This post has been adapted from and expanded upon Ten Criteria For Selecting A Naming Agency on our partner site, Zinzin.
Making the transition from trying to name a company, product or service yourself and hiring an agency such as Zinzin to do it can be a daunting task. Whether the pressure comes from budget, timing, uncertainty or other factors, there are many reasons why companies put off this decision until the last minute, until panic sets in, adding a new source of pressure than can cloud judgement. In order to feel more confident with your selection of a naming company, regardless of who you ultimately hire to do the job, here are Zinzin’s Ten Criteria For Selecting A Naming Agency:
- Check out the agency’s portfolio. Have they created any great names, or any names at all? Do they demonstrate the ability to create a range of names, or a narrow niche? Do any of the names resonate with you? Have you ever heard of any of the names in the portfolio? Do any make you smile, and do any make you cringe? Take your time to really understand your feelings about a naming company’s portfolio. (Zinzin’s portfolio)
- Does the agency have a well-developed process for creating names? (Zinzin’s process)
- Is the naming company’s process for creating names public and easy to understand, or is it missing in action, hidden behind a proprietary TM-branded “black box,” or riddled with alienating biz-speak and obfuscating consultant diagrams?
- Is their naming process interactive, demanding your involvement throughout, or do they just go away for a month or two, return with 5 names and say, “pick one”?
- Does the agency have a clear philosophy of naming? Do you get the sense that they are passionate about naming? That they fully understand all aspects of the naming process and can communicate that clearly when you speak with them? (Zinzin’s Manifesto)
- Does the agency have a blog and a presence in social media? If so, are they active? Do they have anything interesting to say? Do they have strong opinions that they are not afraid to share? Do they engage in conversations, or is it mostly just one-way marketing chatter that’s all about them and how awesome they are? (Zinzin’s blog, and on Twitter)
- Can you get an agency principal on the phone or in email to discuss your project, or are you routed to “account rep” intermediaries? Are they helpful, and do you get a sense that they actively listen to you and understand your concerns? (Zinzin’s principals and contact information)
- Are the naming agency principals industry thought leaders, or followers? Do you get the feeling from studying an agency’s website and speaking with them that they are pretty much interchangeable with other naming companies, or that they stand apart?
- Do you get the sense that working with this agency will be a creative joy, a waste of your time, or even downright drudgery? When was the last time you enjoyed naming? Naming your company, product or service is about much more than just creating an identity — it’s about creating a lasting brand, and to do that right you need to thoroughly understand your brand positioning. And figuring this out should be fun, because it is like having an epiphany and then codifying it into every fiber of your brand. Self-knowledge is very powerful, for corporations no less than for individuals. Watch the Steve Jobs video, below, for a great illustration of this process, and note his shout-out to the ad agency, Chiat\Day (now TBWA\Chiat\Day), which helped him and Apple figure this out.
- Has the agency, with their own name, gone above and beyond being a generic commodity? Is their own name any good? (Surprisingly, many naming companies have generic names that cause them to be indistinguishable from each other, defeating the most important purpose of naming. Go figure.) Do they have a story to tell? (About Zinzin’s name)
Steve Jobs on understanding the essence of a brand
“Apple at the core, it’s core value, is that we believe that people with passion can change the world for the better.”
What is the essence, the core value, of your brand? What is the core value of any company you hire, for naming, graphic identity, or advertising? It is no longer enough for brands just to shout messages for “consumers” to digest — brands, companies must be engaged with their audience, society in general, and the world we all live in. So before you engage an agency to position you in the global village, make sure they understand the fundamental shift in how business is done that is going on right now, or they might just build you a glossy new pedestal to display your vision in a museum of dead brands.