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If your challenge title is hard to pronounce, or even a mouthful, people won’t talk about it and if they can’t write it down (and spell it correctly!) when they hear it, how do you expect them to Google it? Keep it simple and avoid any wacky/counterintuitive spellings if possible.
It’s very hard in this day and age to be completely unique, so you can give yourself a bit of leeway, but your challenge title should at least be unique to your industry. The clarity this provides amidst other challenges (some with potentially vague-sounding titles) is extremely valuable.
The longer the title, the harder it is to grab people. Longer titles also mean people resort to abbreviations that you often don’t get to control.
You want your challenge title to jump off the page and stand out next to all the other boring words around it. When someone says it in a sentence it should stand out so everyone around pays attention.
Your product title should tie back into what your challenge is all about, what the feeling you want people to have when experiencing your product is, and/or what idea are you trying to get across. It should be emotive and, most importantly: inspiring.
Titles or names that describe what the product is or does. Functional titles or names tend to be the most common and least differentiated (e.g. Whole Foods, Facebook, Public Storage, OfficeMax).
Titles or names which have no semantic meaning (e.g. Skype, Häagen-Dazs,Trivago)
Titles or names which describe the product experience (e.g. Highfive, Zendesk, Under Armour, Google)
Titles or names which are provocative and create cognitive dissonance when associated with a particular category, product, or service (e.g. Virgin, Twitter, iPod, Wunderground)
1. Get Everyone Together in a Room (or a Video Conference Room)
And not just the marketing folk. There's value in getting people from different parts of your organization involved. The goal is to get as much fodder—ideas—as possible; new perspectives are vital. What's more, an inclusive approach will get people on the same page and make buy-in easier down the road. Once you have your group together, get them in a horseshoe shape around a flip chart, and arm everyone with Post-it pads, caffeine, and snacks.
2. Start With a Braindump
First things first: you want to bring up let go of any naming baggage—current favorites, historic flops, those "perfect titles" people are secretly harboring for the big reveal. These things can color the workshop and block creative exploration. By getting those all out on a page, you're left unfettered and free to move into fresh territory.
3. The Free-Association Exercise
Start thinking about your product/brand differently with a free-association exercise: If your product/company were an animal, which one would it be? How about a weapon? A superhero power? Flavors, geographical points, objects, rock bands... there are countless scenarios that can put your product/brand in a new light.
This one can get a bit silly, and that's a good thing: It helps people realize that naming doesn't have to be like a trip to the dentist.
4. The Scrabble Exercise
Kodak's founder loved the letter "k" so much that he made up his own company name so it started and ended with it. Pass around a bag of Scrabble tiles and ask everyone to choose three letters. The task is to come up with as many made-up titles as you can by using any of those letters: they can start with the letter, end with it, or have it somewhere in the middle.
5. The Blockbuster Exercise
Take inspiration from Hollywood hyperbole and pretend your product/company is a hot summer blockbuster. Picture its movie poster, and the critic's short five-star review appearing at the top (e.g., "A rip-roaring ride" and "Atmospheric mind-boggler"). What might it say? After you've come up with the review, make up a fitting movie title.
6. The Thesaurus Exercise
Photocopy pages of the thesaurus that relate to the product/company's goal, unique selling proposition, or brand personality. Ask people to combine words from the photocopied page with ideas from their imagination to make composite or coined titles.
7. The Role-Play Exercise
Ask people to present a news bulletin about the product/company. Or pair people up and make one of them a TV host and the other the guest on a show that happens to be about how the product/company has changed lives.
8. Taste It, Touch It, Smell It
If you're naming something that people can try or use during the session, do your best to build that into the workshop. Get people to describe it in a sentence, then in a word.
9. Quick Pick-Me-Up
Even the best naming sessions have their slumps. If things are feeling sluggish, get everyone on their feet and throw a ball into the group. Whoever catches it must shout out a title suggestion as quickly as possible before throwing the ball to someone else in the group.
10. Put a Shortlist Together
Close the session by asking everyone to write down their top five titles onto Post-it notes. It's important to do this individually to stop people being swayed by others' opinions or group dynamics. If there are a handful of titles that at least two or three people have voted for, that's a good sign. Write the shortlist of chosen titles on a new sheet of paper so everyone can see it.
At the end of a good naming workshop, you won't necessarily have the answer. In fact, you'll probably have a collection of strange, funny, and interesting words and phrases. But your participants will be more invested, aligned, and excited about the naming process—which is half the battle.