The “Free Pizza” Solution to Name Development

I’ve asked a lot of my advertising agency friends how their agencies would approach name development if a client asked for help in this area. The response, virtually without exception, is that they round up everyone they can at the end of the day, order a couple of pizzas, and hold a big brainstorming session to generate ideas.

In the same vein, some companies consider holding a naming contest to develop names instead of hiring a professional name developer (such as my NameFlashSM name development business). After all, isn’t it important to allow our customers/employees/associates to have input on our new name? And, we could offer a prize of free (insert product name) for a year so it would not cost us anything!

To some these methods sound silly. But trust me, when I pitch a name development project and don’t get it, two popular alternatives for companies that elect to do it themselves are:

  1. Ask their agency to do it
  2. Ask their customers/employees/associates to do it

So what could go wrong?

Well, for starters, the chances are pretty good that the names that are generated by these strategies will probably be very similar to those you may have thought of yourself, so you won’t get a lot of new thinking. Furthermore, most people are not aware of existing trademarks, so the vast majority of names on your brainstorm list will likely be conflicted by competitive trademarks (and what about the time wasted on this effort?). What about “ballot box stuffing?” You might end up having to name your product “Colbert” ( Finally, how will you pick a winner, and what will the implications be when you say “No” to certain people?

I will admit I am biased, but I strongly believe that name development is a highly specialized skill that requires expertise in creativity, linguistics, consumer understanding, marketing, trademark law, and many other areas.  Yes, there are examples of great names that were developed by agencies, by crowdsourcing, or even by a visionary CEO. But the highest odds for success are generated by a diverse group of specialized experts working towards a common goal (such as the NameFlashSM process). You would not let your consumers determine your mergers & acquisitions strategy or the future strategic direction of your company, would you?

Mark Prus is a marketing consultant who offers a name development service, NameFlashSM, which is based on a strategic approach to name development, and a market research service, InsightFlashSM, which is designed to deliver consumer insights quickly and at a reasonable price. Follow me on Twitter @NameFlash


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