For too long, I’ve been thinking about testing the creative engines behind four crowdsourcing naming platforms, but have continuously backed down because I was having a hard time spending over $1,000 on a brand name for a fictitious company.
I stumbled upon a website that instantly inspired me.
Wishbone.org (what a dreamy name!) is a non-profit that sends low-income high-school students from New York City, Los Angeles and Connecticut to summer programs ranging from athletics to liberal arts to engineering. Since 2012, Founder Beth Schmidt and team have helped over 1,600 students raise over $3 million in funding to help kids attend camps they are passionate about.
Already thinking daily about launching a purpose-driven organization, heavily influenced by all the tragic events in the world, I started thinking about How I can make a difference.
Reflecting on my childhood memories and keeping Wishbone in mind, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t need to launch something to change the world from day one. Instead, helping even a handful of kids each year would be fulfilling. After transitioning my mindset from go-big to start-small, I repeatedly landed on something that had a massive influence on my upbringing: organized sports, especially soccer.
Simply develop an extension of Wishbone’s platform that focuses on giving more kids the opportunity to participate in organized sports. Like Wishbone, we would also assist low-income families, however we’d reduce the barriers of entry by developing a fund, like an early stage venture fund, that covers the cost of league fees. Kids of all ages would be eligible to submit an application (like a pitch) and we’d hand pick a small, exclusive class of kids each cycle period based on a predefined criteria.
Kids could nominate their friends, parents could nominate their children, teachers could nominate their students and kids could nominate themselves. You get the point!
First thing is first
Now that I had clarity around my idea, I needed a memorable brand name that could subtly hint at our mission, knowing that it could evolve or even take a complete 360. And, since I’ve been operating a naming blog for over three years, I could have taken the time to brainstorm a list of high quality names, but this was a great excuse to run an experiment.
In this post, I’ll reveal the naming services I tested, the cost of each, the naming brief I submitted, one pro for each and the winning names I selected from each service. I’ll let you decide where to put your money.
I submitted an identical naming brief on Ink and Key, SquadHelp, Crowdspring and NamingForce to see what services would deliver the most creative names. Before going into too much detail, I think it’s important to provide a couple tips for those that may not be as familiar with crowdsourcing.
- Whether you are leveraging crowdsourcing to kick-off your naming journey or to induce some creativity when you are stuck, it’s important that you give very thoughtful guidance to the creative folks participating in your contest. If you go MIA, you won’t get as much value and you’ll just regret it. Make a conscious effort to stay involved.
- The four platforms all ask the question “What words do you like in a name?” as part of their onboarding process. Be cautious here. If you provide too much detail, people struggle to think outside the box and only suggest compound or blended names with the words you listed out.
We connect families with extra money to families without extra money.
In a nutshell, too many kids don’t get the opportunity to play organized sports because their parents can’t afford equipment, league fees, travel costs and more. My dream is to create a platform, where a mother or father can create a profile for her son/daughter and request help from other families to cover fees. It would be a start to a more equal world.
P.S. this site will likely focus on soccer at the beginning, but we have a much bigger vision than just soccer.
1. Ink and key
My Experience: 5/5 Stars
Winning Name: Pebble Foundation
This crowdsourcing platform was founded in 2016 by Lynn Swords and offers a range of marketing services, from logo design to creative writing to taglines and naming.
Similar to the other three crowdsourcing platforms, you’ll be asked a series of questions before you start your contest (I’ve highlighted a handful below). And if this is your first naming rodeo, be sure to give our step by step naming guide a skim to familiarize yourself with the different types of brand names, the importance of crafting your brand’s positioning before you commence on your naming journey and what characteristics make a strong name.
- Are you naming a business, product or service?
- What keywords should we avoid?
- What type of names are you interested in? Real word, blended, fun/quirky, compound, misspelled, etc.
- Target audience?
- What type of extension .com .org .net .co?
- Be very clear here. Are you only interested in available .com domains? Are you ok with a modified domain? I purposely requested a .com vs a .org to really test the creative engines behind the platforms.
After you’ve submitted all your answers, you will be invited to a collaboration tool called Slack.
Once you’ve joined the project, creative professionals will begin introducing themselves and asking you questions about your project. Within a few hours, suggestions will start flowing in and you’ll be able to communicate privately or to the whole group.
Ink and Key’s mini crowdsourcing experience is highly engaging because fewer creative professionals (~12) actually participate, which means you don’t end up with hundreds of potential names. Instead, you receive a short list of high quality names, provide feedback and get a handful of more high quality names. Rinse and repeat.
Pro: I appreciated the thoughtfulness and the detailed stories behind the names proposed.
Cost: $299 (multiple pricing tiers)
My Experience: 5/5 stars
Winning Name: HuddleHood
This platform was founded in 2011 by Darpan Munjal, a serial entrepreneur in the Chicago area.
Prior to filling out the onboarding questions, go and explore Squadhelp’s pricing page to get an idea of what features and benefits come with each pricing tier. For example, if you’d like comprehensive trademark research by a attorney and to run audience testing to validate your short list of names, you should consider the Platinum tier.
After you commit to a tier, start filling out the questions. As you are filling out the required fields, you’ll hit a section titled “Additional Information (optional)” be sure to fill out this information. The more information you include, the more productive the contest will be.
Now that your contest is live, you can access everything about your naming contest in your dashboard. You can revisit and edit your brief, add team members for an additional charge and rate and comment on entries:
- Love it
- Like it
- On Right Track
- No, Thank You
- Not Rated
I received 776 entries by 183 different participants but ended up rewarding the contest prize to LuckyDuck. I liked that I could acquire the .com, the story I could wrap around the name and that the double o’s opened up the doors for some creative design: soccer balls, baseballs, hockey pucks or even holiday themed: pumpkins, Christmas decorations, etc.
Pro: The experience, from onboarding to rating to smart alerts to selecting a name, Squadhelp is intuitive and assists with every step of the crowdsourcing journey.
Cost: $299 (multiple pricing tiers)
My Experience: 4/5 stars
Winning Name: Unbenched
This platform was founded in 2008 by Ross Kimbarovsky and also offers a wide range of naming and design services, from business cards to email templates to vehicle wraps to company names. And according to their about us page, “Crowdspring has helped over 52,000 entrepreneurs, small businesses, startups, agencies and nonprofits with logo design, web design, graphic design, product design and naming.” I selected the Silver Pricing tier and received 159 entries from 43 different creatives.
Prior to launching your contest, you’ll be asked if you’d like to expedite your contest. I don’t really recommend this, but if you are in a major hurry you can pay an additional fee to complete your project quicker than seven days.
Other add-on services include hiding your contest from search engines and paying for additional awareness on their website and social media. And, they have a 100% money back guarantee if they fail to submit at least 100 entries. Lastly, I also should mention that every project on Crowdspring is protected by a customized legal contract- there’s never a question about ownership of IP.
Pro: I really like the design of their new website, their effortless rating system and I appreciate the fact that they give free design projects to non-profits each quarter.
My Experience: 1/5 stars
Winning Name: Play it Forward and SportsAid
I’ll be transparent, this was my least favorite platform.
In the end, I didn’t even select a winner, I just let the platform select a couple for me. It truly didn’t feel like humans were on the other side, it just felt like a bunch of keywords related to my mission were being merged together to create a long list of very generic names. A matter of fact, over 1,400 names were submitted, well above the number of entries submitted on other platforms.
In my naming brief, I very clearly explained that I would only consider one and two word brand names and as you can see from the sample of names below, this criteria seemed to be completely ignored. Another thing that I didn’t like is how they present a name like “Play it Forward” leading you to believe that playitforward.com is an available .com until you click on the name and see the domain they recommended.
Pro: Even though the names were low quality, I appreciated that they sent me a list of their favorite names on a daily basis to cut through the noise.
If you have crowdsourced a name before, tell us what platform you used and if you would recommend it to other entrepreneurs. Or just comment below and tell us what name below you like best and why?
Thanks for swinging by!
Adam Lang is the founder and editor of Rewind & Capture. He is passionate about creative marketing, design and brand etymology.