Naming your new company or changing your company’s name are big investments in the future of your business. A name is the one facet of your brand that needs to stand the test of time. A company name is also the identity of your people. It’s on their business cards. It’s how they introduce themselves to customers. It’s fundamental to team culture. So, not only do you want to get the name right, but you also might want to include your employees in name creation or selection.
One struggle of being a professional namer is that everyone is an expert when it comes to naming. From our formative years, we use language every day and quickly learn to assign names to people and objects in our lives. Most people have named a favorite childhood toy (Binky comes to mind), named a pet, nicknamed a friend and perhaps even named a child.
As a result, as you begin the naming or renaming process of your company, there will be no shortage of opinions among your employees. If your company isn’t democratic or consensus-based, your employees might expect and trust leadership to name or rename the company without input. But if your company takes a more collaborative approach to the decision-making process, there are a few strategic methods for engaging them in the naming process.
1. Be transparent upfront.
A big risk of the naming process is employees feeling blindsided when a new name is announced. By communicating clearly about the rationale and intent of the naming process, you can generate trust and transparency. If done right, this takes away the element of surprise and can build excitement about the future of the company.
2. Encourage employee input.
The next opportunity to include your employees in the naming process is to solicit their ideas. Keep in mind that if mismanaged, this tactic can quickly become complicated, and it isn't right for every company. But for highly democratic and collaborative company cultures, you might choose to ask your employees to create and submit names.
You could incentivize input by gamifying the process, such as offering a prize for the winning name. Not all companies offer incentives — for some cultures just being included in the fun is often reward enough. This will also help build morale and ensure employees feel invested in the outcome.
A vital step is developing a creative brief to help set guidelines for styles of names, themes and other important parameters. The brief will provide clear direction and keep everyone moving forward together. If you’re conducting this in concert with an agency partner, you can provide the same naming brief that the agency will work from.
Online survey tools such as SurveyMonkey are effective for gathering input. You can customize them to include the creative brief, as well as input fields such as employee name, name suggestion, explanation of the name, etc. Set a clear deadline, and send frequent reminders. Finally, collect all the names from the database output, and select the best of the name submissions for further vetting.
A big drawback of including employees in name generation is that people often suggest names that are legally unavailable. Every new name needs to be trademarked, thus limiting the range of possibilities. To avoid discouragement, explain the legal process and the likelihood of names falling out at the outset. Of course, this is all offset by the positive benefit of your employees feeling included in the process, invested in the outcome and having the fun opportunity to play with words and names.
3. Announce the new name the right way.
Announcing a new company name requires planning, an implementation strategy and finesse. As I stated above, employees often feel connected to your company name. Therefore, a branding initiative like this requires careful consideration of how to internally announce the new moniker and manage emotions and reactions.
A lot will depend on your CEO and their preferred communication style. Some CEOs might choose to say, “This is our new name. Here’s why I like it and why you should also,” and believe it or not, that works in certain cultures. Other leaders might take a more inclusionary approach to the announcement by sharing the naming process, how many names were developed and the finalist names that were considered, and then announce the new name with some fanfare and context. For example, they might explain what the new name stands for and how it will help the company grow and achieve success.
The best company name announcements are accompanied by strategic internal launch campaigns. These are brand tactics that help to engage employees with the new name, educate them on the new name’s meaning and empower them with tools for telling the story of the new name. Of course, some tchotchkes with the new name on them can’t hurt either.
As you create a new company name or rename an existing company, you’ll have many factors to consider. Although most companies often overlook the inclusion of their employees on the naming journey, you’ll undoubtedly benefit from following at least one of the three methods above. And who knows — your new name might come from an employee’s creative suggestion. Great names can come from anywhere!