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It happens to all of us. You’re introduced to someone new, only to get their name wrong moments later (or worse, have to ask again because you’ve forgotten it completely). It may seem like only a name, but to that person, it’s their entire identity — a summation of who they are.

Similarly, a property name is the first point of introduction to a resident. Though it’s not a brand — it’s just one part of a much larger identity — your property’s name will call to mind how it looks, what it stands for, and where it stacks up relative to competitors. As a result, choosing a name for your property can often be a daunting process, but it’s one that’s worth doing right.

1. Do Your Research

At Catalyst, we like to do our homework. Before any brainstorming begins, our team goes through a thorough discovery process with the client. During this time, we like to come up with a goal for the property name — what feeling or mood does it need to convey? What sets this property apart from competitors? Speaking of the competition, what names are currently being used in your market? Knowing the answers to these questions ahead of time will help set a clear direction for the naming process.

2. Know Your Audience

Another key part of the research process is understanding your target audience. Who is going to live at your property (or more importantly, who do you want to live there)? Baby boomers respond well to names that communicate tradition, quality, and value, while millennials tend to gravitate toward identities that are unique, quickly understood, and easily remembered.

3. Challenge Your Brain

How do we get to a great name? By going through a lot of bad ones. Once our team has a set goal in mind, we move into the brainstorming process. We believe in a hold-nothing-back approach; oftentimes, the most random thoughts can lead to the best ideas.

Our brainstorming process can take several different forms. For example, we may begin with a few minutes of free writing (anything and EVERYTHING you can jot down on a piece of paper!), then move to a few laps of round-robin, where ideas are called out in a circle. Our team will often organize ideas into a messaging map to manage different trains of thought.

When it comes to naming a property — whether student housing, multifamily, residential, or anything in between — we look for inspiration from a variety of factors:

  • City history, founders, or landmarks
  • School colors, traditions, mascots, or notable figures/alumni
  • Landscaping, natural features, or geographical elements
  • Architectural style and inspiration, building materials, colors, and textures
  • Names or words that hold significance or meaning (in other languages as well)
  • Abstract names, made-up words, or combinations of several ideas

4. Select Your Favorites

A round of brainstorming will often result in several dozen names, but will ultimately end with a solid list of about 20. A good trick for weeding out the strong contenders is to take each name for a test drive. Is it easy to say out loud? Tricky to spell? Could it possibly be mistaken for any other word or connotation? How would prospects in one city or country perceive it in contrast to another? People have different experiences and biases for every brand they encounter; for that reason, try to get feedback from as many individuals as possible.

5. Cover Your Bases

At Catalyst, we approach naming with careful consideration. In doing so, all of our final name concepts are passed through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to ensure there are no trademark violations or existing companies in the residential industry. We then pass these recommendations along to our clients — or, in some cases, start up a new round of brainstorming — in order to ensure the strongest identities possible.

6. Remember Your Goals

The naming process can be an emotional one. Because it’s so closely associated with identity, a lot of people will have strong opinions on what it should and shouldn’t be. At the end of the day, it’s important to love your work; however, it’s more crucial to put the target market first and trust the research and experts you have hired. Keep everyone’s feedback in mind, but ultimately, keep your goals — and your audience — in sight.