If you’ve ever had to name a baby, you have some idea of how challenging it is to name a product or company. It’s a maddening process fraught with unknown associations and emotional baggage. Eyebrows will be raised, feelings hurt, gauntlets thrown.

But unlike sharing potential baby names with your generally well-meaning family and friends, imagine presenting your carefully honed list to a team of hypercritical marketing piranhas, a dubious board of directors, and a random assortment of stakeholders with wildly subjective opinions and unresolved childhood issues. Not to mention the CEO, who, like that one fastidiously dressed matriarch at the baby shower, can crush your very favorite-est name with a single eye roll. End of discussion. Chloe is not happening.

At our creative consultancy, we’ve been asked to name everything from actuarial software to an e-sports company to an archive of stories from people who adopted animals. As you might imagine, there is no one formula applicable to naming such a diverse range of products, services, and entities. That said, we have found a few creative pathways that usually get our nomenclatural juices flowing. Yes, nomenclatural is a real word.

Speaking of real words, that’s a good place to start with naming. Just regular old words you find in the dictionary. Nouns, more often than not. They can be metaphorical, like Apple or Nike, or more literal, like LA Fitness, Pizza Hut or Radio Shack (RIP). Real words are often preferable as names because they’re easy to speak and spell, but trademarking and securing unique URLs for common words can be challenging. To help make a word or combination of words more unique and “ownable”, one can also try alternate spellings, such as Publix, Krazy Glue or Cheez Whiz (a name that also neatly skirts the fact that this product contains no actual c-h-e-e-s-e.)

You might also consider real word names that are lesser-known or more abstract. Some such names may sound randomly generated or made-up, but do, in fact, have a meaning or etymological root relating to the thing being named. Greek and Latin dictionaries are especially useful when exploring this path. Prius, for example, is a Greek word meaning “to go before”. Google, of course, comes from “googol” (a 1 followed by 100 zeros). There’s also Hulu, which sounds completely fabricated, but actually stems from an ancient Chinese text meaning “a hollowed-out gourd to hold precious things”. Fun fact: Hulu also means “butt” in Indonesian, which is why it’s important to perform a little cultural resonance research if your brand will be marketed internationally. Otherwise, you may hear no end of it from Jakarta middle schoolers.

Speaking of abstract names of non-English origin, if you’re launching a global brand, in addition to ensuring your name isn’t a body part or something that undermines your product’s value (Nova, Spanish for “doesn’t go,” is a famous fail by Chevrolet), an ideal name should also be pronounceable across cultures. I’m talking to you, Xiaomi.

Another naming option is the use of acronyms, abbreviations, and “initialisms”, like BMW (Bavarian Motor Works), SPAM (Spiced ham), IBM (International Business Machines), or IKEA, which is an acronym of the founder’s name, Ingvar Kamprad, followed by Elmtaryd and Agunnaryd (Swedish locales where he grew up). Ideally the abbreviation or acronym creates a relevant and known word in and of itself, like MADD (Mother’s Against Drunk Driving). But if you do go with an obscure and not easily pronounced name like AFLAC (American Family Life Assurance Company), you may require a well-funded ad campaign (and quite possibly a duck) to make the name memorable.

Sometimes a unique name can be found through an exploration of portmanteaus and compound words. Microsoft is a classic example. There’s also PetCo, ComicCon, Supercuts, Moped (motor/pedal) and Jazzercise. Hollywood loves a good portmanteau, as evidenced by the titles Futurama, Idiocracy and Californication (a show in a genre that is also a mashup: Dramedy).

If none of these methods is generating enough options, you might just consider making something up that has no etymological reference, underlying meaning or any relationship to your product whatsoever. Congratulations, Kodak, you proved that a completely nonsensical name can become a globally recognized super-brand. Kodak is easy to say, and there’s something special about certain letters when it comes to brand names. K is one of them. Just ask K-mart, Kraft, Kia, and Krispy-Kreme, to name a few.

Employing any combination of these naming methodologies, you should be able to generate a decent list of options. Our agency typically presents somewhere in the range of 100–300 viable options, depending on the project. And trust me, after the first hundred names or so, it gets exponentially more challenging to come up with viable options. At any rate, once you’ve run the master list of names by stakeholders, focus groups, and everyone with a valid opinion (and everyone will have an opinion, valid or not), and you’ve conducted at least preliminary trademark searches, considered URLs and logo/graphic design potential, you’ll arrive at your shortlist.

So, after all that, how do you objectively decide on what is always a fundamentally subjective decision?

You just go with your gut. In the end, just like naming a wriggling bundle of humanity, once you commit, you can’t imagine having ever considered anything else.