About our Founder
I’m Anthony Shore, Chief Operative of Operative Words. Over 25 years, I have introduced more than 200 product and company names to the world. Trained as a linguist at UC Santa Cruz, my BA thesis received the Chancellor’s Award and Linguistics degree Honors. As Global Director of Naming and Writing for Landor Associates, I led naming, nomenclature and brand strategy projects for Global 500 companies for 13 years. A year at Lexicon Branding and prior jobs as a photomechanical typesetter, software marketer, product manager, copywriter and door-to-door fundraiser have shaped my real-world and holistic perspective on brand naming. In 2009, I started my agency, Operative Words, to focus exclusively on what I’m good at: Six words or fewer.
What we do: Six Words or Fewer
We develop and determine exactly the right words to signify a brand or express an idea. It’s a unique skillset that requires expertise in strategy, linguistics, marketing, cognition, creativity and communications. For most projects, we provide creative direction, name creation, preliminary global trademark and domain screening, group facilitation and consensus-building, and, when needed, native speaker and linguistics checks.
Our work spans all categories: technology, food/beverage, medical, financial, industrial, health/beauty, transportation, services, b2b and b2c.
New names for start-ups and spin-offs
Renaming established companies
New business unit and divisional names within an organization
Product line extensions
Novel descriptors and terminology
A product is defined by its descriptor. Most new products use established category descriptors, like smartphone, washing machine, or tortilla chips. But a truly-new innovation requires an innovative product descriptor to establish that it is fundamentally different, the first in its category.
We’re specialists in the development of novel product descriptors that define and frame world’s-first innovations. Operative Words applies its expertise in language adoption and propagation to develop original terms that spread and stick. For innovations in food and healthcare that require regulatory approval, our backgrounds in medical and scientific nomenclature inform development of accurate and valid terminology for new ingredients, products and processes.
A unified and consistent naming system helps customers understand product differences and choose the products that are right for them. Based on company objectives, brand equities, and the customer decision-making process, Operative Words evaluates existing names and then develops nomenclature to harmonize names across product portfolios.
As a company grows and new products proliferate, a naming strategy ensures that new names align with business objectives. With a naming strategy in place, decisions are made objectively about when to create a new brand name, when to extend an existing brand, and what to call new product versions. The results are product portfolios that are clear, consistent, and strategic. Operative Words has deep expertise developing naming strategies for branded houses and houses of brands.
Taglines and slogans
Exactly the right message, exactly the right words
Why Hire a Naming Expert?
We all name things, but our universal ability to name children or pets does not readily translate into naming a business. Global trademark and domain availability, multilingual appropriateness, and audiences that number in the millions demand rigor and expertise in name development.
Developing strategically on-target names requires deeply understanding both audiences and language. What are the target’s needs? What tonality will resonate most effectively? How shall we move the levers of language — semantics, morphology and phonology — to move the target audience towards a desired perception or action?
Getting the name right is only half the battle, because a name is only as good as it is available. Every single day, the pool of available names shrinks. Understanding the trademark landscape, the gamut of name styles available, and their relative strengths increases the odds of success in finding a name that is both right and available.
The Operative Words Approach
Naming well requires both creative and analytic processes and tools. For example, to foster true creative breakthroughs, the development process must include periods of immersion (focused thinking and name development) interspersed by periods of incubation (not thinking about the problem or project at all). Those a-ha! moments happen in the shower because you’ve immersed in a problem and then given space for incubation.
To name well, one must understand the ideas that define the core of the brand. Ideas are rarely indivisible; they are comprised of other ideas. Deconstructing complex ideas into simpler ones — a fundamental exercise in semantics — multiplies creative avenues, all leading to the same, strategic destination.
Computational Linguistics FTW
As Chief Operative of Operative Words, I have pioneered the use of computational linguistics as an adjunct to creative thinking, opening perspectives otherwise unachievable. A corpus linguistics engine with an 35-billion word database and powerful collocation tools reveals how words are related en masse. Software permutation tools combine lists of words by brute force, presenting combinations that might not otherwise come to mind. Operative Words is the first and, to our knowledge, only professional name developer to use recurrent neural networks (artificial intelligence) to supplement name creation. We believe AI will lead to a new era of interesting and excellent brand names.
Together, the rigor afforded by disciplined creativity, linguistics, trademark screening, and technology ensures the nearly-impossible task of naming is made immeasurably easier.
The Operative Words Process
Name Objectives Development
Creative Development, Round 1
Preliminary Global Trademark and Domain Screening
Creative Development, Round 2
Preliminary Global Trademark and Domain Screening
Optional Native Speaker Check
Full Legal Screening by Client
Most projects are completed in less than six weeks.
Why choose Operative Words?
100% senior expertise: As Chief Operative, I personally direct every project and develop thousands of names for every assignment. But I don’t work alone. I have trained a few truly excellent namers from the ground up to contribute creative to assignments. Our trademark partner has over 18 years of experience screening names for global markets.
100% client focus: Our time and attention to client work is not impeded by the internal demands or bureaucracy of a large agency. We're all-client all the time.
Names for the real world: Thanks to client-side backgrounds, we consider how names will live on shelf, in identity, in advertising, in a press release. In each presentation, we help clients imagine what each name would do for them after launch. We believe great names inspire great marketing communications.
Deep and diverse creative: Descriptive, suggestive, evocative and arbitrary names. Real words and coined. Fun and formal. We don’t have a house style, but if you do, our names will follow it.
Corpus linguistics and artificial intelligence naming pioneer: Operative Words pioneered the use of massive corpus linguistics databases to supplement creative name development. The ability to harness 35-billion word databases translates into more relevant and differentiated creative work. More recently, we have added recurrent neural networks (AI) to our creative toolset.
A recognized expert: The New York Times Magazine wrote a feature-length account of an Operative Words naming project: “The Weird Science of Naming New Products”. It’s a good read and detailed exposition of our work. I have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, Fast Company, USA Today, The San Francisco Chronicle, and the Pivot Conference.