Marcia, Marmots and Me

Marcia lives in Goshen, Massachusetts. For the oddly specific price of $997 Marcia and her "naming storks" will name your business in less than a week. That seems like a lot, but I assure you it isn't. After just a few minutes of searching I found about 150 agencies who count naming services among their specialties. They sport a much higher price tag, ranging anywhere from $15,000 to $100,000. That price tag could net you a winner. Or it could get you a name like "Actona" or "Nimbula" or "Velosant" or number of other real world examples that sound like pharmaceutical products or muscle disorders. 

It initially made me think "how is this a thing? Why are people willing to pay so much money for someone else to give them a name?" On the surface it sounds crazy. But I can understand why they do it. Because what Marcia from Goshen claims she can do in less than a week took me roughly three years to do on my own. 

Naming your business, for many people, is not an enjoyable experience. I think that statement is especially true for those in a creative field. Partially since we're typically are a self-critical bunch, but also because a good name typically means a good first impression about your creative capacity. There's a fine line between an original name and a name that sounds like you're trying too hard. And making it to the right side of that line is a frustrating process. It makes me realise why some designers just go with names like "Bob Johnson Creative". Or, even worse, they just plonk their location down in front of what they do (e.g. Adelaide Graphic Design). It's lazy and it's boring, but hell, think of what they save on Panadol

Having said that, a small part of me was tempted to go that route and just move on, simply because it was taking so long. But the last thing I wanted was to get five years down the track, realise I hate the name and then have to either start the process over again or be stuck with it. So I just left it alone for a while. 

These guys know the drill. Photo credit factzoo.com

These guys know the drill.
Photo credit factzoo.com

Then a few months ago I was sitting on the bus, reading an article on Flipboard about a behavioural study on ground squirrels (as we all do) and it hit me like a slap in the face. "That's it!" I'll explain. 

The article talked about how animals who live in social groups expressed themselves differently depending on the size of the group they're in. They found that the larger the group was, the more distinct each one's call needed to be so that they could be identified within the crowd. To me that's a perfect analogy for design.

Think about it this way. You run a bakery in a town with only one or two other bakeries. You don't have to do a whole lot to stand out because you are one of very few options. So, unless you're regularly poisoning your customers, you're bound to get a reasonable amount of business. But now add ten more bakeries to the mix. Where are you now? What makes you different? What is going to make someone new in town choose to try your place over your competitors? A lot of that depends on presenting yourself in a way that sets you apart and gives a good first impression. That's where design comes into play. The larger the crowd, the more you have to stand out. 

Thus Social Animals. 

Three years is a long time to mull over a name, but I'm glad I didn't rush it. In the end I have a brand that has meaning to me rather than just being words on a page and I feel like I can get behind it 100%. And much of what I learned about naming a business during that time holds true in terms of design principles, but I'll bore you with that some other time. 

So what about you? Have you had a similar experience in coming up with a name? Or was it a breeze and you'd like to mention that I'm apparently just bad at things. Leave it in the comments below. Also don't forget to like and share.