Naming something: A company, a car, or a cat, isn’t exactly a scientific process. It typically consists of brainstorming, throwing around some bad ideas, mashing words together, removing the vowels, saying them out loud. Then you ask your step-brother and mom what they think, and eventually, somehow, landing on that magical “aha” moment.
Recently I was asked how I came up with the name “Proof,” which I wish I could say was a rigorous, scientific, and academic process. But, as can be said for many good decisions, it was the product of a few too many drinks at a favorite local watering hole finally leading to my own “aha” moment.
On the verge of giving up, I looked around the bar and started writing down everything I could see. “Chair, bar, black table, tap handle, old guy smoking a cigar.”
And then, thankfully, I dug a little deeper and started thinking about my vision for the company and the overall process of working with clients. I kept coming back to something scientific. Something “lab” themed. Looking down at my near-empty glass of whiskey, I landed on the process of distillation.
Distill. Develop. Deploy.
According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, “Distillation is a process of separating the component of substances from a liquid mixture by selective evaporation and condensation.” Dating all the way back to ancient Greece, in short, distillation is the process of breaking things apart into their raw components so they can be built back up and developed into something wonderful. Say, like a good scotch whiskey, or in this case, a consistent, cohesive brand.
This process, or maybe simply my love for a good glass of whiskey, or, probably having a few glasses of said whiskey is what led me to come up with the name “Proof” nearly seven years ago. Our process at Proof, one that works to identify, break down, and build up (or as we say: distill, develop, deploy) individual components of a brand — message, logo, voice, website, strategy … runs parallel with the chemistry behind distillation.
Short of telling you to go get a bottle of alcohol and seeing where it takes you, what can you gather from my tale and apply to something that you may be working to name?
The key takeaway is to be comfortable with the crap. Don’t self edit. I wrote down literally everything I could see around me at the bar. This process of free-form brainstorming and expression is absolutely critical to landing on a good, even somewhat decent idea. 99% of what I wrote down could’ve been chalked up as pure garbage, but it’s the crap that leads to clarity and much like improvisation or jazz, the best comes from simply doing without turning back or second-guessing.
Whether you’re in a bar, at the office, or sitting on your couch running through a similar process, allow yourself to think and create without hesitation or worry that what you have is no good. The perfect name for your company, car, or cat is right there waiting for you. Maybe staring back at you in the bottom of a whiskey glass.