Jonathan Bell starts with coffee and a sheet of paper

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Jonathan Bell is Managing Director of Want Branding, a brand consultancy with offices in Miami, Denver, and New York, and clients like Bose, Royal Caribbean, and Call of Duty. Jonathan has about 30 years of experience in the branding industry, during which he's completed over 800 projects and worked with over a third of the companies in the Fortune 100—companies like Google, Apple, Coca-Cola, Mercedes-Benz, and Disney. He's also a visiting professor at Wharton and a frequent conference speaker, including a 2016 TED talk, "How to create a great brand name."


Jonathan has some really clear, straightforward thoughts and advice on naming. He shared his four-step naming process, which begins with a brief or "blueprint" [03:12]. When it comes to name generation, Jonathan prefers to start early, with nothing but a strong cup of coffee, a pen, and a blank sheet of paper [05:51]. For about 90 minutes, he avoids going online or checking ideas for availability and simply churns out as many ideas as he can.

I really like Jonathan's suggestion of writing name ideas on index cards and putting them on a table during shortlisting [07:54]. Especially with a group, this allows for "a more interactive approach before you start to craft that inevitable Keynote or PowerPoint presentation."

Jonathan's gave some great recommendations on presenting names [11:02], including:

  • Build a story and rationale for each name presented—why you think they work.
  • Develop a generic graphic page to show the names, in the same font but surrounded with some sort of wallpaper or imagery that reflects what the brand, company, or product is about.
  • Do not develop unique graphic looks for each of the names. "I think that that that serves to distract the client and gets them to focus on the design and not the names."
  • Try to do the presentation in-person. "You've got to see people's reactions. Body language is critical, because you can tell if people are engaged and interested in ideas."

We ended by discussing some would-be disruptors in the naming business—sites like BrandBucket that claim to sell off-the-shelf brand names, complete with domains and logos, as well as crowdsourced naming approaches like Squadhelp [16:58]. Jonathan's keeping a close eye on both, but he's not too worried: "I always say that our job isn't to create a name, it's to help you pick one. And it's very hard for clients to just pick a name off the bat off one of these sites, or just to see a list of 300 ideas and for one of them to have a eureka moment. So, our value goes way beyond creative output. [We] become part psychologist, part mentor, and that's really where our experience allows us to achieve the success that we've had."

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