Find Your Ughs (Uggs) on BackRub (Google)

"These companies need a name that doesn't mean anything at first and that you define over time," she says, explaining that it's more difficult for a company to find a catchy name for an intangible service, as opposed to a product that consumers can see. "And they often have trademark issues so they want a name that nobody else has."

Accenture, an accounting firm, created its name by combining "accent" and "future." Verizon, the telecommunications company, is a combination of "verity" and "horizon."

Consumer companies, on the other hand, usually want more evocative names. When Interbrand was asked to name Nintendo's Wii game system and Microsoft's Bing search engine, namers chose onomatopoeic names whose sound suggests their meaning.

"With Wii, we wanted to evoke that sense of freedom -- weeeee!" says Nurambuena, adding that "Wii" also sounds like the personal pronoun "we," which implies that it's meant to be used by "us."

She concedes that Wii was a risky choice: When Nintendo first announced the name, jokes sailed across the Internet, claiming that it was too juvenile, too difficult to pronounce, and even sounded like "pee."

Bing, meanwhile, is a globally recognized sound of "finding or getting something," she says. "It's like your microwave just binged."

Such names sound very simple but choosing a name is hard work.

Clayton Tolley, CEO of branding company Addison Whitney of Charlotte, N.C., who helped name Cadillac's Escalade, Microsoft's Outlook and Coke's Vault, says it takes his six-strong team about a month of intensive brainstorming to come up with lists of names that are then picked over by clients.

Breaking Down Cliches

The brainstorming sessions are designed to help break down clich├ęs and namers are encouraged to play games and get silly in the pursuit of spontaneity. When Addison Whitney was asked to find a name for a Coca-Cola energy drink, the namers sat in a conference room for hours and played a variation on Taboo in which they tried to come up with attributes to describe words related to the product they were naming.

Once names have been suggested, namers begin examining each word to rate how it reads, how it sounds, how it translates into different languages and, most importantly, how it tests with consumers.

Cadillac chose Escalade, for example, because its Latin root "escala" (as in "escalator") invoked climbing, while the "-ade" suffix (as in "glade") evoked a "soft tranquil place," Tolley says.

Escalade is also a real word, which Cadillac prefers, defined by the the American Heritage Dictionary as "the act of scaling a fortified wall or rampart."

In testing, consumers overwhelmingly described the name as "elegant" and "expensive."

Companies such as Interbrand and Addison Whitney charge companies anywhere from $20,000 for a series of simple brainstorming sessions to $3 million or more for the full works, including the legal work involved in securing global trademarks.

As for whether all the effort and expense is worth it, that's not quite clear, in part because it's so difficult to separate a name from its brand.

A consumer's feeling about a company's products and services often override any opinions about a name.

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