Guest Blog

Is Your Agency Name Helping or Hurting You?

Molly Davis

For branding and advertising agencies, a well-crafted name is not just a label; it’s a powerful symbol that can either hinder or enhance success. Good agency names enable you to stand out, but great agency names enable you to dominate your category because they work for you as a strategic advantage.

The Anatomy of a Good Agency Name

A good agency name is more than just a combination of words. It should encapsulate the essence of your story and how you want to differentiate. Are you winning on value? Creativity? A specific type of service? I tell my clients that we aren’t naming their business or product, we’re naming the story behind it. 

That’s how you differentiate and win.

Names are subjective and tricky – and there’s so much more to a brand than the name alone, including messaging and design. An excellent name, in your view, might not be universally appreciated by everyone. Take Apple, for instance. In the time of Microsoft (a name made of the blend of microprocessor and software) and IBM (International Business Machines), it was incredibly innovative. But do you like the name? The diversity in how we answer that question makes the world beautiful, and there’s no wrong answer. 

That said, a few key elements contribute to the making of a good agency name:

  1. Relevance: A good agency name should be relevant in some capacity to the industry it operates in – or what it values. (This doesn’t mean boring, and it doesn’t mean descriptive.) In the beginning, Google used to be called BackRub (named after its ability to analyze backlinks). The business outgrew it, and it became irrelevant. Google is derived from googol, a mathematical term for the number one followed by 100 zeroes. It’s not named for the term, it’s named for the story: seemingly infinite amounts of information.

Global branding agency leader MetaDesign’s name is self-referential; it means redesigning design and acknowledging that future uses and problems cannot be completely anticipated at design time. As Albert Einstein said, "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. It’s a name that is timeless and ever-relevant. " Full disclosure: I fondly used to work at MetaDesign.

QUESTION: Does your agency name box you into a category you may break out of in the future?

  1. Memorability: Names that are catchy and resonate with the audience are more likely to stick. Sound plays a big part in memorability, as psychologists have determined that the way a name sounds is just as important as the name itself.  When naming, it’s important to say the word out loud - otherwise known as “the radio test.” For example, “Soar Credit Union” may be interpreted as “Sore.”

    There are many ways to make a word memorable, but the goal is to attach a story to the name in some capacity. Agency name 72andSunny communicates the story of optimism and opportunity – the story of a perfect day (well, weather-wise.) We remember stories. 

QUESTION: Does your agency name evoke a story or unique feelings and impressions?

  1. Uniqueness: Standing out in a competitive market requires a unique name. Avoid generic terms or clichés that could blend in with other agencies. A distinctive name can set an agency apart and make it easier for clients to find and remember. 

QUESTION: Does your agency name sparkle in the sea of competitors?

Types of Names and Real-World Examples

Agency names come in various forms, each with its unique appeal:

  1. Founder's Names: Using the names of founders can add a personal touch and authenticity to an agency. Agencies like Saatchi & Saatchi, Sagmeister & Walsh, Landor Associates, and Leo Burnett, amongst hundreds of others, are named after their founders, creating a sense of legacy and credibility. David & Goliath is named after founder David Angelo, but the name is bigger than his. In short, naming your agency after a founder can work – but there could be limited scalability and flexibility. Also, the story of the agency is about a person vs. a broader idea or shared value.
"Sterling-Cooper-Draper-Cutler-Gleason and Chaough? It's a mouthful." - Joan, Mad Men
  1. Descriptive Names: These names explicitly describe the services or focus of the agency. An example of this would be Creativ Services or SmartSites. There are thousands of these types of names out there. While descriptive names can be straightforward and work for many industries, they may lack the intrigue and memorability of more creative options for agencies. 

However, many descriptive names can be creative and work very well. Elon Musk’s “The Boring Company” is descriptive (they bore safe utility and freight tunnels) but is at the same time unique and evocative. Prosal, our favorite place to find RFPS, is descriptive, but clever and memorable. We named our agency Wonsupona (once-upon-a) because our passion and focus is storytelling - but we wanted an ownable .com and a unique way of communicating that story.

  1. Abstract or Evocative Names: These names evoke emotions or create mental images without directly stating the agency's offerings. Think about Pandora – it means to unleash evil on the world. However, no one takes this literally. Mother is an example of an agency with an evocative name that conveys a sense of creativity and authority. There are a few fine lines to juggle with evocative names, but they tend to generate excitement and attention.

Differentiating with Your Name

Here are some strategies for agencies to differentiate themselves through their names:

  1. Creativity and Innovation: Choose a name that reflects creativity and innovation. Showcase your commitment to creativity through unique and unconventional names. Don’t just spell a name wrong or leave off a few letters – think about pairing together unique ideas. Look at RedFin. It has nothing to do with real estate, but the name is an anagram of “finder” and “friend.”
  2. Cultural Relevance & Values: Consider names that align with current cultural trends or societal values. This makes your agency more relatable and positions it as attuned to the pulse of the times. For example, Absolut, a premium spirits brand, places high regard on purity, evident in its original name, 'Absolut Rent Brännvin,' which translates to "absolutely pure vodka." Ologie is an agency that brands higher education. Education is their focus - and highest value - and, thus, their name.
  3. Brand Personality: Infuse the name with your brand personality. Whether bold, sophisticated, or whimsical, the name should reflect your agency's character and resonate with the target audience. Take GeekSquad - it’s fun and memorable and maintains a consistent personality amongst its brand. 

Great Names Are Stories Distilled to One Word

At the heart of a great agency name lies the ability to distill a compelling story into a few words. A name should not only convey what an agency does but also evoke emotions and associations that resonate with clients. This is how your agency can compete on a strategic level.

Is your agency name working in your favor?

People think naming is easy – until they try it (or find every name they like is trademarked.) If you’re unsure if your agency name is working in your favor, we’re happy to offer a free 15-minute name evaluation for Prosal friends. Contact us at to connect.


Molly Davis

Molly Davis Lind is an award-winning strategist and design thinker with over a decade of experience managing and transforming brands. She is passionate about using human-centered research to uncover what motivates people, and translating that knowledge into engaging brand messages.

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