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Generate Your New Product Name: Brainstorming Tips

by Marcia Yudkin, Head Stork, Named At Last

Business owners and corporate namers often get stuck naming a new product because they don’t use powerful brainstorming methods. Simply waiting for inspiration to strike doesn’t work as well as systematically generating dozens of words, syllables and ideas, then combining and tweaking them in all sorts of ways.

Use the following nine methods of brainstorming to pile up loads of naming ingredients for your new product. Have fun while doing this, because a playful attitude promotes creativity.

1. Consult a thesaurus – or two. Online, a good site is I have three printed thesauruses, which all yield different results. Some contain more slang than the others and one has more lists of members of various categories, such as animals, colors, foods, instruments, etc.

2. Play the metaphor game. "If you were a vegetable, which one would you be?" Think of different realms for metaphors, such as music, sports, war, landscape, medicine and animals and write down words, phrases and ideas that seem to have some relevance to your naming challenge. For example, from the world of music, you might write down symphony, improvisation, rap, song, clef, conductor, keyboard and much more. You might then think of naming your perfume Sensual Symphony.

3. Look at directory lists. You can look up lists of companies in the industry you’re trying to name, in a closely related industry or in a completely unrelated one. Looking at such lists for another country is also instructive. You can do this by finding associations with member lists or by doing a general Google search for something like "child care company list," "child care company directory" or "child care companies California." Here you’re not trying to copy anything but only to jog your memory of key words, phrases and ideas.

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4. Use random prompts. That is, open up the Yellow Pages at random and see what ideas that page suggests. Get a set of Scrabble tiles, select a letter and make yourself list words starting with that letter that relate to your theme. Look through magazines (both articles and ads) unrelated to your topic and let them spark possibilities. 

5. Peruse book indexes. Go to your bookshelf (or to a library or bookstore), pull down four or five books in your topic area and look through the index for concepts, names, words and phrases that catch your eye.

6. Imagine the worst! Pretend that you need to do the stupidest possible job at naming, and make a list of all the words and phrases a simpleton or slacker would come up with to get the job done as soon as possible.

7. Role-play. If you were Rudy Giuliani, Oprah Winfrey, Bob Dylan, your boss, a five-year-old, an Italian stonemason, Charlie Brown, Alfred Hitchcock, a motormouth sportscaster, Walt Disney or Emily Dickinson, what words would you come up with for your name or tag line?

8. Let opposites inspire. What comes up when you think about these 10 opposites in relation to your theme?
- is/is not 
- good/bad 
- pro/con 
- unique/same
- past/future 
- parts/whole
- myth/reality 
- inside/outside
- cause/effect 
- serious/funny

9. Stretch and tinker. Look through everything you’ve already brainstormed and apply the following operators (inspired by Alex Osborn, the man who invented brainstorming) to the ideas on your list:
- adapt 
- distort 
- divide 
- expose 
- maximize 
- minimize 
- protect 
- repeat 
- reverse
- stretch
- substitute 

Remember, while brainstorming try to generate as many ideas as possible. Do it quickly. Don’t judge whether the ideas are good or dumb. Collect 50 or 100 words and keep on going! Only then should you sit back and fiddle them into possible product names.

Stuck on thinking up or choosing your new company or product name?  Get help generating an impressively original business name or product name.

Copyright 2011 Marcia Yudkin.  No reprinting or republishing without written permission.

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