Corporate naming – the nutty detail

24 Aug 23

Corporate naming is a devil. For many reasons, some to do with naming just being hard, many to do with the nature of organisational change, or launch deadlines. Sometimes poor decision-making processes or frameworks, or the intricate disappointment of trade mark searches can make the whole thing feel like the proverbial treacle-wading. Some of these factors only reveal themselves as the creative process makes tracks, but others are containable and ripe for discussion at the start of the fun and games.

Be you client or naming consultant, what are your top three ‘must agree’ at the start of a corporate naming project? The three I offer below are not exhaustive – but without the answers, I shouldn’t be starting work.

  • Decision-maker(s) – who, why and how? The corporate naming decision group should exclude the Chairman’s partner (unless they are the instructed trade mark lawyer or Global Marketing Director…). They should form a small group who see the brief before creative starts, are empowered to make the final decision and are part of the process from day 1. They either run the business, are responsible for brand and/or marketing, or are the senior leader with customer at the heart of their brief. No last-minute interlopers – and no asking the end customer what their business should be called (by all means take the customer a very limited positive choice if there is still time, inclination and some kind of business need to do so after trade mark searches)


  • Timeframes and adjunct workstreams – the ‘we need it tomorrow’ fallacy. Almost inevitably the tomorrow factor needs scrutiny before corporate naming starts. This due to trade mark processes, the nature of subjectivity in naming (and design work that will follow), the need for a well thought-through internal and external communications plan and the detailed implementation roadmap that accompanies a re-brand or new business launch. Getting all this right first time takes time. The creative work (assuming a decent namer to hand) won’t be the thing trampling all over deadlines. Realism up front is the thing.


  • Objective name criteria – must haves, nice to haves and not so importants. Corporate naming has many brand strategy boxes it could ideally tick and may ultimately tick. However, the must haves start with available as trade mark and non-offensive linguistically and culturally. There’s unlikely to be more than two or three must-haves beyond that. Agreeing and managing the ‘nice to haves’ is where the hard work and compromises start. Subjectivity only plays a part in corporate naming once names emerge from searches as clear for use. Of course, full and hearty permission to ditch the criteria at the end, should the left-field winner emerge amongst surviving options.