Creating a name for a company, a service or a product is an important part of the overall branding strategy for a business. A great name helps convey what a brand stands for and is aligned with both the brand personality traits and its value proposition, helping build brand equity.
Inviting employees and/or customers to present ideas is a common practice to create a name. The Toronto Raptors are a good example of this approach: Back in 1994, the name was chosen from a nationwide contest and it was heavily influenced by the blockbuster movie Jurassic Park, directed by Steven Spielberg.
However, in many situations publicizing a new product or brand is not suggested at all. In these cases, hiring a professional branding firm is advisable.
Product/Service Naming Strategies
During a name exploration process, a wide range of territories can be investigated, namely:
- Acronyms: Words that are abbreviated to form a new word
- Appropriation: Names which use the idea for one thing and apply it to another, such as Caterpillar and Reebok
- Descriptive: Names that either describe the product or its characteristics, such as Toys “R” Us and General Motors
- Geography: Names which define a region, such as Fuji, or a product location, such as eBay
- Ingredients: Names which reflect a key ingredient in the product, such as Clorox and Pepsi
- Made up: Names that do not have any significance rather than being unique, such as Kodak and Xerox
- Merged: Names which reflect a merged organization, such as TD Canada Trust or ExxonMobil
- Mimetics: Names which use alternative spellings for common sounds, such as Krispy Kreme
- Personal: Names which typically leverage a person or personality such as Wendy’s and McDonald’s
- Shortcut incorporated into names such as 3M (Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company) or E3 (Electronic Entertainment Exposition)
- Slang: These names have personality and sense of humor, such as Yahoo!
Strategic Naming Considerations
However, creating a name that is unique can be complex. A successful name usually has one or more of these attributes:
- It has to be relevant and memorable
- It has to be easy to pronounce in the native language
- It must consider its phonetic meaning in different languages
- It must not be a fad or easily dated
- URL and trademark should be available
There are different approaches to naming, as follows:
- Benefit Focus: Names should reiterate the key benefits of the product, starting with the functional attributes and moving to the emotional ones
- Personification: Names which associate the brand with a person, an animal, or an object
- Experience: The name should capture the essence of the relationship between the customer and the brand
- Nomenclature Structure: This approach to naming considers the role of prefix and suffix descriptors to help frame the new name and provide context
- Out-of-the-Box Association: When running out of ideas, this approach suggests picking a random object and creating an association with the brand to explore potential names (the more and the faster the better)
At Shikatani Lacroix Design (SLD), creating a differentiated name is part of our Think Blink methodology, which leverages the way a brand connects to consumers by driving desire during the at-purchase moment. This leads to the Blink Factor, which is the ability to create the right brand perception in the split-second when the consumer makes the purchase decision. This process is described in detail in Jean-Pierre Lacroix’s latest book, Desire by Design.
At SLD, the naming exercise starts by reviewing the competitive set and identifying patterns. We then categorize the competitor’s names into buckets or streams. Following the research and benchmarking stage, there is a name-generation session where attendants – preferably members from the brand’s targeted group – are invited to deconstruct the brand positioning and brand personality and to brainstorm names aligned with key areas of the brand. All ideas are welcomed, but participants are pushed to go beyond convention. In this brainstorm, success can be measured not only by the number of names and by the speed at which they were generated, but also by how fun was the session for its participants. On top of this, creating a safe and welcoming space is crucial to ensure that the creative juices flow.
A naming exercise can be very intense and last many hours, so hosting it in a location which prevents participants from distraction is very important. Also, providing the right resources, such as magazines and dictionaries is key to help people think outside of the box. The use of sticky notes can be very helpful as well to group ideas later in the process.
Lastly, after the ideation, respondents are asked to short-list names. The goal is to make sure that the chosen name is unique. Following that, URLs and trademarks searches are conducted and the top-options are ideally tested through consumer research.
Naming is a critical component in branding. If done right, it can really add value to the company and help the brand become memorable.