This is a report I wrote back in 2011 for a class I was taking in University of Michigan. Recently I have been looking for ideas and thoughts on the name of a project I am working on, and came across this report. I think it’s a good read for inspiration. I myself learned a lot from the last part “naming process”. So, enjoy
Title: Naming Your Company, Product or Service
Speaker: Scott Hauman, Lingo Definition + Design
Hosted by: Ann Arbor SPARK
Date and time: Oct. 11, 2011 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
As a featured member of Ann Arbor Spark’s Marketing Roundtable, Scott Hauman shared his insights on how to name a company, product or service so as to improve branding.
The talk began with recalling of memorable brand names, such as Viagra, Chobani, Fandango, Triscuit, Blackberry and Joust. Digging into the success of these names, Scott defined a win brand name as the integration of four elements.
The first is great quality and performance of the service or product. A name can never be remembered without winning people’s appraisal of the product behind it. Good quality is not only the basis but also the catalyst. The better the product is, the farther the name will be spread.
The second is a deep well of association which evokes people’s thoughts and emotions, rather than pure, dull definition of a word. A good brand name has the power to stay in people’s mind, making them think out of the box and encouraging their imagination. Fandango, as a good example, is originally a word for a traditional Spanish dance, while actually is a brand name for a service for people to find popular movies, showtimes, reviews, trailers, etc. Now the prefix “fan” means a lot to the service since it implies an audience of fans, which helps promote the spread of the service because people can easily connect the name to the service. A good name makes people think.
Good quality and inspiring meaning are not enough for a brand name to spread quickly. One more essential element isintriguing phonetics. Take it this way, a new brand name to a person is like a new word to a child. The ones with smooth syllables, proper stress, and interesting pronunciation stay long on people’s lips. Triscuit is a good example for this, and it’s even easier to remember since the pronunciation is similar to biscuit.
The last element is market differentiation. Looking at the diverse world, one can easily find a similar product as the one you are trying to name. In order to be stand out and be remembered, a name should differentiate itself with others. For example, before Amazon got its name, there were similar services whose names are books, ebook, onlinebooks, etc. They shared the sameness of being restricted to the functionality of the service. It could even be so confusing that the user could not remember well which one s/he was looking for. While Amazon didn’t buy it at all, and amazingly gathered attention and won over other services.
After decomposing a successful brand name, Scott carried on with his process of naming. The naming itself should be a distinct project.
In the project kickoff, only related people including naming professionals, decision makers, and product managers should get involved, and more importantly, continue being involved throughout the whole process to ensure opinions from all directions and meanwhile to reduce inconsensus. The next step is to hold a naming workshop where participants exercise their visioning and discuss product personalities. Then a competitive audit is necessary to set a proper positioning and ensure market differentiation by collecting similar services’ names. It’s still not time to start brainstorming. A rigid developing platform and criteria document must be created and agreed upon by all participants. It is smart to include a rule that no head shaking, frowning, or objection is allowed during the process of brainstorming.
Now it’s time for ideation and generation. Strictly following the criteria document, participants share candidate names, which might be come up with during the meeting, or during the naming workshop, or even before. Then all the names are crudely filtered and distilled. The next step is very important but often overlooked: trademark screening and linguistic check. Sad stories happen when getting a lawsuit from another company with the same name or when finding out terrible meaning of the word in other languages after the determining the perfect name through a copious process. After making sure the names are okay to use, they are scored using a weighting system involving all participants, which results to a final list. At this stage, an audience research can be carried out to see the responses and feedback. The final step is the brand extension that brings focus to the development of the final brand name. After the tedious process, a quick and dirty way to check whether the name is perfect for branding is to try to fill in the blanks in this sentence “Our brand is the only ___ that ___.”
Lastly, Scott warned several naming traps.
- Don’t fall in love with any specific one in the early process.
- Don’t have too many people involved.
- Don’t have the conversation again. Decide and be determined.
- Don’t shortcut or rush the process.
- Don’t ask for friends’ and spouse’s opinions. They are not objective.
- Don’t expect 100% consensus.
- Don’t pick it only because it’s the only URL left.
- Be objective.
- Don’t forget to defend the name in the marketplace. Check similar names and always try to protect brand reputation.
I agree a lot on Scott’s opinion that naming should be a distinct project itself. This reminds me of the software project management process where design, as if naming in Scott’s talk, is encouraged to be a separate part from coding and testing. The only difference is that, all aspects should be considered in the process of naming, while for the design process, only the design is relevant and never worry about the implementation and thus affect the determination of the best design and the best user experience. And truly, the warnings Scott gave can be applied to many cases where teamwork and decisions exist.