Resources on Naming

Professor K's Article on Naming:

How to Create a Great Product or Company Name



Following are summaries of a few of the books available on naming and branding. There are of course many more books out there. These are a few of the most useful.

The Making of a Name: The Inside Story of the Brands we Buy
Steve Rivkin and Fraser Sutherland
Oxford 2004

This is a serious book, one of the only deep and thorough books available on naming. Rivkin and Sutherland are thoughtful word guys. This is not a light little book, but if you intend to be an expert on naming or really want to understand the issues associated with finding a great name, we think the investment in reading this book is worthwhile.

From Altoids to Zima: The Surprising Stories Behind 125 Famous Brand Names
Evan Morris
Fireside 2004

One- or two-paragraph stories describing the origins of 125 brand names organized by category of goods and services. The names featured in the book were selected by the author, but tend to be well recognized and effective names: Borders, A1, Sara Lee, Nikon, Pentium. The book is not prescriptive in any directly useful sense, but does provide a nice catalog of effective names with some interesting background behind each one of them. In paperback the book is quite affordable, so is worth a look.

Designing Brand Identity: A Complete Guide to Creating, Building, and Maintaining Strong Brands
Alina Wheeler
Wiley 2006

This is a very nice book on graphic identity. It is not really a book about brands more generally. However, graphic identity is super important and so we recommend this book highly for once you have named your product, service, or organization. Unlike much work on design, the book itself is actually very well designed and visually very powerful. There are tons of clear and detailed examples.

Wordcraft: The Art of Turning Little Words into Big Business
Alex Frankel
Three Rivers Press 2005 (First Edition: Crown 2004)

A nicely written narrative on the naming industry and the process of creating names. Frankel discusses the history of names like Blackberry and Accenture.

Zag: The #1 Strategy of High-Performance Brands
Marty Neumeier
New Riders 2007

The book can be summarized as "differentiate." This is not a deep book, but it hits some basic ideas fairly well. We particularly like the notion of "only-ness" (or possibly "one-liness"; it's spelled "onliness" in the book...but that doesn't work for us) and the guidelines for crafting a statement of only-ness. Neumeier also has a nice set of strong/weak brand examples on p. 84 (which are further discussed at Come to think of it, visit the website...most of the key ideas in the book are described clearly there. 

Innovation Tournaments: Creating and Selecting Exceptional Opportunities
Christian Terwiesch and Karl T. Ulrich
Harvard Business Press 2009

Full disclosure: our founder is one of the authors. This is a book about the management of tournaments for identifying and selecting innovation opportunities, but the notion of innovation is broad enough to include naming within the rubric.