Naming Process

As we (The Oya Group) are getting more known in social circles, we are getting more and more of these kinds of requests; not so much asking for a service, but asking about what is the algorithm we might use to complete a particular task.

Obviously, sometimes there is some conflict here; after all, if someone wants the benefit of our experience and talent, they should just hire us! But, mostly, we’re happy to help. Especially as sometimes it ends up with a process being articulated that might have been just implicit before, as is this case with this document. A pretty good picture of the process we generally employ to come up with a name, a brand, a company (or product) identity.

This is in response to an email from someone starting a company in Spain. She was asking how we name companies, and here is our response.

Here is the process I would generally follow for a naming project. It’s hard work and you’ll need to ask yourself some tough questions—but they are questions you need to have answered anyway, in order to come up with a good story for your company.

First off, go back to basics. What are the primary attributes of your company? Why are you starting it and what good is it to anyone? For instance, are you saving people money, allowing them to connect (to someone or something) more easily, etc.

Once you have the general most important aspects of your company, you need to work on the positioning. This means how does your company relate to the competition in the field? Are you offering a lower price, better value (e.g. More stuff for the same price as your competition), or something else? What kind of experience is your company going to offer that is better, different, less expensive, etc.?

From here work on your value propositions. See if you can get the primary values you are offering the marketplace into a single sentence or, maybe, a couple of sentences (at most). “We enable people to monetize their Twitter posts,” might be one. Or, “Our service enables housewives to enjoy the luxury of a top-tier spa right in their own home,” is another. Keep it brief and completely free of any technical jargon. Your Mom needs to be able to read and understand it.

Once you have all this, you have defined your brand values; what are the key elements you need your name (in fact, your whole brand, once you have that worked out) to communicate.

Using that as a platform, decide what type of name works best. Is it going to be made up? Is it going to be something constructed from ancient root languages (e.g. Latin)? There are benefits and detriments to all of them. A really good resource for ideas on this is a naming company a client of ours is using, Igor ( They have a couple of white papers on naming (one wayyyy too long and the other long, but not too bad) that has a great explanation of what names are good and why, and what problems each type of name may have.

From here, just start throwing things out. I use a large (2m) white board for this, because it helps me to see all the names written large in one place. In fact, sometimes I take up all the white boards in my office. Give yourself some time here and don’t just hide in a room and do it (although you may have a couple of sessions like that)–get out into the world with this process in the front of your consciousness—it’ll open you up to seeing things through this looking glass and stuff may pop out at you. It could be anything; a flower, a radio commercial, anything.

Bring those back to the process and add them to the set of possibilities. After a few days (or a week or two or three) some names will start to pop out at you. Take those and live with them for a few days—some fewer of them will still pop out. Choose one of them. For now, this will work. Once you get out to market and can really test the name you may want to review it but, for the moment, this algorithm should yield you a name that, if not perfect, will be something that everyone agrees is a good working title for the company.

And here is the best piece of advice I could give you: don’t over think it. A name needs to appeal as a blink moment (if you haven’t read Blink, you should do so as part of this process). If a name takes more than 2 seconds for you to be attracted to it, then it’s the wrong name. The reason this is such a challenging exercise is that a name is your 3-second elevator pitch. You can’t appeal to anyone’s intellect in that time, so you need to appeal to their emotions.

Naming is one of the most challenging and rewarding part of the marketing process. It’s like hitting a home run; sounds simple (just hit the ball hard, right?) but in practice it’s a lot harder. So, for anyone who is embarking on a naming exercise, good luck and please let us know if we can help!

Purchasing a Latte with my iPod Touch

On the evening of September 23rd, I learned I could finally ditch the Starbucks gift card I carried around in my wallet in exchange for downloading an app. The free app is called Starbucks Card Mobile and works on both the iPod Touch and the iPhone.

After downloading the app, I was prompted to enter the 16-digit code on the original Starbucks card I owned and the 8-digit security code underneath it. It didn’t appear there was an option to simply set up an account. Additional cards can be added as well. Once the card is added, you will need to add your billing information (you can add several credit cards) and then load a dollar amount to the Starbucks card. A limited time bonus of $5 will be credited to your account if you load a minimum of $25 to it.

The only problem I had while setting up my account was loading the $25 (of course I want the $5—that’s a free latte). When I selected the dollar amount and hit apply an error message came up ‘An unexpected error occurred. Please try again or come back later.’ I tried again and it still failed to add the $25. Hoping I hadn’t just added $50 to my card, I clicked the Refresh Balance button. Still $0. It was midnight by this time so I figured work was being done on the system, causing the error messages. I waited until the morning and tried again, this time successfully. I hit refresh and suddenly there was $55 on my card. Looking at the transaction history later on, it turned out one of the midnight transfers did go through. A bit annoyed that I put more on the card than I intended, I was still excited to test it out.

When discussing the future of e-commerce and consumer transactions via mobile device with friends, the topic always went back to credit cards. The consumer is protected when using a credit card service so there is a trust factor, but how can an operation gain the confidence of a consumer and how can they profit from it? The discussion then turned towards debit rather than credit. Starbucks has acknowledge security issues by requesting that the user enter a password before reloading a card, so if your mobile device is stolen, there’s no way someone can get free grande Caramel Macchiatos for the rest of their life. In addition, if you set up an account on, you can report the card lost or stolen. If you’d like to add even more security to your Starbucks Card app, you can assign a password to it that is required during launch. In terms of profits, I’m sure this will come in the form of marketing data and customer loyalty.

Eager to try out the new app, I had to find out which store would actually accept it. Only 16 Starbucks stores between Seattle, WA and Mountain View, CA are testing it, even though the iTunes stores says they’re accepting them in Cupertino, Sunnyvale, and San Jose too. In the app under Payment Trial, it currently has a zero next to Participating Stores but the demo video shows locations spread across Mountain View. I decided the only up-to-date source would be on their corporate site.

There were rumors that a user could order a coffee via the app and then scan a bar code with all the payment info in it to transfer the amount due. The second part was true, but I can’t seem to find a way to order a drink before I even walk into the store. There’s a myStarbucks app I haven’t tried, but it seems to be a social app rather than an app one can use to order from.

The eyes of the Starbucks employee who was taking my order lit up when I asked if I could use the app. He said “you’re my first app customer!”. Being in the center of Silicon Valley, I considered it an honor. He whipped around the bar code scanner, I opened my app, clicked the Touch to Pay button, held it up to the scanner and then heard a ‘beeeeeep’. An error message showed up on my screen. After he pressed a couple of buttons on his register, we tried it again. This time, even though another error message came up, the transaction went through. My app wasn’t refreshing the amount left on the card so he gave me a receipt for proof of payment. By the time that was done, my latte was ready.

I like the app and can see it becoming a pioneer of micro mobile debit cards. Now that I’m in the Starbucks system, I’m predicting I’ll be receiving coupons and offers via email. If I can manage those through my account and even on my mobile device, I can see my trips to Starbucks becoming more frequent. Apple and Starbucks have a good relationship because of iTunes and I trust this will make it even stronger.

Here are some more details about the Starbucks Card app:

  • Create your Starbucks Card account using your email and a password. From here you can check your balance, set up auto-reload, and sign up to receive email offers. The app closed once I created the account. Upon relaunch, the card info appeared to be lost and I had to re-enter it. Account will be active on, but info will have to be re-entered and registered in order to manage your card(s) via the site.
  • You can enable auto-reload (off is default) by choosing a dollar amount when balance falls under a defined amount (ie. add $25 when balance falls under $20).
  • When you click on the main screen’s balance amount, a menu will appear where you can reload the card, refresh the balance, set up auto-reload, and view recent transactions.
  • Under Payment Trial, there’s a short video called How Does it Work, as well as Participating Stores button (currently 0), and an Enable Payments slider (set to On).
  • Under Settings you can add cards (new or pull from account), delete cards, change billing info, set a passcode (security code to open the app), get app info, read terms of use, and access the help section (rewards, mobile payment, account, reload/auto, security, lost/new device, other).
  • For security purposes, sessions time out.

Why Stories Sell and Why Barak Loves Them

The story of stories is starting to take root in the public consciousness, and more and more science is now showing us why exactly people relate to stories so much. Turns out there are a specific class of neurons that are specifically wired to respond to stories.

In a recent article in FastCompany, Dr. Marco Iacoboni‘s work is detailed, showing just how and why humans and their brains are so strongly attracted to stories.

Turns out that the very first way people communicated information with each other was via stories. Then, guess what? The people with more information were the survivors and were, thus, more able to reproduce.

Over time, this means that humanity selected for story sensitivity.

Which is why, today, audiences tend to glaze over during PowerPoint presentations that have no narrative structure–people just aren’t designed to respond well to lists of fact and figures or unstructured information.

No story means much mess interest on the part of your audience. Give people a reason to care, a beginning, middle, and end, and they will not only care but be interested, and actually remember your pitch later.

Wouldn’t that be nice?