6 steps to a creative chatbot name (+ bot name ideas)
Sometimes a rose by any other name does not smell as sweet—particularly when it comes to your company’s chatbot. Learn how to choose a creative and effective company bot name.
Published February 14, 2022
Last updated May 2, 2022
2001: A Space Odyssey is a cult classic; the quintessential "evil robot takes over" science-fiction tale featuring a soft-spoken killer robot with the neighborly name of HAL. Arthur C. Clarke, who wrote the story that the 1968 movie was based on, went through several creative bot names before landing on HAL (Heuristically Programmed Algorithmic computer). He toyed with Autonomous Mobile Explorer-5, Socrates, and Athena. Any one of these bot names had the potential to change the reader's idea of the robot's personality, and thus the story, dramatically.
Similarly, naming your company’s chatbot is as important as naming your company, children, or even your dog. Names matter, and that's why it can be challenging to pick the right name—especially because your AI chatbot may be the first "person" that your customers talk to.
6 steps to a creative bot name
1. Figure out "who" your chatbot is
First and foremost, choose a name that has meaning. Branding experts know that a chatbot's name should reflect your company's brand name and identity. Or put another way, its mission, vision, and values.
One question you might want to ask yourself is: If our company was a person, who would that person be?
- Would they be gendered or genderless?
- Where would this person be from, geographically and culturally?
- What would this person believe in?
- What would be their lifestyle?
- Who would their friends be?
- What name would this person choose for their self?
A chatbot may be the one instance where you get to choose someone else’s personality. Create a personality with a choice of language (casual, formal, colloquial), level of empathy, humor, and more. Once you've figured out "who" your chatbot is, you have to find a name that fits its personality.
2. Brainstorm names that fit your bot's personality
Gabi Buchner, user assistance development architect in the software industry and conversation designer for chatbots recommends looking through the dictionary for your chatbot name ideas. You could also look through industry publications to find what words might lend themselves to chatbot names. You could talk over favorite myths, movies, music, or historical characters. Don't limit yourself to human names but come up with options in several different categories, from functional names—like Quizbot—to whimsical names. This isn’t an exercise limited to the C-suite and marketing teams either. Your front-line customer service team may have a good read about what your customers will respond to and can be another resource for suggesting chatbot name ideas.
Your robot's name might evolve from the name of your company itself—Acme company's chatbot might be Ace. Loyola University gave their chatbot the voice and name of the school's greyhound mascot, Iggy. You might steal a robot name from some famous person, place, event, or myth. Amazon's Alexa, for example, is named in homage to the Library at Alexandria, a source of knowledge in ancient times.
3. Choose a chatbot name for function
Before Amazon chose Alexa, several other names were considered.
Amazon's Jeff Bezos suggested:
- Finch, the name of a fantasy book
- Friday, the helper in Robinson Crusoe
- Samantha, the Bewitched character witch who marries a mortal
Each of these names reflects not only a character but the function the bot is supposed to serve. Friday communicates that the artificial intelligence device is a robot that helps out. Samantha is a magician robot, who teams up with us mere mortals. But Alexa represents the source of all knowledge.
4. Consider your customers' needs
In addition to identifying the bot's function, the Alexa naming team also sought a word with three syllables that were a "distinct combination of phonemes." That way, customers wouldn't wake up the device every time they said anything. It needed to be both easy to say and difficult to confuse with other words.
In many cases, naming a chatbot to engender ease and comfort is paramount. But what engenders comfort? Customers might feel more comfortable learning about vacation rentals' extras from "Stacey," but if you want to troubleshoot issues with a medical device you may prefer a bot named "Medic Helper." As Buchner put it, WHO Health Alert isn't a super creative bot name but: "You won't turn to the WHO chatbot for some chit chat but to get important health updates or warnings on the current Corona health situation."
Many people involve their bot in social media campaigns, which should also be taken under consideration when choosing a name.
5. Include a diverse panel of people in the naming process
Gender is powerfully in the forefront of customers' social concerns, as are racial and other cultural considerations. All of these lenses must be considered when naming your chatbot. You want your bot to be representative of your organization, but also sensitive to the needs of your customers, whoever and wherever they are.
A chatbot name that is hard to pronounce, for customers in any part of the world, can be off-putting. You also have to consider the meanings of names. For example, Krishna, Mohammed, and Jesus might be common names in certain locations but will call to mind religious associations in other places. Whether human or contrived, the Internet is full of hilarious examples of, and conversations about, companies and products with chatbot names that are appropriate in one place but absolutely appalling in another. Siri, for example, means something anatomical and personal in the language of the country of Georgia. Wherever you hope to do business, it's important to understand what your chatbot's name means in that language. You also need to know if the name has significance to people in your own country but that will be lost to others with another geographical, generational, gendered, or socioeconomic background. Doing research helps, as does including a diverse panel of people in the naming process, with different worldviews and backgrounds.
6. Give your bot a creative name—and introduce its personality
If you give your chatbot a human name, it's important for the bot to introduce itself as an AI chatbot in a live chat, through whichever chatbot or messaging platform you’re using. If a customer knows they're dealing with a bot, they may still be polite to it, even chatty. But don’t let them feel hoodwinked or that sense of cognitive dissonance that comes from thinking they’re talking to a person and realizing they’ve been deceived.
Humans are becoming comfortable building relationships with chatbots. Maybe even more comfortable than with other humans—after all, we know the bot is just there to help. Many people talk to their robot vacuum cleaners and use Siri or Alexa as often as they use other tools. Some even ask their bots existential questions, interfere with their programming, or consider them a "safe" friend. Depending on your customer base and the bot's programming, your chatbot may become a lot more than a tool that can answer questions; it could also build new relationships with your customers that become lifelong.
Key takeaway? Don't place your trust in random names. Take some time, be thoughtful, and pick a chatbot name you and the bot can grow with.
Chatbot name ideas
Here are a few examples of chatbot names from companies to inspire you while creating your own.
- Amazon's Alexa
- Ora, Sephora's virtual beauty coach
- Casper's Insomnobot-3000
- Bank of America's Erica
- Lemonade's Maya
- Marriott International's chatbot, ChatBotlr
- Fiba, Freshly's virtual assistant
- World Health Organization's WHO Health Alert
- Disney's Judy Hopps bot, based on a character from the movie Zooptopia
- United Nations Children's Fund U-Report bot
- Lokia's Yeshi
- Apple's Siri
- DoNotPay, the world’s first robot lawyer
- Capital One’s Eno