Your R&D team has been working on this idea for months. Your path to patents is clear. You’ve identified your target market. You’ve set a price point. You’ve set sales goals and you’ve even begun to think about your marketing strategy. The moment of truth has come. It’s time to name your product.
Naming a product seems like it should be easy, just like naming a baby seems like it should be easy. Of course, if you’ve tried either process, you know that eventually the weight of the decision lands on you. In the case of a child, they’re going to have to live with that name at least until they can legally change it. And your product? Well, the name could determine how it will be received by your existing customers, by prospects, and by competitors. The name could help determine how you will market it, how it will fit with your core brand, whether it will *be* your core brand, and more. How can you approach this naming process in a way that will yield the best results?
We’ve put together a list of five things we’d recommend you consider. Each of these questions can prove complex in and of themselves, but if you can resolve each of these ten issues, you’ll be well on your way to naming your product in a way that will benefit your company into the future.
1. Generic versus Unique: Al and Laura Ries, authors of 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, note that a lot of companies over the years have settled on names that were extremely generic. How many companies can you think of with words like “National” or “General?” The authors suggest that all of these generic names, whether for companies or products, meld together in the customer’s mind, eventually. The same is true for products. Which do you buy, Kleenex or “Scott’s Facial Tissue?” Do you buy a generic lighter or do you buy something called a Bic? As you name your product, look at how your competition is named. Do you want to be “the next” version of a product, or do you want a name that sets your product apart?
2. Brand name versus no brand name: When Coca Cola decided to introduce its first diet product, the product was called Tab, not Diet Coke. Clearly Coke thought this was an error as they have done their best to shelf Tab in the interest of promoting Diet Coke. You have to wonder what their thought process was at the time, though. Why not call it Diet Coke from the start? Apple doesn’t call any of its products “Apple” any more. Mac is used for their laptop products and the lower case i is used for the mobile devices (iPod, iPhone, iPad). As we talked about in our last post, using your brand name on a product that doesn’t really relate to that brand can actually dilute the power of your main brand. Is your brand name solid enough to pick up and carry an entirely new category of product?
3. Sub-Brand versus no sub-brand: Piggy-backing on the brand name conundrum is whether you want your new product to be considered a sub-brand. MacBook Air is a lighter version of a regular MacBook, but note that Apple didn’t use the obvious word, “light” or even “lighter.” If your product is an improved version of your primary branded product, do you want to call attention to what those improvements are with words like “quicker,” “faster,” “lighter,” or “cleaner?” Do you want to highlight those differences in a more subtle way? Perhaps you want the product to have an entirely different name to differentiate it from the original.
4. Descriptive versus not descriptive: Think about automobile companies like Ford and Toyota and how they name each of their brands. Toyota didn’t call the Prius the Toyota Hybrid. They didn’t call the Camry the Toyota Sedan and they didn’t call the Lexus Toyota Luxury. Ford chose names like Focus and Fiesta. In all cases, the name of the company is tied to each individual brand name, but the brand names are not necessarily descriptive of what that product is. Do you want your product to be described as soon as someone says its name or do you want the name to create a little curiosity and intrigue?
5. Real word versus a made-up word: What is “Xerox?” If you had never heard of the company, would this word mean anything to you? What about Kleenex? On the other hand, we know what “focus” means and we know what “fiesta” means (even if we aren’t fluent in Spanish). If you decide to create a name for your product (like Haagen Dazs made up a name for its ice cream) it’s important to avoid the “corny zone.” On the other hand, if you choose to use an actual word, it should make some sort of connection to the product in your customer’s mind.
These are just five considerations we recommend you think about before slapping that new sticker onto your product. It’s a big decision, but it carries a lot of weight. Have you ever struggled with naming a product before? What were your experiences? We’d love to hear from you!
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/giantginkgo/37740313/ via Creative Commons