Naming Companies – What they are and what they do

I never knew there was such a thing as a naming company!

As the founder of a top-five naming agency, that’s a question/comment I encounter often. Running a professional naming service is indeed a niche business, but one that serves an important function – helping companies clearly define their overall brand identity.
But just what exactly is a “naming company,” and more importantly, just what do they do?

Brand naming companies vs. Marketing & Advertising Firms

Think of naming companies as a subset of marketing and branding firms. Like specialists in the medical field, naming consultants focus solely on the core elements of brand identity. Marketing and advertising agencies work on the campaign level, while naming agencies work on the identity level.

Services Provided by Brand Naming Agencies

While some marketing agencies will offer “brand naming services” as an a la carte service offering, their primary focus is on the growth and development of existing brands (vs. the initial creation of the brand name and brand identity.)

Company Naming
Product Naming
Brand Naming
Brand Identity
Rebranding & Repositioning
Sub-Brand Naming
Sub-Brand Architecture
Tagline Creation
Brand Lexicon
Brand Messaging
Overall Naming Architecture
Brand Name Research & Validation
Linguistic and Cultural Screening
Preliminary Trademark Research
Domain Name Acquisition
Corporate Identity/Logo Design*
Collateral Design*
Brand Style and Usage Guide*

*some naming firms focus only on verbal elements

The benefits of hiring a top brand naming company

Think of naming and branding firms as midwives and advertising and marketing agencies as the child care providers. Each has a specific role to play, one in the birthing of your “brand child,” and one in the raising of it.
As specialists, a naming company will take you and your organization through a naming and branding process to identify the type of characteristics you want your brand name to portray. They’ll help you identify a prioritized list of brand naming criteria to guide your decision and a range of naming strategies to accomplish the goal.
Specifically, a qualified brand naming agency will…

Specifically, a qualified brand naming agency will

  • Help organize and structure the decision making team
  • Help plan a realistic budget and timeline to achieve your goal
  • Develop a prioritized set of naming criteria to help you gage naming candidates
  • Provide an analysis of the current competitive naming landscape for review
  • Identify the type of naming strategy(ies) that best suit your assignment
  • Brainstorm, research and distill brand names that match your needs
  • Present names in a contextual format and gather feedback
  • Provide consensus management to help determine final candidates
  • Run preliminary trademark screenings by category and geography
  • Research available matching domain names and negotiate purchases
  • Develop a brand style book to guide the rollout of the brand name

A naming company earns its keep by ticking all the boxes necessary to create a well defined, clearly differentiated brand name.

When is a good time to engage a brand naming agency?

Startup Phase

Formation of a new company, corporation or division

The adage “you never get a second chance to make a first impression” holds especially true when it comes to your company’s brand. I’ve dealt with hundreds of companies over the years that came to us because they got off on the wrong foot. Typically they branded around too narrow of a niche, or based on their geography, or an original founder’s name. Others have come due to litigation over a name that was not properly vetted.

Production Creation

Development of a new product, service or service line

Even more than company names, product names can be very litigious. Having naming experts provide an analysis of your potential product name can prevent a cease-and-desist order that leaves your warehouse full of expensive and unmarketable inventory

Company Rebrand

During a shift in a company’s business focus or business model

Besides the initial startup phase, this is arguably the most crucial juncture in a company’s history. When businesses grow, they often outgrow or expand their original business model or geographic area. Creating a more accurate and cohesive company brand name can alleviate misunderstanding and empower future growth.

Brand Architecture

When a company’s naming strategy becomes fragmented

One of the most frequent requests we receive is for help with a company’s sub brand architecture. As companies expand their product lines, the naming often falls to the engineers, tech staff and/or sales people. What starts off as two or three basic sub brands can quickly morph into a hot mess of different brand names with all different naming strategies… e.g. literal, invented, acronyms, hyphenated, etc. An experienced naming consultant can help make sense of your brands and provide a strategy for naming future brands as well.

How much does it cost to name a company?

Just like you can build without a contractor, you can name your company without naming consultants. But having that added layer (or layers) of protection can make all the difference. Clearing out space in terms of the company name, conveying the best “position,” creating a supporting tagline, finding the matching domain name – all these take time, energy and expertise that are often better left to firms specializing in these arenas.

But let’s face it, not everyone can afford this help. If you are budgeting for this type of naming service, here are some general ranges. Keep in mind the budgets really depend on how many services you require, the number of decision-makers, the length of the project and the amount of trademark clearance.

Startup Company Naming

$10,000 – 20,000

For this amount, a naming agency can provide a one or two person startup with a few rounds of naming candidates, pre-screened, with recommendations on taglines, domain availability and preliminary trademark screening.

Midsize Companies or Minor Rebrands

$20,000 – 50,000

This is a good price range for companies that are a few years in and need to rebrand and reboot. The higher dollar figure allows for more time, consensus building, research, trademark vetting and brand guideline development. The more years a company has been in business, the greater the stakes, so the process tends to require more scrutiny at every turn.

Larger Companies or Major Rebrands

$50,000 – 150,000

At the higher levels, naming agencies work with firms that need it all, e.g. brand name development, global trademark clearance, brand name validation studies, consumer research, etc. The price tag can actually go higher than these numbers depending on the number of branding services provided, but typically this is a good range.

Product Naming & Branding

$10,000 – 50,000

Product naming and brand development costs vary widely depending on the size and scope of the project. For some businesses, their product line commands more attention than the company name itself. And product naming tends to be more litigious, requiring additional research, testing and vetting.
In addition, some companies want both the product name development and the product package design in one agency. Most naming companies don’t provide package design, so you may need to split the project to allow expertise in both areas, e.g. a great brand name, and a great look.
Going with a marketing company that “does it all” may result in compromised results, so be prepared to outsource the product naming to naming experts and the package design to collateral design experts.

Brand Name Architecture

$20,000 – 40,000

Examples of a “good/better/best” product naming hierarchy:

  • Bronze, Silver, Gold
  • Basic, Premium, Ultra
  • Classic, Prime, Platinum
  • Sentry, Guardian, Centurion
  • Standard, Advanced, Professional
  • Residential, Commercial, Industrial
One would think this could be done on the cheap, however sorting out and organizing a company’s sub brands typically requires time and a lot of old fashioned brain power. I often compare it to the job John Dewey performed in creating the Dewey Decimal Systems in use by libraries to this day.
The results of a streamlined naming hierarchy are definitely worth it. Naming consultants can create an intuitive sub brand strategy that provides clarity, direction and a sense of navigation for your product lines. Naming consultants can also provide you with a good, better, best product naming strategy to help differentiate quality levels.

What is a reasonable timeline for a naming and branding project?

Company or product naming should never be rushed. Remember the adage, “there’s never time to do it right, but there’s always time to do it over.” You don’t want to do this over. The role of a professional naming agency is to not only create and identify stellar brand names, but just as importantly, to guide the name development process. The best company and product brand names are the ones that are fully embraced by the organization. To achieve that goal, allow sufficient time for development.
Here is a typical branding timeline:

Brand Discovery & Exploration

2 to 4 weeks

This allows for interviewing the stakeholders, gathering the brand development worksheets, and distilling the information down to a set of naming criteria.

Creative Brainstorming, Presentations & Feedback

4 to 6 weeks

Naming agencies will typically provide a framework by which to judge the proposed names. These might be slides, photos, contextual support, etc. to help weigh and evaluate the names. Each “round” will receive feedback, followed by new iterations until a name or names are selected

Trademarking & Logo Design

6 to 8 weeks

If these elements are included in your process, allow time just as in the naming, to complete the overall look and feel of the new name. Typically the trademark filing can run in tandem with the logo and corporate design. Final trademark approval can take as much as six months, but your counsel should be able to provide an opinion on the likelihood of approval in advance.

Brand Name Implementation & Roll Out

3 to 6 months

Key to any successful brand naming process is the pivotal rollout phase. An experienced naming and branding agency can help devise a solid plan to introduce the name internally and externally in the proper order. The objective is to gain consensus and “buy in” as the name is unveiled. In addition, an experienced naming agency can provide that vital branding checklist to guide you through the entire implementation phase. This will help keep you on track while providing needed assurance. Depending on your overall brand strategy, the process can be quick and decisive, or phased in slowly over time. A good rule of thumb is to allow time for all stakeholders to make the adjustment. The larger the naming project, the more time required.

Who are the best naming companies?

So we are biased of course, having worked with clients worldwide on over 500 brand naming projects. But as in every industry, there are brand name development firms that are more experienced in some areas than others. At Tungsten, our naming work focuses on tech, finance, medical, industrial, and some retail. Other naming agencies focus on high-end fashion, consumer goods, or food and beverage.

It’s important to work with naming consultants you feel comfortable with, and understand both your industry and your company’s unique goals and objectives.

Here’s a list of questions when choosing a naming firm.

  • Is the naming agency experienced in your specific type of project?
    (e.g. company rebranding or product naming architecture)
  • Is the naming firm experienced in your specific industry?
    (e.g franchising, non profit, hospitality, etc.)
  • What size companies and budgets does the agency typically work with?
    (You don’t want to be too big or too small a fish, so ask about general budget ranges.)
  • Is location an issue? Do you need the team to physically meet in person or do you prefer to work remotely? The best naming agencies were traditionally based in San Francisco or New York City, but with the advent of virtual meetings, many of the top naming firms are now located throughout the U.S.
  • What types of company or product names has this branding agency produced in the past? Do you like their philosophy and approach to company and product naming?
  • What types of capabilities and branding services does the naming agency possess? Can they provide trademark research, market research, domain acquisition, brand style guides, etc?
  • Do you like the team? Can you envision working with them intimately for the course of several weeks or months? Brand naming is a collaborative process, involving substantial communication and interaction to arrive at the desired results. Having the right partner can make a big difference.

To determine the best naming agency for your project, be sure to ask these questions. After all, a company’s name and brand identity form the cornerstone of its culture and values. So work with brand naming experts who understand the importance and value of this vital work

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BY Phil Davis

Brand Naming Expert

With over twenty-five years of company naming and branding expertise, Tungsten founder Phil Davis is a marketing and advertising veteran, having personally named over 250 companies, products and services worldwide. As a sought-after naming expert, Phil has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal,, Businessweek, Entrepreneur, and Newsday.

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