What’s in a name?
Naming Works. Great names will differentiate you, make an emotional connection with your audience, and help ignite the passions of your customers.
A powerful company or product name is the result of a powerful positioning strategy. The key is to find a fresh way into the hearts and minds of your customers, redefine and own the conversation in your industry, and engage people on as many levels as possible. The best product and company names represent the ultimate result of boiling these ideas down into a word or two. Before you begin, it’s essential to decide what you want the name to do for you. To make that decision, consider what a good naming can do for you.
- Achieve separation from your competitors
- Demonstrate to the world that you are different
- Reinforce a unique positioning platform
- Create positive and lasting engagement with your audience
- Be unforgettable
- Be buzzworthy, propelling itself by becoming a no-cost, self-sustaining PR vehicle
- Stimulate ideas for marketing and advertising platforms
- Be the genesis of a brand that rises above the goods and services you provide
- Completely dominate a category
Effective brand names are rarely born out of thin air, and for most companies, picking an appropriate name is not as simple as a whiteboard brainstorm. Rather, the process is steeped in analysis, research, ideation, and testing. Here’s a look at the key steps involved:
Competitive Analysis: Conduct a thorough competitive analysis in which you quantify the tone and strength of competitive company names or product names. Creating such a document helps your naming team decide where they need to go with the positioning, branding, and naming of your company or product.
Positioning: Define and refine your brand positioning. The more specific and nuanced your positioning is, the more effective the name will be. All great product and company names work in concert with the positioning of the businesses they speak for. Do you have a brand plan?
Name Development: Apply the positioning strategy to what you want your new name to do for your marketing, branding, and advertising efforts.
Trademark: Prescreen your short list of names to determine the likelihood that your company will be able to procure them. This ensures that the names your attorney submits for final trademarking are likely to be accepted.
Creative Testing: Create support materials to flesh out potential names, and conduct market research testing when appropriate. Support materials may include stories, ad treatments, or graphic layouts featuring leading name candidates.
The process of ideating names is complex, and there is no single approach that yields the best results in every situation. However, naming conventions tend to break down into four dominant categories, all of which serve very different objectives and present a different set of advantages and disadvantages.
Functional/Descriptive Names (JetBlue, Match.com)
Descriptive names like BMW, Subway, and Martha Stewart work well when a company’s strategy is to direct the bulk of brand equity to the company name. However, when a company name is descriptive, it is easier for it to be indistinguishable from its competitors and less likely to be remembered or recalled or understood as unique.
Invented Names (Google, Kleenex)
Invented names like Google or Kleenex are attractive for several reasons. They’re usually fairly easy to trademark and lend themselves to easily acquired domains and social handles. They are also highly memorable and, most importantly, fun to say and great fuel for viral marketing. The downside to this category usually appears when the marketing department seeks approval from corporate to embrace such an outside-the-box name.
Experiential Names (Ford Explorer, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter)
These names offer a direct connection to something real, and they are generally easy to make sense of. They also do a good job of tying experience to the product. The downside to experiential names is that they tend to be overused in the branding world. For example, Explorer and Safari are the names of Internet browsers and of SUVS.
Evocative Names (Virgin Airlines, Yahoo!)
Evocative names differ from others because they evoke the positioning of a company or product, rather than describing a function or a direct experience. The benefit of evocative names is that they are rare, making companies more distinguishable. They also help create a brand image that is bigger than the goods and services a company offers. Evocative names tend to be more engaging than other types, but they require a heavy intellectual and financial investment to make them work.
For a more thorough breakdown of naming practices and how a good name could benefit you, please contact us for a free PDF name guide and initial consultation.