What makes a name Cool?

Why some company and product names have that cool factor, and others don’t.

Wow, “Cool Name” we say. But what makes it cool? Does cool even have a meaning?

“Of course,” you say, “I can tell when a name is cool, even though I can’t define the term properly.”

Well, for starters, this is a great reason why computers cannot make up names. How can someone program them to find cool names, when no one can define it. Yet the beauty of the human brain is that we can intrinsically feel when a name is cool. (Well, some of us anyway). But if you get too analytical, or have little sense of style, or marketing image, or tone, or language, then you are probably not a cool name creator or decision maker. In such a case, best you find someone you trust and let them decide what is cool.

Cool is like snow. It can get cold and freeze, or hot and melt. Yahoo was such a cool name for an internet portal, compared to InfoSeek, AltaVista, Go, and Lycos, until the very cool Google showed up. Hotjobs.com wasn’t bad compared to Careers.com, Jobs.com, etc., until Monster.com showed up. Seattle’s Best Coffee and Channel Islands Roasting Company were interesting (but only luke warm), until Starbucks showed up.

Similarly, AT&T was cool a long time ago, then more exciting names like Verizon, T-Mobile and Cingular came along, which are much cooler. And AT&T is trying to tell us it is the new AT&T and it wants to be cool. Didn’t we hear that party line from Oldsmobile once before?

The Pringles and Snapple names are cool, but most of us don’t know why.

And on the technology front, the Razr and iPod are cool, but is it because of their names or their product designs?

Many consider Cisco a cool name for a networking company, even though it is very close to Crisco – a separately famous brand. But why is Cisco cool when the name is simply from the second half of San Francisco (That is why their logo is half a Golden Gate Bridge – cut lengthwise)?

So until we hear the name, we cannot tell you if it is cool or not. However, we have noticed these common characteristics of cool names:

  • They are usually short
  • They are usually words that are not in the dictionary (at least not the usual meaning)
  • They usually have good English construction so they sound like they can become part of the language
  • They are easy to say as they have good phonetics and linguistics properties
  • They either have good alliteration or a good sticky consonant, to help make them memorably
  • They often surprise
  • They are seldom directly descriptive
  • They are usually trademarked and properly branded and promoted
  • They are associated with cool products and designs
  • They “sing” or have other melodious qualities

Looking for your own new cool company, business or product name? Contact the cool people at Brighter Naming.
We even have young, hip namers to help on your project.

See what others have written about cool names in these articles:

  • Cool names. Outstanding product names are becoming less of a rarity in the network industry. Here are some of the best. By Julie Bort, Network World, 02/23/04
  • What’s your name again? Company name changes full of challenges; good night, White Pajama. By Bob Brown, Network World, 10/11/04
  • What’s in a code name? Shark sticks, Butt-Head Astronomer doesn’t. By Robert McMillan, Network World, 04/05/04

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