A great name can act like rocket boosters on your brand. Not just setting you apart from the competition, but blasting you to the forefront. The just-right name creates an emotional connection, a way into hearts and minds. And a means to stay lodged there.

If you’re thinking of starting a new aviation company or initiative, one of your biggest challenges could be coming up with a name (and a web domain, or URL) that truly fills the bill – and that no one else already has trademarked. As a creative director I’m often asked where I come up with the best names. While I’m taking a shower? Driving my car? Watching a movie? The answer always surprises them. It’s while I’m generating ideas at my desk or brainstorming with colleagues in the office. In short, it’s when I’m working. The resulting name may be playful and fun, but it takes concentrated, mental-muscle-exerting effort to get there.

Where Have All the Good Names Gone?

They exist, but you might have to move some boulders to uncover them. Whether you’re trying to come up with a name for a new customer loyalty program yourself, or are working with an agency to name a brand-new enterprise, here are 10 broad suggestions.

  1. Carve out copious amounts of dedicated think time.
  2. Give your naming project a high priority. It’s not just a name. It’s your name.
  3. Keep your unique selling proposition top of mind. (If you haven’t done a recent competitive analysis, now’s the time.)
  4. Decide the main thing you want the name to do (display personality, communicate points of difference, be unforgettable, inspire).
  5. Generate all the names you possibly can. You’ll no doubt find that many if not most of them are not available.
  6. Evaluate objectively. Weigh pros and cons from the only point of view that really matters – the customer’s.
  7. Prescreen names. One option is the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Its online portal is very intuitive: www.uspto.gov
  8. Test out your favorites, either formally or informally. But by all means see what others think about your contenders.
  9. Understand that it may take time for the name to grow on you. With use, it will.
  10. Have your legal counsel do a final screening and trademark application submission.

Fill In the Blank

As you announce the name to your customers, provide a back-story, too. One I’ve always loved involves the first made-for-production civilian aircraft built in the United States. In 1919, the airplane initially and ingloriously called the Wichita Tractor became the Laird Swallow when a witness to the maiden flight proclaimed, “It flies just like a swallow, boys.”

Walter Beech’s iconic Staggerwing immediately conveyed what made it different. Built in 1932, this revolutionary reverse-stagger biplane placed its lower wing ahead of the upper. Competitors said it wasn’t airworthy. But it was grace in motion, achieving speeds other single-engine aircraft only dreamed of. It’s still considered one of the most beautiful aircraft ever designed. And the functional, yet memorable, name won’t let you forget it.

When Boeing Wichita sold its commercial aircraft production facilities in 2005, a company with a new force emerged: Spirit AeroSystems. Today it stands as the world’s largest independent supplier of large aviation component parts and assemblies. Did the evocative, aspirational name help fuel that growth? Knowing the great pride of those who work there, I have to think it played a role.

In 2003 when Boeing held a naming contest for its next-generation 787 composite plane, the public heralded the aircraft’s efficiencies and innovations with the moniker: Dreamliner. Anyone who caught its international Dream Tour, which ended this past June, had to feel they were witnessing a vision of sorts.

Get Inspired

A Chinese proverb states, “The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names.” I’ve always believed naming presents incredible opportunity. One to leverage to the max.

*This article originally appeared in the September 6 issue of BlueSky Business Aviation News.