Moments with Kathryn Blog

On Naming Books, Babies and Businesses

August 17, 2019 / by Kathryn Redman

Good Name or Bad NameNaming things is hard.

Names communicate something. Names are kind of a “forever” thing. Names matter.

You know if you’ve ever named anything, that names are not simple to land on, unless you have one of those circumstances where something just connects and you know that you know. It was that way for our business, Half a Bubble Out, but not for our baby.

When you are trying to name something you may have these kinds of thoughts.

I want the name to stand out, but not be too weird.

I want the name to make sense, but not be boring.

I want the name to capture the essence of the person or thing, but not be limiting.

I want the name to be creative, but not obnoxiously so.

I want the name to draw someone in, not push them away.

I want everyone to love the name.

Naming things is hard. There are millions made on books about naming your baby, and no small amount of robust conversations around that topic.

If you have kids and are married, you no doubt have stories about what you went through to arrive at a name for your child that you could both agree on. Michael has a strong affinity for the name Max, because his grandfather, Max, was his hero.

For me, Max was a German Shepherd on the 1970s television show The Bionic Woman and I dug my heels in. I was not going to name my child after a German Shepherd, no way and no how!

I will admit that the futher I got away from the 1970s and the more I got to know Grandpa Max the more I liked the name, but by then that ship had sailed, and we had our Jenna. If we had ever had a second child, I might well have relinquished, but we’ll never know.

As business and marketing consultants, Michael and I have had the privilege of helping a number of leaders go through the process of renaming their company.  There are some proven rules to naming a company, but it is still hard work. The more people there are involved in the process, the more difficult the process. Naming by committee is challenging for sure!

Why is that? Some of it is because some people like things to be super descriptive, and others like a bit more flair and mystery. Often though, it is because words have meaning, but not the same meaning for every person in the room. We associate memories and experiences with words, and the stronger the association, the harder it is to get past. I talked a little about this on my blog about hope recently.

We refer to this with our clients as the concept of “fuzzy terms.” There are fuzzy terms everywhere in our language. From something as simple as the word “love” which we all recognize can be used in reference to pizza, my dog, my job and my husband of 26 years, to words that we are certain we have a clear grip on yet discover are more elusive than we thought.

If you ask 10 people in a room to define a simple word like “growth” for example, you will likely come up with 10 different definitions that could range from how tall a person is, to personal improvement, to increased profit, to the number of people in a city and so on. If you give some context that will of course help, but even then you will get different answers. 

For some people, the word "potential" is a powerful word full of hope and forward momentum, while for others it is like a curse word from having heard some condemning mantra like "if you would only live up to your potential...". You get the idea. 

As I write this, Michael and I are in the process of trying to land on a name for a business book we are writing about building what we call a Passion & Provision™ company. It feels every bit as hard as naming our child was. Both of those words are packed with meaning for people, and often not the meaning we intend. Do we use it in the title and take our chances? Do we use it in the subtitle? Do we leave it to mystery or try to put words around it that help clarify? Will the business owners and leaders we are trying to reach be intrigued or repelled? The list of angsty questions goes on and on.

The purpose of a book title, we are told by our book specialists, is to create enough intrigue for someone to pick it up and turn it over to read the back or thumb through the introduction. Sounds simple enough right? Still hard.

Whatever the answers are to our angsty questions I am having to remind myself of a few things we know from experience. No business name, baby name or book title will appeal to everyone. A few will be repelled for any number of reasons you cannot predict. A few will be completely drawn in and love it, again for reasons you probably didn't predict. The more edgy it is, the sharper those lines will be drawn. The more pragmatic it is, the harder it might be to catch anyone's emotions.

The truth is that you do your best, and once you have chosen, you live into that choice with total commitment, whether people initially embrace the name or don’t.

The rest of the story is about what people encounter when they meet your baby, book or business. They will begin to form associations based on their experience, and if their experiences are positive the name will grow on them, much like Max grew on me.

If you’re naming something right now I hope this is helpful. I just needed to get it off my chest so I can get back to trying to land a name for our book.

If you aren't naming something, I hope you were mildly entertained by my ramblings.

Here’s to naming your book, business or baby and then living into the name you choose!


P.S. I think I might campaign for Max when there are grandkids on the horizon. Jenna, consider yourself forewarned ;).

Topics: Passion & Provision, Business

Kathryn Redman

Written by Kathryn Redman

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