Naming - Your Strategic Weapon (Pt. 2)
In my last post, we touched on the advantages of a well-chosen name. Now comes the fun part where we look at how one might approach creating a new brand name.
As With All Things Good And Right In Marketing, It Begins With Strategy
Do you have a deep understanding of the value proposition and positioning for that which should be named? A good name should reinforce these strategies. Without a crystal-clear understanding of what the benefits are, or what the main point of differentiation is, a name won’t provide the necessary qualities to have strategic impact.
Whether you are creating a new name as an in-house exercise, or working with an agency, there are some fundamental questions that need to be answered before you begin.
Some Critical Considerations
Understand you brand architecture. Are you creating a company name, a family brand, a product brand? Is the new name is going to fit within an existing brand architecture? If so, what does that look like?
Names exist on a spectrum, from the merely descriptive to the completely new. The figure below shows a range of names for web conferencing products, from the more generic (Global Web Conference) to the fanciful (skype®).
Note that the more fanciful, the greater opportunity to own the name, both in terms of trademark as well as positioning in the minds of the customer. Where your product sits in your brand architecture is one way to determine where it might fall on this spectrum. For example, a sub-brand or brand extension, or a product or feature of little strategic importance, might fall more to the left-hand side.
Figure 1: Names exist on a spectrum.
After coming up with a list of candidates, you can further refine these by measuring them against a set of strategic questions:
Is the name extensible? Is there a future possibility there will be sub-brands or brand extensions to this name?
Is it able to be registered? Is it too generic, or does someone else own the mark? If you’re going to the trouble and expense to create a new brand, you want to be sure you can own it. An online search of the U.S. Patent Office is a good start, but you really should work with a specialist.
Where will your product be marketed – both now and in the future? There are many different levels of registration, from national to global.
Does it support the value proposition and positioning? For example, I would argue that the Carnival Cruise name does a pretty good job of creating/reinforcing the company’s desired positioning.
Does it have PR value? Can it generate interest by telling a new or relevant story? A favorite example of a name with great PR value was coined by Einstein himself to describe “spooky action at a distance,” which an editor or reader might be a lot more interested to learn about than “quantum entanglement”.
Know The Trade-Offs
I hope you’re getting the idea that there’s a lot more that goes into a name than a brainstorming session at happy hour. Creating a quality name takes patience, time and money. The more of these you’re willing to commit, the better the outcome is likely to be.
Figure 2: The more you put into name generation, the more benefits you see
The Hallmarks of an Effective Name
Names need to work across multiple dimensions. Below are some of the key criteria to look for when narrowing down a list of potential new brand names.
Be globally applicable. Everyone has heard the stories (some of them apocryphal) about names that didn’t work well in other cultures or languages. If you’re working with a naming agency, they should include a suitability check as part of their process. Lexicon® Branding has a fun app you can download for free to profanity check names in other languages.
Be easy to search for on the Internet, yet distinctive enough to stand out amongst a sea of online content. There’s a great company named “Help With” that’s a community marketplace which connects people wishing to learn or sharpen a skill with members that have the knowledge to help them. However, trying to conduct an Internet search for the company name leads to a labyrinth of incorrect and misleading results. “Help With” is just too common of a search term.
Work across a variety of media including print, digital, television, and radio. How a name sounds when spoken and looks in print are equally as important as the actual name itself. There are entire branches of science devoted to understanding these factors and how they impact perception.
Crafting a name has become a very sophisticated blend of art and science. I’ve only scratched the surface here of what goes into creating a name with strategic value. If you are contemplating creating a new name, I would highly recommend working with an agency with deep expertise in the discipline. I hope you’ve enjoyed learning something about this fascinating, and fun, exercise.