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September 25, 2007 | Tate Linden
We've named a whopping two whole companies in the "sustainable" or "green" or "eco-friendly" or "tree-hugging" or "Gaia" or "Mother Earth" or whatever other catchword you want to use.


And we still haven't used a cliche. (We wish we could have said "thirty-seven" or "a hundred twenty four"... but we've gotta start somewhere.)

Both "green" brands we've helped to develop are fresh new concepts that convey what is at the core of each company without blending in to the crowded ecomarkets.

emPivot is a green media firm that empowers its audience to change their views on issues involving sustainable living (tagline "View green from every angle.) webmeadow is a solar-powered technical development company. Both companies are led by charismatic leaders with great vision - and both work in crowded markets with all sorts of "me too" names.

We've helped our clients step outside of the "green" label and establish identities that show there is an alternative to using camo in the masthead.

...and this gets down to what we believe is the role of the professional namer in business.

Should a namer just give a client what they say they want? We're going to go out on a limb and say "no." Our job is not to give a client whatever they say they want - because often the client either doesn't know what they want or doesn't know what's possible. (Both emPivot and webmeadow had great ideas to begin with, but the ideas evolved as we went through the generation and evaluation process.)

We've had a client say they want "A name like 'Flickr' - you know... with that cool short ending" and we didn't give it to them. We've had a client ask for a name with four letters - and they ended up selecting one with twelve, because it actually met the goals we discovered and developed together.

There are quite literally thousands of people in the United States who are qualified to provide lists of names that satisfy exactly what a client says they want. There are hundreds that make a living doing almost exactly that.

There are few, however, that help clients understand what identites can do for an organization, how to launch a brand, or what really matters when trying to decide between multiple strong naming ideas (or even a strong one and a weak one.) Our view is that as namers we are responsible for the words our clients choose. If our clients are set on an identity that is going to handicap them in the long run (or short run, for that matter) it's our job to tell them about that risk.

If namers were only responsible for the generation of lists of names then namers would be no better than a talking thesaurus - and those already exist. If namers are only responsible for producing letters and sounds for clients to consider then I'd put up my own son, Theodore, as a perfect (if high maintenance) source. (He's particularly talented at words with gargles and raspberries in them - and he'll give you near-infinite variations.)

Here it is, folks. Namers don't just make lists. Everyone can do that. If you make lists please don't tell us that your names are more creative, different, or better. Since all you're providing is a bunch of concepts without any guidance or evaluation you can't make any claim other than the number of ideas you provide. While quantity is important during the creative process, quantity is your enemy during the evaluation and implementation phases.

Here's the gauntlet: If you're a namer that deals in lists without context (e.g., no evaluation, implementation help, or detailed guidance) we're saying you're not a namer. You're closer to all the people my wife and I tried to ignore when we were getting ready to name Theodore. Even the great man we named him after gave us lists to consider (and oddly enough he didn't put his own name on the list.)

So... name listers aren't namers.* Anyone want to pick up the gauntlet and mess with us?

Poke. Poke. (Hey, we're Stokefire, after all. We gotta find other uses for this poker.)

(* - Note that we aren't afraid to use name listers ourselves on occasion. It's a critical part of the naming process - especially when a project gets a bit stuck - it's just not the whole thing.)
Jeffry Pilcher September 25, 2007 12:11 PM

I'm disappointed with the Visual Thesaurus.

Tate Linden September 28, 2007 7:42 AM

Yeah... We tend to trot it out during creative sessions to help clients see more possibilities. It's great for opening up minds, but if your mind is already open a more complete source is probably better.