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How to Name Your Next Product

03.21.2013 / Posted in Branding

Simplicity is often the most difficult quality to achieve. And product names are deceptively simple. How to develop them and how to ensure they’re right for your products are art and science. Let’s look at a few guiding principles:

Brainstorming

Ensure you have the following questions answered before you get started brainstorming new-product names:

  • What does the product do?
  • What is the benefit to the consumer?
  • What goes into the product?
  • What makes the product unique?
  • Does the industry have any particular language around this type of product?

Make it Easy to Pronounce and Spell

If people can’t pronounce it, they’re likely to think it’s risky.

Psychologists Hyunjin Song and Norbert Schwarz from the University of Michigan found that when people struggle to pronounce a word, they feel the product poses more of a risk. The researchers tested a number of Native American names ranging from Chunta to Vaiveahtoishi. Participants rated the names on a “pleasantness” scale. Vaiveahtoishi faired far poorer than Chunta.

As for spelling: The Web 2.0 community likes to name products and brands by misspelling words. Motorola brought it to the forefront with the Razr phone and many companies followed suit: Think Digg and Flickr.

A major advantage? Companies can more easily trademark misspellings—few others have already taken the words. However, when young companies without significant resources for branding and marketing try it, they may miss out in the Internet era of search. When you misspell your product name, you make it more difficult for consumers to find you.

Make it Memorable

A company wants their product to be on the tip of peoples’ tongues. A band name like Grateful Dead sounds ominous, but the band changed its name from Warlocks to make it more memorable. Is it? Yes.

Don’t Get Stuck on an Unavailable Name

Test names through Web search as a first-pass—and you may want to bring in attorneys later to run your final choices through copyright and trademark offices.

Also, keep close attention to URL availability. In the digital age, customers expect to easily find products and companies in cyberspace.

Position it Properly

We certainly hope that companies have their product positioning and messaging in place before starting the naming process. (Need a how-to on that? Click here.) Companies need to take care that the name doesn’t work contrary to the product’s ideal market perception.

Companies should particularly pay heed to market positioning when thinking globally. Languages have boundaries and, with languages, companies can damage their brands:

  • Reebok women’s Incubus: In medieval folklore, an incubus was a demon who ravished women while they slept. After naming a shoe the Incubus, Reebok had to make a shamed apology and recall 18,000 boxes of unsold shoes. Whoops.
  • Ikea is known for using Swedish words as product names. In 2005, the company named a children’s desk the Fartfull. Fartfull means speedy in Swedish—but it has an entirely different English connotation. The company quickly pulled the product.
  • TrekStor, a German electronics manufacturer, created an Mp3 player called i.beat.blaxx. The “I” intended to draw an iPod association and “beat” tied to music. The product casing? Black. After a backlash, TrekStor renamed the product TrekStor Blaxx.

Think about the Brand

A name should represent the brand promise and align with the company’s overall business strategy.

If a startup launches one product and will sell a single product during the course of its lifetime, it makes sense to use its product name as its brand name.

Companies that plan to offer more than one product can choose to name each product independently or can name each product in line with a larger product suite. For example, as Oracle adds additional products, it uses a company nomenclature to name them (e.g., Oracle Applications).

Which route to take often depends on whether consumers would purchase

  • the products as part of a suite,
  • based on the organization’s brand name, or
  • the products independently without heed to the parent company’s brand or other products.

Also, companies should consider separately branding and naming products that they might sell separately—keeping other products and services—to acquiring corporations. In these cases, the brand should have value to the acquirer—and companies don’t want to sell off a brand essential to the success of other product lines.

Consider Versioning

Companies should consider product generations when determining product names. Companies can take one of two strategies:

  • Brand continuation means keeping the product name for each new version. For example, running shoes. Most major athletic companies keep shoe brands for years. As new versions launch, they give them sequential numbers. Asics comes out with a new version of its Nimbus shoe each year. Currently, they’re on version 14. Software companies often take the same tack. Brand continuation tells consumers that it has enhanced or improved the existing product.
  • Alternatively, companies can develop an entirely new name or brand for each version. Nintendo employs this strategy: Nintendo, N64, Game Cube, Wii. New names indicate that the product is a completely new creature.

Looking for help with branding or marketing strategy? Call FrogDog today!

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