Mark Gunnion, Namer & Name ConsultantClarity Expert

I am an expert name consultant, freelance namer and creative writer for all kinds of naming and verbal branding projects. Naming isn't magic - but it's tricky. I can take a lot of the mystery out of the process and help you get a long way towards the perfect commercial name you need. On Clarity, I can point you in lots of directions for finding cool name ideas for your new company or product. I've developed lots of shortcuts to make your naming efforts way more methodical and productive than the usual "Pizza, Beer, and a Whiteboard" brainstorming sessions we've all been through. With 25+ years of experience, I know what I'm doing, and I'm always happy to talk about all of the issues around names and naming.

Recent Answers

I've worked from home exclusively for 25 years, across 2-3 jobs, for clients all over the world. Be happy to discuss any learnings or lessons.

I was going to say, but then I got to the part about price. Unless the exchange rate has gone way off, it should cost you about 20 or 30 times that much. But good luck on your bargain hunt! Keep in mind, though: There's nothing else you will pay money for that you will use as often as the name, so maybe it's worth more than 50 pounds.

I charge between 2000 and 4000 dollars to develop a new corporate or product name. That covers three days (at the low end) up to 30 days (for much greater complexity and matching URL and other supportive writing).

There's still a music industry?

Sorry, couldn't resist that initial snarky answer. I was a guitarist, vocalist, songwriter and producer in the '80s in San Francisco, and every year since I got out, the "industry" has been shrinking - at least for everything below the level of top-flight, international labels. I agree with the other respondents, your first focus should be on defining exactly who your audience and customer base is.

And there's the rub for the "music industry" - finding a group of people who will spend money to enjoy, make, learn, or collect music these days. Now that every phone is a tape recorder and video camera, and every laptop is a 48-track recording studio, and the price of picking up or creating new music has essentially dropped to zero, the hard part is finding a market where money is actually exchanged for something - anything! - in the music world.

If you have figured out a way for somebody to make money related to music - make sure you put THAT part in your pitch, because that is the equivalent of a unicorn in today's economy, and will attract investor attention.

As far as resources, many people in the naming business also work to develop taglines and other promotional writing - sometimes called "verbal branding". Take a few calls with people who specialize in "branding" on Clarity here, and you will find people who are used to developing the super-concise, action-packed lines used for taglines and pitches.

Another type of professional you might talk to are people who write screenplays, because they are not only experienced at writing compact, evocative language, but they must also constantly create "loglines" for their work, where they are essentially tasked with shoe-horning the entire impact and feel of a 2-hour movie idea into a single sentence, for promotional purposes. That's perfect training for creating great pitches and taglines.


Market research is a notoriously ineffective way to choose a brand name - unless you do a detailed, rigorous explanation to your respondents about what the goals, objectives, and criteria are for your name, and unless they have a thorough understanding of your place in your market, and the brand-space already occupied by your competitors, almost all focus group responses will veer toward the descriptive - which is seldom the way to go with a new name. Research respondents, especially in a group setting, are sub-consciously seeking to give the "right" answer. As you say this is your existing name - you already know the strengths and weaknesses of it better than any stranger will. For example, a research respondent may be attracted to a name with a pun or other homonym element - never considering whether the product will be sold a lot by word of mouth or radio, where such a jokey element will surely be an impediment. Especially for naming, the Steve Jobs approach is best - YOU know what they want better than they do. Interior company brainstorms, elections, or contests are even worse - people inside the company are almost always too close to their own piece of the elephant. Naming is best run by autocratic chief executives - using outside professionals to help, of course! No committee or focus group would ever have chosen Apple, Google, or Yahoo from a list of 100 ideas. Hire a creative namer to give you hundreds of ideas, then empower your most visionary exec to make the decision, work up a list with a dozen or two finalists, screen them for availability, then have your visionary make a final choice. Naming is not quantifiable.

You should change the name if it gets in the way of the forward progress of the business. If you're wasting time spelling it or re-pronouncing it in every call or conversation, change it. If people hear the name and automatically think you do something you don't, change it. If your name makes you sound smaller, or cheaper, or trendier, or any other way that is detrimental to your success, change it. It will be hard to change it, you will have to throw a lot of old things away, some people in the company will definitely resist it. But you know when it has to change, and you should act on that knowledge firmly and decisively. Empower one decision maker, make sure that decision maker understands the objectives and criteria for the new name, look at a big, big bunch of new ideas, decide, and move forward.

One of the reasons it took off so fast in San Francisco is because of an incredibly change-resistant, blockheaded bunch of taxi-cab companies that fought every increase in the number of taxi licenses in the city for decades, even after demand far outstripped the taxi companies' ability to deliver. The cab companies also got incredibly lazy and bad at customer service. There was so much more demand than supply that a taxi driver did not need to excel or even be basically competent to stay busy and get plenty of passengers. After years of taking cabs that reeked of cigarettes (and other things), having cabbies talk on the phone, text, and otherwise not pay attention to what they're doing, or who relied on their GPS devices more than their knowledge of the city's streets, customers were delighted to have an alternative. And when the cab companies just crossed their arms and stamped their feet and refused to evolve, they were rolled over by the social media/technology wave. I don't know how it rolled out in other cities, but in San Francisco, Uber's rise was greatly enhanced by the utterly dinosaur-like behavior of the taxi companies.

Hi, Mijail (did I say that right?) Your question is specific to business, and so I'm answering in that capacity. Yes, I think you should choose an "American Business" name. In the marketplace, having to explain, spell, and re-pronounce your name is as counterproductive as having to do that for your product or corporate name. "Misha" is okay, but it's a half-measure. Unless you're building a business that is somehow built off of your own personality and identity, then you probably want your own personal name to fade into transparency in your business interactions.

Your last name is probably different or interesting enough to keep you from fading into the ocean of Mike Smiths and Bob Johnsons in the US. I was always proud around the office that I could spell and rattle off the name of my old associate Andrzej Olszewski, but the reality was, in business, he went by "Anj", and took up space on his business card to articulate the pronunciation (an-jay). The fact that he is a naming and branding expert almost made it a positive conversation point for him, but he was usually working within corporate structures where his "exotic" background as a scholar from Poland was a big plus. But if you're an independent business person or founder or salesman, or have any other kind of role where you're introducing yourself and needing other people to be able to talk about you and to you and remember your name, and your personal identity is a critical part of your brand, I think you should go all the way with a name that works just like the name for a product or company - simple, easy to spell, clearly understood on the phone, handy to use in conversation. And so, if you're going to use something besides your name, go all the way to the client and make it useful and handy for *them*, just as you would a product name.

Rather than Misha, I'd consider some other, related names that make sense to American/English ears - especially a name that is also a word in the language: Mike, Max, Matt, Mark (!), Mac, or Miles. Another option might be a common American nickname with a little snap, which few people will assume is your given name - Red, Stretch, Buddy, Junior, Pops, Shorty - or, something derived from your last name that's easy to say, that people will assume is NOT your real first name - US examples would be like Smitty, Jonesy, Bake. If your last name was Razodan, you could be "Raz" Razodan. If your last name was Combunkos, you could be "Com" or "Bunk" Combunkos. But I think your best bet would be in the Mike, Max, Mark category.

As far as the name on the check, you have a few options: 1. Change or add to your name at the bank, it's probably a simple enough matter to get a name added as a parenthetical to your identity there, such as Mijail "Mike" Razodan (or whatever), then a check made either way will usually work, and you could get the name added to your next batch of checks. 2. Always specify on your invoices how the check should be made out - I run my business as an individual, Mark Gunnion, but in some of my promotion, I refer to my business as Mark Gunnion Names. But on my invoices, I always say specifically, at the end, "Make checks payable to Mark Gunnion". 3. If you use Mike or another Anglicized name starting with M for business, you could avoid muddying the communication by saying "Make checks payable to M. Razodan."

If you go with the Anglicized name version, Max, Mark, Mike, choose one where the last sound of the first name is different from the first sound of the last name. Max Tierra, but not Max Saud. Mike Tyson, but not Matt Tyson. Mark Baker, but not Mark Copeland. This will make the name work better in audio situations, in conversation or on the phone. Even my name, with a "k" going into a "g", can be confusing. When I was in the Boy Scouts, for example, after the first time they heard my name said out loud - Mark Gunnion - for years after, they all called me Mark Onion!

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