Zen and the Art of Naming Your Business: Part I

Both in my marketing career and as an entrepreneur, I have had the distinct pleasure of naming many things in business. I say “distinct pleasure” instead of “important responsibility” because of all the tasks associated with being a copywriter or brand development specialist, naming is one of my all time favorites.

I have a system for naming, from a branding and business perspective. But that came later. First there was the pure enthusiasm for, and satisfaction of, the art of naming. Getting to a name is a joyful journey, and arriving at a name is like coming home.

You know, I love naming things in life, too. I suppose part of  the lovefest stems from the fact that I’m a natural. I know I won a naming contest for something at school (was it a class pet or a certain “Day” we were celebrating?) as early as the 2nd grade. And compared to other entries, I think I smoked ’em, if memory serves.

But I had already shown earlier promise with the dogs.
At 5 years old I picked out the Maltese puppy that was not for sale at the breeder, the tiniest one that had trouble at birth and was paralyzed in one leg. The one that was not running in the pen and not hopping up on my ankles to play. Instead, she was alone on a pink pillow in the corner with a bow in her hair. Looking sweet.

Are you sure? said my father. First to me. Yes, daddy I love her. Then to the breeder, in response to Oh honey, you don’t want her, she’s not for sale, he said it again.

We came home that evening with Taffy. Like the apple. She was white with a bit of caramel/apricot coloring on her tummy, cheeks and ears. She was sweet.

We had to give her sweet little leg exercises and she ran around best as she could with her sweet runt-of-the-litter body. Taffy was my sibling, really, since my mom had been having trouble having more babies and I was still an only child. I was too young to see she was in pain. (Taffy…and my mom, I guess. Looking back.)

One day less than two years later I came home from school and Taffy was gone. My mom had to tell me–the vet said she was in pain and it would only get worse. I was still in shock and crying when my dad took to me to same breeder’s house to find a new puppy that night. From the pen this time… 

Candy (like the apple) was a perky one, with shiny eyes and a nose so deeply pink it almost looked red. Guess what? She was sweet too. And I didn’t have to have my tearful vet news/goodbye day with Candy until I was 21 years old. Just like a candy coating on an apple, that doggie stuck to me.
Internet copywriting and blogging law says I must put in a subhead here and I should have gotten to the point of this article in the first sentence or two.

But I’m not & I didn’t. I’m in a moment here: a  journaling moment. To be treasured.

Are you still reading? Did you like my childhood tale? I hope so. I started to cry, twice, while typing it. So I stopped to go refill my coffee mug.

Naming Is Like Archery, Dogs Are Like Apples

As I mentioned at the start of this post, to me, getting to a name is a joyful journey. Can that ever be more true than in the case of naming puppies? I think not.

But I want you to know it can be a joyful journey when you’re naming anything, if your intentions for the name are as true and meaningful as my dogs-are-like-apples (why not?) association was when I was 5 and 7 years old.

Naming a business–or a product, a website, a service area or anything business-related–might seem like it doesn’t fit this analogy. Because in business, there are more rules and restrictions. Trademark protections, for one. Let’s face it, I’m not the only kid with a dog named Candy and I can’t get sued over it.

Marketing value for two. Do you want your name to stand out, or be easy to remember, or be clever, or be clear or…  sure, there’s more. We’ll get to it.

My pen doesn’t get bogged down with all that when I’m naming. Yours shouldn’t either. You can come up with dozens of potential names then go back and rule out those that won’t work because of trademark or dullness or whatever. Don’t worry about that now. You threaten to take the art right out it, and lose our Zen.

The art of naming requires you to gather a few materials or tools, just like the art of motorcycle maintenance, flower arranging or archery. Then open up for the journey.

Tools to Gather for a Joyful Naming Journey

1. Your intention for the business (or product or thing you’re naming). You can call it your mission, your brand platform, your “why,” and/or all sorts of other things. I talk a lot about intention here on this site. I advise you to start with it.

2. A fast pen and a cheap notebook. Yes, you can keep files on your computer or journal online. But, here’s my take on writing things down, even in business.

3. Your intention for the name. This is more specific than your intention for the business. If you’re feeling stuck with words or just don’t know how to proceed with coming up with names, it’s helpful to understand a bit about brand voice and go through a writing exercise like this one.

4. A creative mind to brainstorm with. If you’re worried you don’t have that yourself, can you enlist the help of friends? Naming is fun when people don’t feel pressured by it! Remember, you won’t be betting your business on the brainstorm part. We’ll go through the logisticzzzzz later.

5. A doable map for a joyful journey. You have me for that. Please subscribe to this blog so you don’t miss Part II!

If you have any specific questions you want me to tackle in my next post about naming, please comment below. I’ll share all I can.


  1. Zen and the Art of Naming Your Business: Part II | pen to Zen - January 9, 2014

    […] the first article in this series, I went on about what a good namer I am to make you feel comfy trusting my advice. If you like cute […]

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