What is naming strategy and when do I need it?

I have been quoted as saying “Naming is 90% strategy.” This is referring to the fact that getting the naming strategy right is critical to the success of Naming creative.

I have also been known to say that the hardest part of Naming is managing decision-making. Naming strategy is also critical to this component. Nowhere else are there so many emotions and opinions as in Naming – managing stakeholders to a great outcome is the hardest part of naming. Yes, even harder than trademark.

The best way to know if a naming strategy is needed is to test: Do I have enough information to write a tight brief for creative naming yet? Are my decision makers aligned and clear on what they need in a name and why?

All this begs the question, what do I need to know for a great naming strategy, before I can identify the right creative territories for name generation?

The needs for naming strategy depend on which kind of name you need:

Company Name/Primary Brand Name

In a naming strategy for these kinds of names, we need the following:

  • Confirmation that the name must be trademarkable (usually they should be).
  • What are competitive or alternative names (for context and to understand how/in what way we must break through, as well as to understand category language and heuristics that might be helpful to create easy recognition by customers of the new name)?
  • What is the customer profile, the desired benefits, pre-existing beliefs, and positive associations in the lives of customers about the brand/products?
  • Are there creative types of names or styles of names that we want to explore?
  • What are the most fruitful creative territories (these could be benefits, metaphors, unique capabilities, tonal qualities, etc.)?
  • Where will the name show up? How will it be used? What is the very practical context for the name?

- In product and in marketing

- As well as relative to partnerships, as a “prefix” on products, if they exist already, in aisle, and in solution sets (if applicable)

Portfolio Name

These are names that sit within an existing portfolio and are intended, in part or in full, to fortify equity or stretch perceptions/credibility of another Primary Brand or Company Brand.

For portfolio naming strategy, some areas are the same as for a Primary Brand Name:

  • Competitive names/messages/context
  • Customer information
  • Where and how the name will show up

After that, portfolio names typically need a lot more structural information before the brief can be completed:

  • What other products or offerings are similar within the portfolio and what associations, or considerations need to be made in the name?
  • Is there a Primary Brand Name that will sit in front of the Portfolio Name, and if so which one and why?
  • What is the role of this product or offering for the Primary Brand Name under which it sits?
  • What is the marketing budget for this offering relative to others in the portfolio?
  • The above factors also inform: Should this name be protected with a trademark, or should it be generic or descriptive to the category?
  • Do we need to prioritize way finding and easy understanding for the customer, or do we need to prioritize creating rich, flexible meaning for the brand?
  • Are there grounding terms we need to leverage for customer understanding?
  • Are there terms or ideas we should avoid for any reason – overuse, confusion, negative associations, etc.?

Once you know these answers, we can start to identify the right legal parameters and, more fun, the right creative territories for generating names.

If we do not have the answers, then time is needed to explore the strategies that need to get team alignment ahead of jumping into naming creative. Talking through the implications of different strategic choices and getting clarity on what it is we need the name to do, and in what contexts, is critical to ensuring a successful creative process – one where the right naming options can surface.

Ready to get your naming strategy in order? Contact Northbound for a consultation.

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