6 Memory Factors to Consider as You Craft Your Business Name

Keeping in mind the process of encoding and storing, here are a few methods to consider when starting up.

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By Aaron Keller

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The science of memory breaks down into three parts: encoding, storage and retrieval. We encode through all five of our senses. Two of these senses, sight and hearing, are under more control during the naming process than the other three. However, taste, smell and touch are part of the experience as a whole for consumers when they interact with a brand.

Keeping in mind the process of encoding and storing, here are a few memory methods to consider when naming your business:

1. The basics

Find words or pairings with a rhythm or semantic flow, which helps to avoid leaving someone with a hard stop. This tends to create alliteration, such as Freaky Friday or Sunny Shores.

Related: 5 Must-Use Tools for Brainstorming Company Names

2. Beautiful sounds

People are most likely to remember how something makes them feel. This means that beautiful-sounding names have a better chance of encoding into long-term memory. Interesting fact: "Cellar Door" has been rated as the most phonetically beautiful pairing of words.

3. Scrabble test

Names with letters that have high point values in Scrabble -- J, K, Q, V, W, X, Y and Z -- tend to be more memorable, likely because they are less commonly found in western languages. This less commonly found attribute makes a name more distinct for encoding into memory.

4. Letter-form beauty

Brand names are more often seen in writing than any other form, so having a name translated into visual language, such as a logo, is an important next step. Take OXO and xpedx for example. These brands have natural letter-form beauty.

5. Contextual meaning

A name should feel like a fit for the category it is going to occupy. Do this by being relatable through contextual meaning. For example, naming a small pillow company Microsoft today would be odd, but 100 years ago it may have worked.

Related: Does the Name of Your Company Matter?

6. Skew physical

Brothers Dan and Chip Heath made this factor famous in their book, Made to Stick. The more physical and tangible a word is, the easier it will be to remember. The reason? It gives someone an image in their mind and helps to store it as a memory. Take "mossy rock" vs. "soft place" as an example. One is an object and the other is a concept. Guess which one someone would remember tomorrow?

Not every name is going to encompass all of these factors, but considering them gives a better sense of how memorable a name may be when it reaches the eyes and ears of a brand's audiences.

Now to the third component of memory: retrieval. This is the action of recalling something from short- or long-term memory. The marketing and advertising community spends a lot of time and money to try to get people to recall a brand name. Think about all the jingles, repetition and focus on frequency in advertising.

The purpose of this is to recall memories, pull them forward and then create favorable behaviors for the brand: mentions or purchases. Instead, pay a smaller price by starting off with a memorable name. There will be better recall built into the brand name and a longer-lasting response.

When the naming process is ready to begin, apply the six memorability guidelines listed above. Then, pick the top five names that are being considered and show them to five people. After one week, ask them which of the five names they remember. If they remember one, that's a winner. If a memory was made with just one frequency and very little context, it's on the right path. If not, keep trying.

When it gets frustrating, think about how much might be spent within five years trying to get people to remember a name. As the saying goes, "Frequency (in advertising) is the price you pay for not being interesting."

Don't be afraid to seek out a professional or spend extra time to get to a name. Doing that and following the methods above will find something truly memorable.

Related: 5 Memory Strategies for Learning Anything Fast

Aaron Keller

Managing Principal, Capsule

Aaron Keller is a founding partner and the managing principal of Capsule, a brand design agency in Minneapolis. He has lead brand development, strategy, research and naming for more than 15 years, working with brands as large as Jack Daniel's, Target and 3M, and as small as one-person startups. He has written two books on the subjects of logo and package design: Design Matters//Logos and Design Matters//Packaging.

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