Why good naming matters

Why you should really care about naming

A name is often the very first way people hear about a company or product – a potential shareholder may read an article about the company, or a future star employee may see the name on LinkedIn, or a prospect may hear a friend talking about a new product, or a subscriber comes across a new feature name while using the product.

It’s the most important and longest lasting brand decision

Naming is where product and marketing collide, and what to call your company, product, or feature is probably the most singularly important and (nearly) irrevocable decision you can make. Naming begins the positioning process in the minds of your prospects (and every other stakeholder).

A name is the very tip of the spear for all knowledge about a brand, product, or feature. It sets the tone and scope of the object it is defining. In today’s noisy world, naming is even more critical. The advent of ubiquitous personal information technology—smartphones, social media, the cloud—saturates everyone in a cacophony of information in every medium. In this environment, names are uniquely potent tools, with their potential to convey a world of meaning in a fraction of a second. Names are the leading edge of how every new product, feature, and company enters the market or reinvigorates its presence. Hence, names are proliferating at a remarkable rate.

To find pearls, you have to dive deep

There are at least 40x more active trademarks in the world than there are words in the English language. The rate at which new trademarks are applied for is increasing by 15-20% per year, and is close to 10 million/year. Great names are not low-hanging fruit.

Great names straddle the line between wholly unique and yet so refreshingly familiar. But you can’t discover great names without knowing the context, choices, and tradeoffs at hand. So great naming relies on the right strategy and process to derive the answer to a series of questions:

  • Should this name be ownable or should this name be descriptive of a typical quality within the category? Consider the difference between Watson and Cognitive Services.
  • Should this name be specific to exactly what this thing does, or should this name be broad in scope, with lots of room to grow and shift? Consider the difference between Ask Jeeves and Google, or between Nest and Ring.
  • Should the tone of this name fit within the other names of the category, or should it evoke a tone and idea that is wholly unique in the category? Consider the differences between Tempur-Pedic, Beautyrest, and Casper.
Your first decision should be: What role does this name need to play?  

The right name can be a considerable brand asset, communicating essential information to key audiences: what does it do? How should I think of it? Is this product, service, or company friendly and approachable, or something I might aspire to? Good names can help us navigate how to use the thing being named. Think of Google, which is a coined version of the word googol, a one with a hundred zeroes after it. It’s approachable, easy to say, and implies there are a lot of search results waiting to be found. We explore the concept of roles names play in a portfolio in our Portfolio Naming whitepaper here.

Strong names are strategic assets, and a superior naming strategy is an essential competitive advantage. Consistently strong, strategic naming accelerates stakeholder understanding, assures timely creation of good names, and can make the difference between the success and failure of a product or service.

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