new outreach to prospects and customers.

For instance, in one renaming and rebranding initiative, we heard that employees were extremely excited about one particular device. It was a single page split into two columns where the left-hand side had bullet points under the heading “We are,” and the right-hand side offered insight into “We aren’t.” This helped employees in numerous ways that they could understand and use — from how they answered the phone to their enthusiasm about collaborating with superiors.

Coming up with a name is never easy. Yet, we’ve learned through experience that a disciplined approach will maximize the chance for success, not only in choosing a name but also in raising energy and enthusiasm with stakeholders at all levels of the business.


About Mower Boston

Boston's Mower office is a full-service technology marketing, PR and branding agency. Our B2B stories illustrate projects and campaigns in a variety of markets and media that range from local impact in Boston and New England to global proportions.

Speak Your Mind