What’s with that name, Zhuzh? How do you even say it?

Lessons in naming, or how to break the rules

When helping clients name their brand, I always advise considering pronunciation. Don’t make it challenging. Find a word or phrase that is brief and has an available URL. The name should give customers an intro into understanding what you are about, but doesn’t need to be literal. It should conjure a feeling and guide your brand experience.

In this era where .coms are becoming more scarce, a little creativity with naming is required. We’ve all seen a litany of startup names that remove a letter, or change one out in order to snag that short, memorable hook– Flickr, Scribd, Tumblr, Lyft, Grindr, Dribbble, Kanopy.

One can do their own naming, but having help is always recommended. Onym.co has some amazing resources if you need to DIY. Otherwise, consider Zhuzh helping you out. But first find out how Zhuzh came into existence.

ZHUZH LOGO SUITE

ZHUZH LOGO SUITE

Brainstorming

Brainstorming your brand name is like naming a child. You want a name that will help your “child” succeed and thrive. We typically search for personal names that honor our history or family. We want names that speak of the child’s future character. We want to avoid anything that might cause torment or pain. We either want a one-of-kind name like Moonbeam, or something that instantly denotes an expectation or comfort like Jennifer, Thomas. Same goes for brand naming.

As I was brainstorming and thinking about names to use for my own consultancy I started where a lot of agency founders would start– their name. While Zack is easy, my last name “Shubkagel” doesn’t have a good ring to it. It’s clunky, hard to pronounce and spell. When people see “Shubkagel” on paper they stumble, or if they try to recall they say “Shoebagel, Shuffkegel, Shoobockel, Shufflebutt.” I needed something shorter that didn’t sound like the pelvic exercise.

So I revisited Zack. I was using exzackly.moi for my instagram handle. I thought that was clever. I had always heard my name inside the word “exactly.” Exzackly.me was available for a website. I was told it sounded too self-absorbed. I revisited what I used after college: Xax Creative (which is gimmicky way to say Zack’s Creative). In the end, I decided I didn’t want my name on the “door.” If I ever wanted to be acquired or sell my business it would be a harder sell.

So I began thinking about words, phrases. Since I was inventing something new to reflect me it was important to reflect my vision. I wanted this brand to help businesses. I wanted it to appeal to sophisticated entrepreneurs, business owners and creatives. I see life as a permanent journey of self-improvement. How could I translate that to a name?

I brainstormed, and jotted down ideas. I scoured the thesaurus and other resources on onym.co (check this site out if you need naming help!) Then one day after watching “Get a Room with Carson and Thom” and hearing Carson Kressley use his signature ‘zhuzh’ – I was struck! I had adopted that word when talking about making the design, the work, the shot, the type better. “Let’s give it a zhuzh! Zhuzh it up!"

zhuzh /ZHo͝oSH/

verb INFORMAL also zhoozhzhoosh

  1. make more exciting, lively, or attractive.

    "the bag is a cool but economical way to zhuzh up many an outfit"
    Origin 1970s: perhaps from Polari.

However, at the time I had no idea how to spell it. I had said it for years only knowing the phonetics. First I googled “joosh” which is how I guessed one would spell it. But I discovered the traditional way was zhuzh or zhoosh, followed by tsuj, and several other variations. This is typically not the quality of a good name. You want something people know how to spell. But It had the “z”s and it struck me how it even shared some letters with my last name… I also love the simple meaning behind the phrase zhuzh- to improve the appearance of. From a typography standpoint the characters have a nice balance and symmetry.

Name Vetting

But was Zhuzh a viable, ownable, trademarkable name?

I first googled zhuzh.com and found a company selling Tan Accelerants- not my industry. So then I thought if I were in a similar industry what URLS would I consider? I did find some interior design boutiques, and one graphic design shop but it was located half-way around the world in South Africa. This could be risky for global businesses, but I had no intention of working in Africa. I next searched the US Patent and Trademark Office Site. Here I found one live trademark under Zhuzh! for a gluten-free cookie company. This meant there was space for me. At this point I would recommend you consult a trademark attorney to ensure you can trademark and register said name.

Next the challenge was to secure a URL. Using porkbun.com (you could use GoDaddy) I found and secured several available URLS that wouldn’t cost me an arm and a leg. Not knowing what I would use in the end I bought zhuzh.agency, zhuzh.us, zhushit.com, and zhuzhdesign.com. What I loved was the root is only 5 letters and with .us it works as a phrase “Zhuzh us.” Also good to search instagram, twitter, facebook, etc. Not all businesses buy URLs or secure trademarks.

The final step is commonly recommended by branding experts is the “pub test.” This is the idea of telling people your name in a loud crowded place to see if they understand you and can spell it back. Just like baby names, if you ask for people’s opinions before the baby is born you will get an ear full. Once that baby is born, people learn to live and love the little booger. Same goes for brands. If you were to ask everyone what they think of a name before they see the logo, understand what your product or service is- you will get some adverse reactions.

Nonetheless I tested my new name with friends and family. When I said “Zhuzh” (pronounced ZHo͝oSH), I got mixed reactions. It was familiar to most, a few I had to explain the meaning. When I asked them to spell it, no one knew. Typically I would advise most clients to move on in this case. However this didn’t discourage me. I realized that would be part of my branding challenge. My advice- skip this step.

Time will tell

While brands are born it takes care and attention. I will be working to raise my brand awareness and further defining what Zhuzh means to us and the world. And with time, the hope would be that it becomes a household phase, like Uber or Kleenex.

What do you think of our name? Please share.

Zack Shubkagel