Ms. Tess doesn’t need a costume to be scary
I’d like to introduce you to one of the most interesting and challenging personalities on the internet, her name is Ms. Tess. She’s been around for a good long time, since the government has employed her services on the internet. She has a natural ability to scar great creatives in the mere click of a mouse with ineffable matter-of-factness and drop dead gorgeous finality. Have you met her?
We interact with her weekly and have been humbled time and time again by her tenacity. We’ve asked others who make a living in a creative field, have you passed this by Ms. Tess? Those who have, often share the “career limiting” scars they have to show for their arrogance. It’s no small thing recovering from the naivety of “How hard can it be to come up with a name for our new software, I’m not paying those truckers a fee to find us a name!” to then discover it will take your team more time and resources than you could have ever imagined spending trying to push even the most basic of “creative” ideas past Ms. Tess. If you’re going to name anything you’re going to get to know Ms. Tess quite well.
Ms. Tess is a talented foe in the arena of naming. She will quickly show you how your great idea is already owned by someone, and that they’ve owned it a decade before it even popped into your brain. She keeps you protected once you’ve got a name you can actually own, but you have to run it by her first. Many an assumption has fallen prey to her indiscriminate fact-checking and never been heard from again. She leaves career scars when you don’t check with her before putting your favorite list of names in front of senior leadership. Then, when you can’t own the name that the client exclaimed was “the perfect match”, she forces you to return to face them with the sobering news. As an added bonus, every name you come up with afterwards can never compare “the one” you showed them back then, making the uphill battle of naming that much steeper.
This is a good time to remember how you pass your names past Ms. Tess. She can tell you if the name you love has an identical twin somewhere. She’ll humble you if you’ve chosen to be too descriptive and elementary in your name choices. She’s been around for awhile, so she’s seen a lot of people at her search bar. You’ll need to stretch your mind beyond stylized misspellings or combined words to come up with a name she’ll accept. And she certainly hasn’t changed her interface to make your search any easier (that’s government for you). Let’s be real, you’re playing by her rules, so here are a few things to consider.
1. Never describe your product, service or offering; describe your philosophy and you’ll find better names. This means you’ll be suggesting what your offering does versus describing it, cultivating more fertile ground for creative ideas. Suggestive names are more likely to be protectable.
2. Memorability is the goal, relevance comes with time and a good story. If you don’t have a memorable name it just makes every marketing dollar less effective. Adobe is named after the river behind the founder’s house; how relevant is that?
3. Meaning needs to be tested when you’re playing in the “suggestive names” sandbox. Black Iron was one of the names we presented to a heavy construction equipment manufacturer, because it sounds solid, tough and certainly memorable. We learned later, Black Iron is used to refer to low quality iron, in construction.
Unfortunately Ms. Tess won’t tell you these things, she’s just there to point out your flaws and humiliate you if you’re not creative enough to find a distinct and protectable name. Fortunately, there are a few people who have worked with her long enough to help you get past her intimidating looks. At a minimum we suggest an experienced advisor on your team, someone who has tangled with Ms. Tess and survived.