Brandstorming with Nathan Sarlow from CobaltCow

brandable name

Nathan Sarlow of CobaltCow is a designer of websites and logos, and a brand developer. CobaltCow.com caught our eye not only because of the colorful and clear website but also because the name uses a clever alliteration with two words you wouldn’t automatically connect. BrandBucket contacted Nathan to get inside his head a bit and see where this brandable name comes from!

What names do you really like?
There are quite a few very clever names out there. A few that I can think of off the top of my head: Logomotive and BrandSimplicity – these names both explain what they do and make it memorable. From the corporate world, I like Apple – it took a genius to think of an obscure name for a tech company that has such visual recognition. Worth1000.com – although I left because of their support of spec work, the site was centered around awesome Photoshopping pieces (a picture is “worth 1000 words”). As a name of a place, for some reason I like the word Pensacola. No idea why, I’ve never been there and don’t even know where it is, but I just like the word. Finally, Abercrombie & Fitch. Again, not sure why, but I think they break all the “standard rules” of a trendy clothing line label naming. It’s also unique enough that you can just drop Abercrombie into a conversation and people will instantly know what you’re talking about.

Dislike?
Any boring generic name that does nothing to be unique or memorable. ABC Furniture Removal, Elite Sports Coaching etc.

Brandstorming: What’s your process for coming up with potential names?
A simple, effective equation I developed: 1, pick a color and 2, pick a noun (something simple like an animal or fruit). In general I try to deconstruct the business down to its elements — business purpose and target market. Then try to come up with a visual and memorable way to represent it.

What was the first product or company that you named?
The first company I helped to name was probably Indigo Duck. Short story, I told the client the simplest way of making a memorable name was to think of a name that is very visual, since images are much easier to remember than words (especially made up ones). I guess ultimately the client then picked the name (using my technique), but it took less than 24 hours with the simple process.

Besides my own company, the first product I named myself was Underware CMS. It was a CMS developed for web designers who don’t know how to code, but want to offer CMS services to their clients. The premise was that they could brand the service as their own for their clients and the setup was all customized by the designer using wizards. My idea [for the name] was that it was like your underwear in that people shouldn’t see it, but you know it’s there. The tag line “nobody needs to know…” helped to reinforce that it was a secret that it wasn’t actually your own work. Other companies or products I have named or help to name are Campaign Factory, Thirsty Lime, Lawnmowing by Ralph and At the Game.

Have you learned any valuable lessons in the naming process?
On a number of occasions I struggled to convince a client to go for an alternate name. A client would ask for advice on a proposed name, and I had to try and convince the client why my name suggestion was more memorable and brandable than the one they proposed.

As much as I try to help guide clients to a brandable name, the majority of clients that come to me already have a name – but very few have a notable “brand”. That’s where the majority of my business sits. It usually starts with a logo, but I help them to set the tone for their business, in online and supplemental material.

Were you able to eventually get them to pick name you suggested, or did you have to move on to another name?
So far my success rate is around 1 in 2 when I am asked for name advice, but I feel some clients have already decided their name before coming to me, so its hard to change their mind.

Have you ever had to rename a product/company?
I guess the only time I attempted to change the name of an existing business was Lawnmowing By Ralph. The client just came to me wanting some business cards, but had no official name. I convinced him to humor me and let me suggest a way for him to rebrand, up his image and also increase his prices. I renamed and branded him with an “upper class cologne” style to appeal to a higher market level. He ran it by some of his colleagues and family – they loved it, but he felt that leaving his existing budget-level persona would lose him business, and opted to not use the proposed brand.

What is the process like (negative/positive, any memorable moments)?
The process usually involves me detailing why their preferred name is either not unique enough or not memorable. An example might be if a client wants a name like “Successful Web Design”. I explain the pitfalls of having a generic name and the struggle with SEO. I then try to set a tone for my proposed name(s). I explain a function or benefit to highlight or some aspect of the target market and maybe some alternate focus areas then provide 2 or 3 names. Its quite disappointing when you come up with a name that’s got personality, memorability and will be great to build a brand around, but the client opts for the boring generic name.

Nathan of CobaltCow has excellent experience with the struggles and excitement of naming and creating a great and memorable brand. Like him, BrandBucket promotes creativity and originality. Start your search here for your one of-a-kind brandable domain name!