How does a company get its name? Is it through rigorous, consumer-based testing? Or conceived over a beer? Or by hiring an expert? If you are a start-up, you often don’t have the big budgets or time to conduct months of expensive research to identify the absolute best name. To better understand one of the earliest, and most important decisions entrepreneurs will make, the choice of the firm’s name, I sought insight from several agencies. Below are some of the inventive ways that companies arrived at their names.

1. Creative Agency, FL+GWhen advertising vet Vann Graves decided to open up his own shop and couldn’t settle on what to name it, he let the people decide. He chose the name through an old fashioned, democratic vote. The contenders were Rail Three, FL+G, Asylum, Hear/Tell, and Madison and Moonshine. FL+G won with 30% of the vote, so Vann and his other founding members quickly put the name into action.

2. Digital Innovation Company, GoKart Labs:When Don Smithmier and AJ Meyers set out to name their company, they wanted to make sure the company’s capabilities and strengths were reflected. GoKart Labs encapsulates everything that the company is and aspires to be — they’re fast, small, and can quickly change direction with agility. Just like GoKarts, the company can take a beating and still come out on the other side with a smile on their face.

3. Consumer Insights Consultancy, SPARK IDEASFor Malinda Sanna, the name of her company is literally its mission. They want to “spark” ideas for clients like Chanel and Marc Jacobs, through their proprietary research methods and in the way they present findings. Insights about people should ignite curiosity and generate new ideas. Heat, combustion, energy; otherwise it’s boring. They wanted to be single-minded to mirror their focus on inspiring creativity, as qualitative market research has traditionally suffered from a lack of new approaches.

4. Editorial and Post-Production Company,PS260: As New Yorkers in 2001, John Zieman and JJ Lask knew they wanted their new company to be connected to the city in every respect. Public school numbers have a strong place in the hearts of New Yorkers because everyone growing up in New York would brag about their PS number. When you bump into a New Yorker the first thing you ask is, “What PS did you go to?” Because their office is located at 260 Fifth Avenue, they felt that calling the company PS260 would invoke both an old-school NYC mentality and provide a cultural framework. Like a NYC public school, PS260 has a diverse roster of talent, who focus on learning and don’t take themselves too seriously.

5. Production Company, DerbyExecutive Producer, Mary Crosse, was in the midst of brainstorming her new company name while celebrating the Kentucky Derby, one of her favorite pastimes. Despite the company considering over 600 name options, “Derby” remained the favorite. Crosse says it has a celebratory nature to it, a competitive edge, classic prestige and Americana spirit, all while not feeling like an overused word. Plus, the URL was available. The logo has a “winning ribbon” inspiration and was designed by Thomas Shim. It was the first logo option he designed that Derby chose because it was simple and modern, but the ribbon added a nice touch.

6. Advertising Agency, monomono was founded by Jim Scott, Michael Hart, and Chris Lange, with the belief that simpler is better. This applies both to the vision of their company culture and structure, as well as the kind of brands and companies thriving today. The name, mono, literally means the numerical prefix for single, which perfectly captured their philosophy in a short, yet two-syllable name (like Apple, Google, Nike, Tesla, etc).

7. Creative Agency, Cutwater: When Chuck McBride founded the agency he wanted to give it a name that tapped into his nautical West Coast roots, while also describing what makes their agency unique. He landed on Cutwater–which refers to the leading edge of a ship’s bow that splits the water as the boat moves forward. Similarly, it’s also the creative platforms they build for brands to move quickly through culture. From “Stay Giant” (Brawny), “Coffee First, Everything Else Second” (Peet’s Coffee & Tea), “Never Hide” (Ray Ban), and “Don’t Get Comfortable” (American Giant), these philosophies push the cultural capital of a brand forward.

8. Brand Experience Agency Giant Step:Founder & CEO Maurice Bernstein found inspiration for the company’s name from iconic jazz musician John Coltrane’s famed album, ‘Giant Steps.’ In what has since become known as a milestone in jazz, the music’s technical composition was engineered to enable improvisation. Mirroring this, Giant Step’s approach is to take its deep understanding of cultural insights and transform them into high-end and technology-fueled experiences that connect with consumers.

By Kimberly A. Whitler  Published - Forbes - October 9, 2016

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