Gathering your team in a soulless conference room staring at a white board is not where colorful ideas come from. Getting together with friends over a bottle of wine (or two) is equally inefficient. Creative name ideas don’t materialize out of thin air. Nor do they come from games of Drunken Scrabble, Ouija boards and Magic 8 Balls.
As a brand name expert, with clients including Disney, Frito-Lay, Microsoft, and TaylorMade Golf, I’ve had to come up with thousands of name ideas over the last 10 years. What I know for sure is that the single most powerful brainstorming resource is the Internet. And the ideal number of people is one: you. While brainstorming solo sounds counter-intuitive, my method is highly effective and you will be surprised and excited by how many good ideas you will generate and how quickly you will do it.
Here are five of my most lucrative online brainstorming tools and techniques:
1. Open the thesaurus treasure chest.
Begin your online brainstorming on a thesaurus website, where you can find a jackpot of synonyms and related words. My go-to one is Thesaurus.com. When I had to come up with fresh name ideas for a hip frozen yogurt franchise in Utah that was targeted at teenagers, I hit the jackpot when I typed in the word “cold” and found these three fun names:
Bitter: With one of the two yogurt flavors being tart, it was self-deprecating and fun
Goosebumps: Perfect for their target audience of hormonal teenagers
Frigid: Playful and fun. We actually used this later as the name of an ice cream store
2. Comb through glossaries of terms.
Every sport, hobby and industry has its own lingo of fun words and phrases. You can find pages and pages of them online by searching for “glossaries,” “lingo,” “vernacular,” “jargon,” “dictionaries,” “thesaurus,” “terms,” “words” or “slang,” which are essentially the same thing but will turn up different results in searches. While brainstorming frozen yogurt store names, I looked at snowboarder glossaries and stumbled upon the word “Chatter,” which was perfect for this business, as it evokes teens socializing with each other.
3. Go "Googlestorming."
There are endless ways to utilize Google for brainstorming, or as I call it, “Googlestorming.” For the frozen yogurt store, I searched for “coldest places on earth.” I found a small town “deep Siberian wilderness.” The word Siberian jumped out at me. “Siberia,” is a funny word that would make a super name for the frozen yogurt store. It implies “cold,” and considering that Utah is a kind of Siberia (removed from the rest of the population), it’s just the kind of hip name that teens would love. “Mom, I’m going to Siberia with my friends.” Cool.
4. Tune into iTunes.
Song titles make super sticky names, because just like the songs themselves, they get stuck in our head. While looking for frozen yogurt store names, I typed in the word “cold,” and discovered “Cold Hearted” and “Cold Play,” which could be fun. “Funky Cold Medina,” not so much. One of my favorite “iTunes-inspired names,” was for a hunky chili pepper-infused brownie. I did a song search for the word “burn,” and found the famous Elvis Presley song, “Burning Love.” The brownie flavor name became “Hunka Hunka Burning Love,” and made everyone smile.
5. Search stock photos and Google images.
A picture says a thousand words. Photos can inspire awesome names, which is why I always do image searches to fuel my creativity. Stock photo websites such as Bigstock and Getty Images are fantastic places to get ideas and search for concepts related what you’re naming. For the frozen yogurt store, I went to Google Images and searched for “eat frozen yogurt,” which led me to a lot of photos of colorful plastic spoons in yogurt, which immediately made me think of the phrase, “Spoon Me," which ended up being the name the client chose.
There are many word and image resources online to help stimulate your creativity. Try the ones above and poke around to find others. You’ll have the freedom to come up with ideas without anyone shooting them down. And you won’t have to buy anyone dinner.