This guide will work for any fiber business (design, tech editing, local yarn shops, etc).
The following post was written by Emily Lymm (dyer, Wool & Palette) She is a graphic designer that has worked alongside major brands in the past and has a wealth of information when it comes to branding.
There won't be much preamble here. You know what you're here for and so do I. Let's get right into it.
Step One: Change the way you think about names
I will say this; there’s more of an art to it than you might think (and more than I initially thought!). Luckily, I’ve had the pleasure of working with some big brands and had the benefit of sitting through lots of naming sessions, so I've been able to see this process first-hand.
I’m not really sure why I was included in any of those meetings. I’m a graphic designer - not a writer or strategist. I don’t consider myself to be very clever or a grammarian. But, after a few of these meetings, I started to conclude that there is a structure, energy, and essential personality mix that will facilitate creating a memorable brand name.
Before I break down the ‘how’ and help you to set the scene for your brilliant meeting of the minds, let’s talk about brand names.
“What are the limitations?" you might be asking.
Great news! There are none! You can use your own name, you can use a combination of words that describe the product or service you offer, or it can be an entirely made-up word (ahem Google, Yahoo, Kodak, Xerox, Pixar, Verizon, and Adidas, to name a few). What matters is that it feels like you and what you offer. That’s it. It’s a feeling.
Step Two: Time for competitive analysis
I know it doesn’t sound fun, but if you put in the legwork now, your name will grow with you, and you won’t feel like you need to circle back later because you outgrew your initial idea.
Try not to get overwhelmed by the term “competitive analysis”. All it has to be is a spreadsheet, and I'll break down the steps further for you here.
As you discover new brands, write them down in the first column (these can be direct competitors or people and businesses adjacent to your own.).
Start to identify the common thread they share. Once you see the pattern and collect more names, you’ll get critical pretty fast. You’ll either see some very overly-used themes or people using the exact same words, just in a different order. And if you can’t remember who they are because they blend in with the crowd, neither will your potential customers.
Keep this list handy. You can add to it when you’re ready to design your logo and your website. I still have mine, and it’s lengthy!
Step Three: Gather your team
The naming process takes a team. I recommend staging a naming session and inviting some friends. But they have to be your “yes” friends - the ones who are always on your side and sometimes enabling to a fault. No Karens allowed! During the naming strategy sessions I used to attend at my former company, I noticed early on that each person in the room assumed a role and every one of those roles was important.
Based on my experiences, here are the ones I recommend having:
The Note Taker: In my meetings, one person stood on the whiteboard and wrote down all the ideas. And I mean ALL of them. You never know where a train of thought will take you. Find someone who's wrist doesn't tire easily.
The Manager: Name someone to run the meeting and keep the group on task (if this is your business being named, this may very well end up being you).
The Thinker: You may not immediately think so, but another critical role is the quiet, contemplative one who doesn’t say much but waits for the right time to share.
The Comic Relief: My role was usually comic relief because someone had to keep the energy fun. This is brainstorming, after all. So, find the Gimli to your Fellowship or the Jar Jar to your poorly executed prequel trilogy.
The Ideator: Lastly, you need someone with a computer and thesaurus handy when you get stuck on certain words. PS. You can have more people, but it can get rather loud, so 5 might be a good number to stick to.
Step Four: Create a laid-back environment
You need to be able to keep the energy up for at least an hour during your session. Have fun, laugh, and/or grab a drink! The ideas will dwindle here and there, and you may think that a lull means the ideas are exhausted, but don't worry - that’s not the case.
If you do find yourself in a lull, here’s where your comic relief friend can really shine! Maybe they (or you, if you're the comic relief) tell a funny story - anything you need to get the conversation and ideas back on track. You may not have THE name by the end of this meeting and that's okay.
Full disclosure, it took me six months to finally land on mine. Six. Months. And I filled a 20-foot-long whiteboard with words, plus a few pages in a notebook with ideas. After all my competitive analysis, legal vetting, and soul searching, I finally settled on Wool & Palette. What’s funny is that this name came up in my initial strategy meeting, but I wasn’t fond of it at first. Now I can’t imagine it being anything else.
Step Five: Play around!
Once you fill a whiteboard or pages of paper with ideas, start moving things around! Try combining words, have several columns of the word you like, and try it with supporting words.
Look at other brands you admire and wonder, “why does their name sound so great?” Does it roll off the tongue? Is it memorable? Does it describe what they do? Maybe they harness an attitude.
You want your brand to feel good and sound good when someone speaks it, so test it out. Is it too wordy? Is it too familiar? Is it bland? You don’t want ordinary or bland. You want to stand out just enough.
Step Six: Look at the logistics
Logic, while sometimes unglamorous, should not be overlooked during this process. There are many things you will need to ask yourself before finally landing on the perfect brand name.
Consider things like:
Is the ideal URL taken?
What will your social media handle be and is it already being used?
Is the name something that can easily be misspelled? (That will crush your google analytics.)
Is the name already being used by another company? Legalities are not my expertise, but please don’t take a name that is already taken. It can be similar but always have a short list of your favorites. Having your heart set on a name only to find out someone else has trademarked it will feel defeating. (Additionally, cease & desists are not fun to receive - just ask Anastasia.)
Does the name have a negative connotation? Research the history of the words. Make sure it’s not slang, derogatory, or culturally insensitive.
This isn't quite as “logistics”-based, but does it feel like “you”? Your brand name will basically become your surname, so make sure you love it! You will be referred to by it all the time.
A quick note: This is the graphic designer in me, but consider your future logo possibilities. If your business name is super long, you’ll need a shortened version or vertical version of a logo for small, digital applications. Social media, newsletter services, and your website will need a tiny pixel dimension like 24px x 24 px, so you'll want to make sure it will still be recognizable at that size.
Application: How I use my brand name
Wool & Palette is my business name and main logo. I also have a tagline - ‘Naturally Hand-Dyed Yarn.’ I use the tagline on my yarn labels and in places where I need to further explain what I offer, like on a banner at a trunk show or market.
In places where I have less real estate, or there are opportunities to explain my brand story in another way, it’s just Wool & Palette.
In some digital spaces, I use my truncated version: W&P in a circle. I have circle stickers with the initials and use these for packaging and on one side of my business card.
So, in summation, having a long-form, short-form, and truncated version of a name or logo will suit your brand in numerous applications.
You can listen to Anastasia's interview on Branding in the Fiber Arts Industry with Emily on Fiber Radio here.