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How to Name Your Brand, Product or Service with Jeremy Miller

Key Takeaways

Learn in detail how to name your brand, product or service. Great for small teams or solopreneurs — anyone who can't or doesn't want to hire a marketing team. You don't want to miss this interview with brand strategist and bestselling author, Jeremy Miller.

This was recorded before coronavirus hit North America. Everything that he teaches in his book is applicable today. Why? Because if you're pivoting your business, you probably have new products and services you need to name.

And this podcast episode will help you with that. Big time.

You can also watch a video recording of this interview. 

Don't miss Jeremy's take on marketing, branding, and growing your business during COVID-19, Crisis Marketing with Jeremy Miller.

Learn the most effective way to name your brand without having to hire an expensive marketing firm with brand strategist and bestselling author, Jeremy Miller @stickybranding. #branding #brand #podcast

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brand new name jeremy miller brand strategist

Brand New Name (book)

Whether you are naming a company, product, service, or even an idea — choosing a brand name is one of the most important business decisions you will make. A brilliant name defines your brand, and it can shape the future of your business. Brand New Name is a proven, step-by-step process to create an unforgettable brand name. It shows you how to name, or rename, anything. The process is simple and strategic. Anyone can do it! You will discover how names persuade people and get stuck in their minds, and the origin stories of iconic brands. Brand New Name brings together a practical how-to guide with loads of examples and inspirational stories so you can create a name that you will be proud to own.

Meet Jeremy Miller

jeremy miller sticky branding

Jeremy Miller is a brand strategist and bestselling author. His blend of humor, stories, and actionable ideas will inspire you to innovate and grow your business and brand.

Jeremy’s path into branding wasn’t traditional. He fell into it out of necessity. After watching his family’s business nearly hit rock bottom, he was forced to take a hard look at the way the company was run and at their industry as a whole. Jeremy realized it wasn’t his sales people or marketing processes that were failing, it was the brand: their customers couldn’t distinguish them from anyone else. This insight caused him to rethink, reposition, and rebrand the business. The strategy worked, and within a year the company turned the corner and rocketed into growth mode. And in 2013 Jeremy sold his family’s business to focus exclusively on what he does today: build brands.

It was this experience that compelled Jeremy to embark on a decade-long study of how companies grow recognizable, memorable brands. He and the Sticky Branding team have profiled and interviewed hundreds of companies across dozens of industries to uncover how companies grow Sticky Brands.

Jeremy’s first book, Sticky Branding, is a branding playbook for how small- and mid-sized companies challenge the giants of their industry to grow their brands. It was a #1 Globe and Mail Bestseller. His next book is called, Brand New Name. It launches in October! The book provides a proven, step-by-step process to create an unforgettable name. It shows you how to name anything — a brand, company, product, service, or ideas — by unlocking the creative genius of teams.

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About Host Jen McFarland

Jen McFarland Jen McFarland Consulting Third paddle

Jen McFarland, MPA, has over 25 years of training, teaching, and executive experience in leadership, strategic project planning, and digital marketing. She led large-scale public sector projects affecting over 50,000 businesses, handling millions of dollars.

Today, she is the founder of Women Conquer Business, a boutique firm dedicated to helping women, people of color, and the LGBTQ+ community build sustainable businesses. She's a frequent guest speaker and trainer. You can find her online by listening to her weekly podcast, Women Conquer Business, or at jenmcfarland.com.

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name your brand and product with Jeremy Miller

Transcript: How to Name Your Brand, Product or Service with Jeremy Miller

Jen:

Hi and welcome to the Women Conquer Business podcast. I'm your host Jen McFarland. Today I'm releasing my first interview with brand strategist and bestselling author Jeremy Miller. We talk about his book, Brand New Name. I held off on releasing this because I wanted to have more episodes around COVID-19 and how to navigate your business. So after releasing the episode a few days ago on crisis marketing with Jeremy, I decided to go ahead and release this as a bonus episode. The reason is I still think that everything that he teaches in his book Brand New Name is applicable today. Why? Because you probably have a lot of new products, and you may even need to pivot or change the direction of your business, which might require you to do some naming of things. And this book is something that I have recommended to everyone since I read it. Brand New Name walks you through the process of naming your business. Could also be a product. So please listen to this. So many great tips. And go out and get that book because it's awesome.

Jen:

Hi, my name is Jen McFarland. I'm the founder of Women Conquer Business. I have over 25 years of training, teaching, and executive experience in leadership, strategic project planning, and digital marketing. Each week on the Women Conquer Business podcast, we teach you how to help you and your business thrive. Are you ready? Let's go forth and conquer.

Jen:

Jeremy Miller is a brand strategist and bestselling author. Over the past decade, Jeremy and Sticky Branding team have profiled and interviewed hundreds of companies across dozens of industries to uncover how companies grow sticky brands. Jeremy shares his expertise as a writer, consultant, and keynote speaker. His blend of humor, stories, and actionable ideas will inspire you to innovate and grow your business and brand. So Jeremy, welcome to the show. Thank you for coming on.

Jeremy:

Jen, my pleasure. It is so exciting to be here with you today.

Jen:

It's really awesome for me too. I love reading books, and I love learning a whole bunch of new stuff, and your book is awesome. So can you share with everybody what led you to write Brand New Name?

Jeremy:

I think necessity is the mother of all invention. I'm a serial entrepreneur. I got actually into being an entrepreneur in 2004, and that was when I joined my family's business. And at that point, it was called Miller and Associates. And my dad said, "There's too many Millers on the door now. We need a new name." And he said, "Jeremy, figure it out." And at the time, I was a sales guy. I wasn't a marketing guy. And I'm having to rebrand my family's business. And so I use Dr. Google, and I built a process. And it was painful, it was challenging, and it took a long time, but it was a good learning experience. And then I had to go through this again when I launched my second business Sticky Branding. And then I've worked with being a branding business, I work with lots of clients.

Jeremy:

And one of the things that frustrated me over everything else was that naming is treated like this strange black box. It's this creative, oh, you've got to be a genius, or you have to be super into words or something like that. And it's all like a magic show of some kind. And I hated it just because I'd be getting into these projects and they would be unfulfilling, time consuming, and didn't make sense. And so being that my first book was Sticky Branding. It's all around branding. This is my world. I get asked to name stuff all the time. We rank high on Google for this type of thing, so we probably get four or five inquiries a day. And there weren't any books on Amazon, there was no process. So I said, okay, if I don't do it, nobody's going to do it. And so I said, what is a proven repeatable process that anyone could use to create a name or rename anything?

Jen:

Which is so awesome. Thank you. Because like I told you before we got started, I wish that this book had been something on my radar. I've named my business twice. And you're right, it feels like a total black box. And yet it seems like it is so important what you name your business. So why is having an excellent brand name so important?

Jeremy:

Well, this is really it, is I think your brand name, whether it's for your company, your product, or your service, whatever you're naming, your names are the most important brand and marketing asset in any business. And there's really two reasons for that. The first is you know a company by its name. You know a brand by its name. So think of it, just going to the grocery store, say you need to buy laundry detergent. Well, you've got your brand, maybe it's Tide or maybe it's Cheer, but I guarantee you're not going to think about it. You're just going to go to the aisle, find it, grab it, leave, hopefully pay for it, but you're going to go through that process. But you know it by its name. So that brand name is the container for every experience, all the knowledge, everything you know about a business or a brand or a product. And so the language that we communicate with, the language we understand, the language we remember, it all hinges on that name. So getting it right is really important.

Jeremy:

The other piece of this is your name is the longest living artifact in any business. So we don't change names very often. So the longer a name exists, the more value it contains. So you look at Ford or Colgate or Coca-cola, they're 150 year old brands, the names don't change. So that's, I think, a really big reason why these things are still important. You're going to create a name that's going to convey meaning, and it's going to stick around for a really long time.

Jen:

Absolutely. And that's why it can feel so overwhelming, I think, for a lot of business owners, whether it's a product or their actual business name, is I need to use this for a long time, and I don't even know where to start, which is again, why this book is so cool. So, if you have a new business, can it be hard sometimes to know what story you have to share? That's a big part of naming your business. So how can companies overcome those kinds of obstacles?

Jeremy:

This is what branding really is, is choosing the kind of business that you want to build. And I get that, being an entrepreneur, you're an entrepreneur too, we have this dilemma that we have a vision in our mind, but we haven't fully realized it yet. So when you're at the very start of something, coming up with a name that you're going to hold onto and be for the next 10, 20, 50 years can be really daunting. And so my first comment on that is you want to build and choose a name that you believe is going to last, but if you don't get it right, you can change it. And just as how... You've gone through this as well, that the thing is that a brand is an architected personality. If it doesn't work, you change it. And so lots of companies go through the name changes.

Jeremy:

But in the very beginning, you don't want to do that. So it's taking the time to really ask three big questions. Where do you play? How do you win? And how do you want to be known? So what you're really trying to say is what is my business? So what category am I in? What kind of company are we growing? What is the economic engine? So what is the business? Where do you play is choosing your industry, your ideal customer. It's identifying how you're going to make a dent in this universe. And then how you want to be known as thinking about your legacy and going forward. And if you can get clear on, especially if it's a product brand, if you're going to get clear on what is your product, who does it serve, how does it create value? Then that'll allow you to be able to choose a name that fits it.

Jeremy:

And that's really what good branding is doing, is the clearer you are on what your business is, its value proposition and your vision, the more likely you can give it a label that will make sense.

Jeremy:

And so let me just give you a quick example.

Jen:

Sure.

Jeremy:

So are you familiar with Buffer, the social media sharing platform?

Jen:

Yep.

Jeremy:

So isn't that a brilliant name for a product? So Buffer is a social media sharing platform that allows you to buffer or organize your content. So rather than tweeting everything now just because you've got it, you can buffer it or schedule it out over five, 10, 15 days or weeks or whatever it is. And so the name is suggestive as well as descriptive. It gives you an indication of what you're going to get. Well, that brand had to know they were creating and make those decisions before they chose the name. And so for a product, that's easier for a company. And as something that evolves and changes, it can be a little bit more difficult, but the clearer you are, the better you are.

Jen:

I think that that's so amazing. And just to kind of tail onto the back of the Buffer story, one of the things that I love that you mentioned is you can go through the naming process, and you don't always have to worry immediately about the domain. So many times, people call the domain name that hard stop. Well, I can't buy buffer.com, which is what happened to them. But they got buffer app and then later they were able to get buffer.com.

Jeremy:

Yeah. And I think that domains are one of the most common topics when we come to naming, and there's this myth that says we have to have a dot com. Well, the reality is dot coms are like expensive real estate in a big city, that if you want to live in New York or Seattle or somewhere, that it's going to cost a lot of money, especially if you want to get four walls and a house. So dot coms are similar to that. I had a guy approached me and say, "Hey Jeremy, do you want to buy brand builder.com?" I said, "Absolutely, I'd love to." And he said it was 200,000 dollars US. And I went, no, thank you. I don't care anymore.

Jeremy:

And so the thing that we... We used to have dot com as a mark of credibility, but here's the thing. Today, where do you see a domain name? A business card? A print ad? That's about it. You don't ask for the dot com when you talk to Alexa or Siri, you don't see it when you're on Google. You don't see it in... Basically only time you see it as an email address, a business card, or print marketing. So I don't think it matters as much.

Jen:

What are naming guidelines and why are they so important?

Jeremy:

So I think naming guidelines or a naming strategy is... You wouldn't build a house without a blueprint, and you shouldn't name a product without a strategy. That's kind of the way I think of this, is what are the criteria for success? So what are you naming? What is the story you want to tell? So what are you naming? Who is your audience? What is the competitive landscape? What are the criteria that you need? So for example, does it have to be understood in multiple languages? Is it a local market, or is it going to be global? Does it have a size restriction? For example, if you're going to be on the app store on Apple, you probably don't want a 15 character name because could you imagine what that looks like on an iPhone?

Jeremy:

So look at the criteria that define the success. Look at the competitive landscape, and choose a set of criteria of how this name will be successful. What are you looking for? Because the reason this is so important is when you generate a whole lot of names, how do you choose them? If you don't have guidelines, then you're going to come to the end and go, I'll know it when I see it. It never works out that way. You never know what you see. You're looking at a bunch of words, you're trying to pick out one that fits, and it's awful. So you need the criteria and the strategy, so that not only you can do better creative, but so that you can make better choices. The only time people choose a really terrible name for their company is because they didn't have a strategy.

Jen:

Absolutely. 100%. And one of the things that I love about the message that you have is that you can't create your business name in a vacuum. Meaning it's so much better if you collaborate with other people, and that they feel empowered to share their thoughts about that. Would you like to talk a little bit about the sprint teams and getting your collaborators in on the game?

Jeremy:

For sure. Well I'll give you a bit of... So the basis of Brand New Name is a model of employee co-creation. What I believe is that in every organization is immense creative potential. But too often, people are overlooked because they're too busy, the leaders too busy, or they don't have say a "creative" job title. They're not in marketing, so we don't ask them to participate in these types of activities. But everybody's creative. You're born that way. And I think it's a shame that every time we want to do a marketing project, we turn around and call an ad agency or a consultant or somebody else to be creative for us. And so what I hope out of Brand New Name is that people recognize that inside the organization is just immense talent and let's harness it. But the question is how do you do that?

Jeremy:

And so what the book provides is a five day naming sprint to generate lots of ideas. And every day you get an exercise with some inspiration and a quota. And my challenge for the team is if each person on their own can generate five good names per day for five days, you will get enough choices to create a brilliant name. And I'll give you an example. I worked with a company a few weeks ago who had a sprint team of 23 people. In five days, they generated 1048 names. And here's the mind melting part of this. They only had 34 duplicates in that list.

Jen:

Wow. Wow. So then how do you pick out of all of those?

Jeremy:

So this is where the second part of the process kicks in. So the first thing is we get everybody in the organization involved. Everyone submits names. If everyone can submit five good names per day for five days, I guarantee you're going to get to a brilliant outcome. And there's process on how to do that.

Jeremy:

The second part is, so you generate a thousand names or a hundred names, whatever it is. What do you do? Well, there's a series of exercises that I take you through, but the key to it is to recognize that choosing a brand name, where people fail in naming is they do the creative, but they don't have any process for selection. So you could go crowdsource and get a thousand suggestions and be like, I don't know what to do. It's the same problem. So what I take you through is fundamentally three steps.

Jeremy:

The first one is a dot voting exercise, which is you can tell by looking at the difference between a good name and a crappy name for your brand. So we provide everyone on the team an opportunity to vote for their favorites. That takes that list of say a thousand and weeds it down to 40. And from there, before we do anything else, we need to eliminate the non-starters. If a competitor is using your name, you cannot use it. And this is the biggest reason why we need that thousand names, is that we're experiencing a naming drought. We're running out of domain names. We've already talked with the cost of dot coms, or trademarks is the same.

Jeremy:

So we go through a set of exercises to check GoDaddy or check the domain names, check the trademark databases, check Google, check urban dictionary, make sure it's doesn't mean something terrible. And go through that and identify any problems. If a competitor has it, if it's trademarked, scratch it off. It's a nonstarter, we can't use it. So that compresses your list again.

Jeremy:

At that point, you want to choose, say, five to 10 names. And the book provides a tool called a name score, which takes your strategy document or your guidelines and allows you to evaluate each of your names so you can compare them. And now we've got common language to discuss and compare why one name fits the strategy better than another. And that's part of the challenge here, is it's getting away from our gut and having common language, common tools to analyze and compare.

Jeremy:

Now the third step is market testing. Got to get out of your own way. So how do the names resonate in the market? And I provide a series of exercises on how do you test preference, so how do people like it, as well as recall, do they remember the name after the fact? And we take all of this, these steps together. You should be able to reduce this down to two to five names, good data, see what resonates in the market, so that you and your team can make a choice. And it's never easy. But at the end of it all, something's going to stand out for you, and you're going to have some pretty good options, so that you know you can make a choice you'll be proud of.

Jen:

I think that that's so great. And for those of you out there who are just starting a business and you don't have a team, don't worry, you don't have to use employees. It can be... Who do you recommend if someone doesn't have a team?

Jeremy:

You can use friends, family, colleagues, partners, your freelancers that are working for you. Give you an example, actually. So Maggie Langrick runs LifeTree Media. They're a hybrid book publishing company based in Vancouver and Los Angeles. And the problem was LifeTree was being associated with new age books and religious titles and things like that. And so they wanted to change the company name. Now Maggie has two employees, a small organization, so she extended this out, and she asked some of her freelancers that work with her frequently, as well as some friends, to participate. And they created a whole bunch of names and went through a great exercise. They ended up choosing and changing the company name to Wonderwell, which is a really cool name for a book publishing company.

Jen:

That's amazing. And I think that's so great because when you first said the name of the company, my first thought was oh, a new age book company. So yeah, no, sometimes you have to listen to what people are saying, and even if you love your brand name, you have to make a change.

Jeremy:

Yeah. And so you start with the best of intentions, sometimes it doesn't work, and you go with it, based on what you know today. Wonderwell is great because it will look great on the back of a spine of a book, but it also gives them flexibility to go into other areas like media and movies. And there's something very aspirational about that name, but that came from their own ideas. That's the thing that gets me so excited is they didn't hire an ad agency. They did it themselves.

Jen:

Absolutely. And I just love it. And I also love in your book how you talk about how a leader can empower others. So it's not about the leader just stomping on everybody else's ideas. Do you want to speak to that a little bit?

Jeremy:

Well, this is where this idea of employee co creation really kicks in, is that I think organizations are terrible for creativity. They suck the life out of each and every one of us. And that's all the bureaucracy and the rigor and we're too busy and whatever happens. But as a leader, I think the best way to deal with disruption and the changes in the marketplace that we have today is by really looking internally, and how do we develop the creativity and resilience of our employees? Because I think that the rules are changing all around us. We can see this even from a marketing context. In 2019, we started to see digital marketing, return on investment in digital marketing programs start to collapse because they became over-saturated. When all those programs suddenly start blowing up around you, and your Pay Per Click campaigns not working anymore, your social media is not working. What do you do?

Jeremy:

Well, you can go spend an escrillion dollars on somebody else, but probably the best answers to use your team. So as a leader, how do you create the culture and the environment that empower people to give up their ideas? And that requires you being humble and generous to allow someone to give an idea. And when they give you an idea, you treat it as something that's precious. Because they gave you something. If you squash it and judge it, they're not giving you a second. But if you allow them to give it and bring it forward and celebrate it, they'll give you another. And they'll get better at their ideas. It's a muscle. It's something that can be developed. So I think co creation is a something that is a leadership opportunity, but it's not easy. It's a new skillset.

Jen:

Absolutely. And then you'll find, I believe that when you start to exercise those muscles, not only as a leader, but also for your environment and your organization, then you'll start to reap benefits in other ways. I think it extends beyond branding. This is just one place where it's an excellent place to start.

Jeremy:

Right. Well, this is actually one of the reasons I wrote the book, is it was a way to validate this motive leadership. Here is a way you can apply this in a very constructive, simple way on a very needed topic, how to name something. But hopefully for me, that's the stepping stone that you can take these ideas of employee co creation and use them to solve any complex problem from marketing to operations to finance. One of the things that I have been watching is, if you look at large corporations, they have lots of innovation going on in the customer, but where they truly need innovation, where they're lacking, is actually in their systems and their ability to find better ways to do things with the people they have. It's in the mundane that actually needs innovation, and that's only going to come from within.

Jen:

I agree. Because it's so expensive to replace somebody. You're better off as an organization to keep everybody engaged and helping you improve systems, improve the creativity, bring out better products. It's one of the things... So you're watching the marketing part. I'm watching a lot of what's going on in the generational cohorts, and I just see everybody who's new and have been maybe working for less than 10 years, they want to be involved. They want to be co-creators. It's everybody who are my age and older, they just really struggle with letting that stuff go. And yet it seems like... all of the evidence that you bring out in Brand New Name is just the tip of the iceberg for what's possible, when you start to open that up as an organization.

Jeremy:

I think it is the future. I think it's the future, not only for companies but NGOs, not-for-profits, social enterprises. I don't really buy into the idea of the gig economy, but I really do believe in the idea of empowerment and giving people an opportunity to contribute. And I think empowerment is a two way street, that you can give someone an opportunity to give their ideas, but they have to give you their ideas. And so that that system, that environment is a very different world than, say, what our parents led from and coming from much more of a patriarchal, top down, bureaucratic environment. But everything's changing all around us. And so I think the best way to deal with disruption is in these ideas.

Jen:

Absolutely. I think that's great. And I don't think I've mentioned how amazing I think the second half of the book is. You were talking about some of these different exercises that you have in there. It is legit a toolkit so that small businesses can really get started with these things today and maybe not have to hire someone. I think that it was just well done. So before we close, what do you think are the three most important steps every brand needs to take to find their best brand name? You've talked about a few of them. Just seeing if you've got anything else.

Jeremy:

So to answer your question, so three things. Number one, I think it really follows the three stages of part two, which is build a strategy. You have the... define the guidelines for what it takes to be successful. And the best way to overcome the naming drought is to generate lots of ideas, use your team. And then take the time to test and select and get it right. I think your name is the longest living artifact in any organization, and the choices that you make now are going to last for a very long time. You don't want to go and change it. It's a pain in the ass.

Jeremy:

So being able to take the time now and take the care to do it right will speak volumes to your brand. I can tell, you can tell the people that care about branding, and I think your customers can too. So the companies that care about their brand, I think they care about their customers more. And it's how they express themselves, it's how they connect with themselves. And your name is one of the most effective ways to communicate who you are, what you do, who you serve, and what you aspire to be.

Jen:

Wow. Yes, yes. Thank you. So Brand New Name by Jeremy Miller. Where can people find this great book?

Jeremy:

It is available wherever books are sold, but I would say Amazon's the fastest and easiest, so Brand New Name on Amazon.

Jen:

That's awesome. And then how can people reach you?

Jeremy:

Easiest way to find me is to Google Sticky Branding. The website's stickybranding.com. I'm on all the social networks at Sticky Branding. And I'd love to connect. So if you have any questions, or you want to connect with me on LinkedIn or Instagram or anywhere else, reach out, connect. It'd be amazing.

Jen:

Thank you so much for being on the show. And I will encourage everyone to go check out the social because this man walks his talk. It's some pretty amazing stuff he puts out there on social. Thank you again for being on the show.

Jeremy:

Thank you, Jen. I'm really grateful for everything you do too.

Jen:

Thanks. Thank you for listening to the Women Conquer Business podcast. If you're wondering what's next, here are a few suggestions. If you love the show, be sure to subscribe. If you want to follow me on social media, you can find Women Conquer Business on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. And finally if the episode today, brought something up for you and you need to talk, email me at hello@jenmcfarland.com.

Jen:

The Women Conquered Business podcast is written and produced by Jen McFarland and Foster Growth, LLC in beautiful Southeast Portland. Thanks again for listening.

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