July 15, 2020

The poet who doubles as a professional brand namer

Welcome to the first edition of our new careers series.

To provide a little inspiration, we’re profiling people with cool jobs. Got a great — and unusual — gig? Holler at us.

The way Stevie Belchak sees it, naming a new company is a lot like writing a poem.

Belchak is a senior naming manager at Catchword, and she’s branded major products for clients like Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, and Intel.

She’s also a poet. And she points out that poets are trained in the art of capturing an image with unique wordplay — exactly what you want in a good brand name.

Plus: Poetic devices like assonance are what make names like Sweetgreen and Fitbit pop.

What does a pro namer actually do?

When a new client walks in the door, Belchak asks a few questions:

  • What message will the right name convey?
  • Do you want a regular English word, like Apple? Or a mashup, like Netflix?

From there, she looks through lists of synonyms and reads magazines in that company’s industry. She glances at a database of idioms and Wordnik.

Once in a while, she says, the job requires “taking a step back and finding unlikely sources of creativity.” A popular ski trail might inspire the name of a beer.

When it’s all said and done, Belchak hands over anywhere from 100 to 2k possible names to her client.

What’s trending in the names biz? 

Belchak says startups are loving straightforward English words — think Nest, Kayak, or Wallet.

But we also might be on the cusp of a new, COVID-fueled naming trend. Belchak pointed to the video-conference app Mmhmm as being ahead of the curve.

“We’re looking for things that bring us joy,” Belchak says, “and I think names can offer consumers the surprise and delight they are missing.”

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