The naming phase of any new product or corporate initiative often starts as a fun, creative distraction. It can be a welcome break from tactical meetings or crunching numbers and a time to flex verbal skills.
But the fun can quickly turn to angst and frustration when an unimaginable number of names produce no clear winners, trademark and URL conflicts emerge for every good contender, and deadlines loom.
Here’s what you need to know to expedite the path to a successful name:
If you have the mindset, "I’ll know the right name when I see it," beware—you’re on the path to frustration. That’s just not how it works. The truth is, if you don’t know what you’re looking for you’re probably not going to find it. A well-thought-out naming strategy that takes into consideration long- and short-term objectives should guide the creative name development process. The right name is one that aligns with your strategy and meets key objectives.
People respond to names on an emotional level. This is why it’s often difficult to gain consensus among co-workers when selecting names because everyone is reacting to the names based on their own preferences and personal experiences.
It’s not about finding a name that everyone likes—it’s about determining which name works best. Again, the key to success is evaluating names against strategic criteria and objectives.
Branding is about creating a unique identity and presence in the world. One of the best ways to ensure success is to develop a name that is authentic and projects the brand positioning.
At first, the name should help convey what is different or desirable about the new offering. Over time, it should encompass the experiences your audience has with the brand. Rather than following naming trends, lead with uncompromising originality.
One of the biggest missteps marketers can make is jumping into the naming process without first giving serious consideration to the kind of name that is most appropriate.
Names can be arbitrary, suggestive, descriptive, or generic. The optimal kind of name for a given situation depends on many factors, such as target audience, marketing budget, extendibility, and more.
Among these pivotal factors, brand architecture predominates. The role of a brand name differs considerably from the role of a sub-brand name and they should not be treated as interchangeable.
Too often, marketers defer to consumers to select the final name. The "winning" name that emerges from consumer research is not necessarily the name that will propel the brand towards becoming a category leader.
It’s important to distinguish between the factors that drive consumer choices in the research environment—for example, familiarity, personal associations, and fit—and what it takes to create a standout brand. Obviously, the name needs to connect with consumers, but their input should be only one of many factors that go into selecting the right name.
The critical role of the name in creating a successful brand is obvious. Yet it’s the meticulous balancing of the many critical considerations that makes all the difference in developing a standout name.
—Lynn Haviland is the managing director of Applebaum Associates, a branding agency specializing in naming, visual identity, and strategic messaging.