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Tips for Naming Products and Services

Let's face it: naming is always a challenge—both because it’s important for product or category names to convey appropriate meaning (or at least be neutral), and because finding an available name can be difficult. Things can be further compounded when you need a whole naming architecture—an umbrella name or concept under which you can hang individual products or components.

So, what are you supposed to do? Here are some tips for thinking about names from a variety of perspectives. Hint: it’s not just about pounding out names, but about giving yourself stimulus to help you generate name possibilities.

  1. Start Early. Naming is one of the hardest things marketers have to do, in part because a lot of words are taken or reserved already. That said, it’s very possible to come up with something relevant and memorable. Keep in mind that occasionally breaking the rules can be a big win—who could have imagined Not Your Daughter’s Jeans (now shortened to NYDJ) or I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!® would be winners?  
  2. Set Criteria. How will you know a good name? If you put too many guardrails on name generation at the beginning by defining too closely what the end result will be, you won't stretch far enough. Remember that even some of those seemingly wacky name ideas can be stimulus for developing something more relevant and serious. When you do get down to picking ideas to bring forward, think about what is most relevant to your customers that also meets the needs of the market and brand.
  3. Consider an Umbrella Naming Architecture. If you need a whole naming system, what’s a broad enough umbrella that gives you room to grow, but still allows clarity and relevance about what you are naming? Will the pieces play together well? Can a customer just look at it and get it? How does it fit in the portfolio?
  4. Develop a Lot of Candidates. One of the ways to ensure you find names you can use is to generate plently of possibilities. Make sure you have a bevy of options to choose from.
  5. Find the Unique... What are the features of this product or service that make it stand out? How is it different—and better than—all others in the category? Leverage these improvements to find name possibilities. Then use your imagination to make up new words that convey elements of the product or service—luxury, security, or simplicty, for example.
  6. ...and Find the Sweet Spot Between Unique and Relevant. I know, it seems like a thin line to walk. Play with with what you have. Take some of your favorites and see how you can up the uniqueness while keeping it relevant, and take something more fanciful and bring it down to earth a bit. Something unique but without any relevance doesn't usually work well, and something wordy and over descriptive may be too much for a consumer to remember (however, there are exceptions: see # 1).
  7. Link to the Product or Category. Make the link between the name or category and the product clear. Don't fall into the trap of choosing a too cute or abstract name because an individual falls in love with something clever. The name needs to be relevant in some way to the target audience and the category.
  8. Think About the End User... Another way to develop possibilities is to consider who this product is for. What experiences will that person have while using the product? Use those intended experiences for fodder. 
  9. ...then Let Your Target Audience Help You. Crazy idea, right? Be inspired by what the product or service evokes for your customers. You can then mine that learning to develop additional differentiated naming possibilities.
  10. Examine the Benefits—Functional, Sensory, and Emotional. The key here is to start and end with what makes sense to ths customer—so go back to the benefit the product provides and look at it through the consumer lens, not your own. Emphasize what the consumer gets, or what problem the product solves. That that is clear form the name, then it's clear why the consumer should make the purchase.
  11. Have Fun! While naming can certainly be serious and difficult, you won’t get to a good place unless you let go a little. Enjoy the process!


©2013 Ideas To Go, Inc. All rights reserved.

Ideas To Go

Ideas To Go is an innovation agency that works with Fortune 500 companies in ideation and concept development to incorporate the voice of the consumer.