Playing the Name Game

by Chip Griffin on March 1, 2011

Names don’t matter. Except when they do.

I have spent too much of my life helping to name things. Companies. Products. Articles. Blog posts. Books. Features. Proposals. Presentations. Oh, and my kids, of course.

Here’s what I have learned:

  • Book Titles Matter. This post was inspired in part by Brad Feld’s effort to come up with a name for his forthcoming book. This naming exercise is important because a book title is a primary selling tool. Think about how often you have checked out a book because the title captured your imagination. Ultimately, though, the book’s long-term success depends on the content and marketing activities, but the name’s a great way to get people to consider reading.
  • Headlines Matter. Naming a blog post or article makes a difference in how many people read it. Especially in these days of clickable links, the headline needs to capture people’s interest. Of course, some will tell you that it should also be SEO-optimized — but the two are often mutually exclusive. (I’ll save my “SEO is for suckers” rant for another day.)
  • Company Names Don’t Matter (Much). Far too much time is spent by entrepreneurs fretting over what to name a company. An entire post could — and perhaps should — be devoted to this topic, but suffice to say that many company names seem stupid when you think too much about them. Think about some of the crazy names some big, successful companies have chosen: Yahoo, Amazon, eBay. Or the mind-numbingly boring names: International Business Machines or United Parcel Service come to mind. The biggest problem with naming companies is being so specific that it hinders future growth — think Boston Chicken before it became Boston Market.
  • Product Names Matter a Little. These, too, can be over thought, but product names need to communicate a positive image of the benefits of the offering to the purchaser. Simple and catchy is best, but there are only so many choices out there. Ultimately, the product name is little more than a tease of a promise and the results must speak for themselves.
  • Presentation Names Matter. When you skim a list of possible conference sessions, the titles matter. Apart from the speaker’s names it’s probably the most important thing that will draw you in to hear that talk. The bigger the speaker’s name, however, the less the title matters.

My advice? Don’t rush the naming process, but don’t let yourself become consumed by it either. It just doesn’t matter. Except if it does.

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