And why you shouldn’t expect a free business name

Typical questions in Quora’s “Business Names” category
Typical questions in Quora’s “Business Names” category
Typical questions in Quora’s “Business Names” category

I joined Quora, the question-and-answer website, in 2015, full of good will and the desire to share advice about the naming process: how to write a naming brief, why trademark is important, how sound symbolism works. It didn’t take long for me to realize that questioners weren’t looking for a little boost for their DIY effort. They were looking for a free business name, instantly.

Some of it I chalked up to naïveté. If you’ve never had to name a business, you may not know that the process usually takes many weeks and typically costs several thousand (or even several…

Robust, dynamic, or spirited? Photo by Brett Jordan via Unsplash

If your company or product were a person, what kind of person would it be? Reserved or bubbly? Impetuous or deliberate? Cute or stately? A poet or a lumberjack?

Now: How well does your company or product name reflect that personality?

This isn’t a trivial exercise. Identifying your brand’s personality is a tough but essential step in any naming exercise and a key element of your naming brief. It’s especially challenging with startups, many of which are still blank canvases.

But it’s not an impossible task. And, happily, it’s a rewarding one.

When I work with clients on brand personality…

Photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash

I started my blog in June 2006 — not quite the dawn of the Blog Era, but definitely the early morning. Since then I’ve quit a lot of things — jobs, yoga, Facebook, alcohol — but through it all, and despite repeated reports of blogging’s demise, I’ve kept right on writing and publishing blog posts. Daily at first, and now at least twice a week: fifteen years, 3,225 posts in all.

I’ve never made a cent from my blog: no ads, no sponsored posts, no merch. I’ve stubbornly stayed within my own narrow lane, writing about names, brands, and the…

In late January, the School Names Advisory Committee of San Francisco’s Board of Education voted six to one to rename 44 of the district’s 121 schools, with the goal of ridding the public sphere of any names that might call to mind racism or sexism. Among the names targeted for replacement: George Washington (owned slaves), Abraham Lincoln (encouraged settlement of the West; authorized mass execution of Sioux warriors), Robert Louis Stevenson (once used the word Japanee instead of Japanese in a poem), and U.S. Senator and former San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein (it’s complicated).

The committee’s process was short on…

If one of your New Year’s resolutions is naming — or renaming — a company, a product, an organization, or a process, I’m here to help. Yes, you could hire me to do the job. Or you could do it yourself by following these guidelines.

Give yourself time. I’ve disappointed a few would-be clients who expected me to complete a naming project in under an hour, possibly because they’ve been duped by ridiculous articles like this one. Sorry, folks: it takes a lot of hours. Why? Research. Interviews. Legal vetting. …

Remember the 1340's? We were doing a dance called the Catapult.
You always wore brown, the color craze of the decade,
and I was draped in one of those capes that were popular,
the ones with unicorns and pomegranates in needlework.
Everyone would pause for beer and onions in the afternoon,
and at night we would play a game called “Find the Cow.”
Everything was hand-lettered then, not like today. …

— Billy Collins, “Nostalgia

Will we ever look back with wistful fondness at 2020, the year of so much loss and loneliness, grief and anguish? I’m willing to bet…

This is a story that began in Oakland, in a neighborhood adjacent to mine, and spread around the Bay Area, up into Canada, and all the way across the Atlantic. It is a story with many key performance indicators of 2020: aggression, fear, suspicion, threats, shaming, displacement, conspiracy theories, a public-space shutdown, and a petition.

Fittingly enough for this turkey of a year, to use the old vaudeville term for a fiasco, it’s a story about an actual turkey. A three-foot-tall turkey named Gerald.

This may be Gerald, or it may be a lookalike who just happened to be strutting near the Rose Garden on Grand Avenue — a major urban thoroughfare — in March 2018, when I took his picture from a prudent distance.

Gerald liked to hang out with his avian lady friends at the Morcom Rose Garden

What does it mean to love one’s country?

I’ve wrestled often with that question over the last five years, when my country has seemed at times unlovable and even despicable. I’ve wanted to believe that my fellow citizens were, in spite of everything, truly good at heart, as Anne Frank put it. But it was a challenge.

I didn’t like stewing in sourness and anger. I wanted to revive my sense of hope and my capacity to love. …

Election Day, November 3: A polarizing Republican candidate who has spent much of his adult life heading a family business faces a Democrat who has spent most of his adult life as an elected official. The Republican has been branded as an extremist, a narcissist, and possibly a fascist — none of which deters his fanatical supporters. The Democrat is overshadowed by a glamorous predecessor and tarred by a specious eleventh-hour scandal. In the background — or foreground, depending on your perspective — are widespread racial and youth uprisings that some people suspect are ignited by “Communists” and “anarchists.”


Back in February, during the Before Time, I wrote about a billboard created by the Lincoln Project, a group of prominent anti-Trump Republicans.

The New Hampshire billboard

I was not, to put it diplomatically, a fan.

Last week the Lincoln Project made a much bigger splash with a one-minute video, “Mourning in America,” posted online. This week the spot appeared in three key broadcast markets: Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Fort Meyers-Naples, Florida; and the state of Ohio.

The ad looks a lot slicker than the billboard. Its creators claim it took only “a matter of hours” to produce, cost only $5,000, and got 1.5 million views…

Nancy Friedman

Writer, name developer, brand consultant, idea-ist. Find me on Twitter and Instagram (@fritinancy) and in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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