What’s in a name?

Feb 23, 2021 | Strategy

We’ll admit it. The naming process — whether to rename an existing company, help a product hit the market or give a new business its big debut — is challenging. That’s because a name has to do a lot of heavy lifting in just a word or two. It must sum up the first impression you want someone to get about your offering, not to mention be easy to say, be unique enough to remember, be a reflection of who you are as a company and have market appeal for your audience. Phew. See what we mean?

But with 77% of consumers making a purchase based on a brand name alone (because that name represents quality in their minds), having the right name in place is just as important as having a strong brand. In fact, a great brand name will become synonymous with your offering in the minds of prospects. 50% of product launches fail to hit their business targets. The reason? One discussion with the Harvard Business Review found that companies postpone a lot of the critical marketing work needed for a successful launch — which includes name development.

So, how do you get there? While there’s not one “right” path to take, the B&Y team has done enough naming to know what works and what doesn’t. Our tried and true process goes a little something like this:

  1. Use what we know — We go back to your brand discovery (which we do to understand nearly all of our new clients) and take a look at what we found there as our starting point. Knowing and defining your unique differentiators, what you want to accomplish, who your target audience is and what they’re looking for in a product/offering allows us to find your special niche. Your name, after all, should give your audience a look at what you’re offering them with one glance (whether it’s in a more obvious or abstract way).
     
  2. Dig a little deeper — Here’s where we dive into the research phase of our naming process. To come up with a name for your product or company that ticks every box, we need to know what your marketspace looks like. What are the names of your competitors (even those you’ve never heard of)? What commonalities do we see among companies in your industry? Is there a reason for this commonality? Often, companies in the same industry stick to similar-type names. We have to decide whether it’s a good thing to follow the pack and not stick our noses out too far…or if a different approach will come across as fresh and, most importantly, memorable. It all depends on the audience, industry and what you ultimately want to accomplish.
     
  3. Get to ‘storming — Brainstorming is, for us, the fun part. It’s where a name starts to come to life and we can truly see the potential of how it could exist and thrive in the space. Each of our creatives have their own brainstorming process and unique ways of getting to the same outcome: a list of potential names. For us, it’s not enough to have a list of words. Every name must have a reason for being on there — whether it has a philosophical meaning, a playful attitude in line with the company’s values or explains the company in an unusual way. Because each client and each industry is different, we also have to think about what type of name would work well for each product/company. Should it be simple and descriptive, suggestive and creative, arbitrary or a word that we fabricate to help sell your idea in a unique way. Whatever the right direction, SHORT should be at the top of everyone’s list, as one study found that shorter names attract more shareholders and may equate to added market value.
     
  4. Head to the wall — During our “wall” meetings, everyone involved in a project literally hangs their work up on a giant magnetic wall so we can all see/critique/think through things as a team. This is the most important part of the process, because it’s where we really put our minds together — finding hidden meanings we hadn’t seen before, identifying subtle negative connotations that could throw a wrench in a name, seeing how someone else’s list of names triggers a new direction in our own. This creative process ensures we leave the wall with some naming options we feel give off the right attitude, will speak directly to our audience and will have legs for branding/rebranding efforts to follow.
     
  5. Put the “meat” on the bones — The next step is obviously presenting our name options to the client to get their feedback. But to do that, we like to make sure our client sees all of the thinking that went into these name ideas. That means providing a look inside our heads as to WHY we chose these particular names — explaining the meaning behind made up names, the symbolism of creative names and reasoning behind our descriptive name choices. This rationale ensures we haven’t just provided a list of random names, and have instead offered the critical thinking, strategy and research to help our clients succeed. Our goal is to ensure our vision is seen by the client so they can make the most informed decision about the right direction for them and their product or company.

When done correctly, product or company naming has the power to set your brand apart. It helps your audience know and recognize your brand, provides information about crucial benefits and differentiators, and offers the right platform to expand and develop your brand as a whole. At B&Y, our naming process combines the right mix of research, data and creative thinking to ensure the best possible outcome. It’s not a simple process, but creating a name isn’t a simple task. Coming up with a name that is memorable, meaningful and sets a client up for success makes it all worth it.

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