Tips for Brainstorming with Words

Naming things is a lot of fun for most people, especially creative people. The temptation with name-generating brainstorming sessions is to go completely "blue sky," setting few limitations so as to avoid restricting the group’s thinking. "Unfortunately, the result is often a long list of interesting names that don’t communicate what’s needed, explains brainstorm facilitator Jim Ferry. "I love the word karangatang," for example. It sounds like something from a comic book, but it probably won’t work for a client looking to name an ironing board."

Ferry suggests beginning a name-generating brainstorming session with a focused positioning statement: "To (target audience members), Brand X is the (type of product) that provides (unique, meaningful benefit)." This format gives your brainstorming team a springboard from which to jump into the name-generating process.

One of Ferry’s favorite naming exercises involves distributing a list of fields and industries unrelated to the product being named, encouraging brainstormers to look for analogies. For example, suppose your team’s task is to name a line of durable storage containers that are designed to protect whatever is stored inside. Your group might consider military, architectural or sports-related jargon that could be modified into a perfect name for the new product. Ferry lists four easy steps for this naming exercise:

  1. Put aside what you’re thinking about for a moment (in this example, durable storage containers).
  2. Select a completely different industry or category, like the military.
  3. Generate lists of words or images from that category, like sergeant, general, rank, march, firearms, drill, inspection and war.
  4. Play around with these words to generate potential names for your product. This could lead to catchy names like "Sergeant Storage," "Power Chest" and "General Orders."

Ferry values this exercise as a method of getting a brainstormer to think "out of the box," opening entire worlds of possibilities for potential product names.

HOW June 1999