The naming phase of any new product launch or start-up initiative often starts as a fun, creative reprieve. It can be a welcome break from tactical meetings or crunching numbers and a time to flex verbal skills. The fun can quickly turn to angst and frustration after an unimaginable number of names produce no clear winners, trademark and URL conflicts pop up for every good contender, and deadlines loom closer.
Here’s what you need to know to expedite the path to a successful name:
1. It starts with a strategy.
If you have the mindset, “I’ll know the right name when I see it,” beware—you’re on the path to frustration. That’s just not how it works. The truth is, if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you’re probably not going to find it. A well thought-out branding strategy that takes into consideration long- and short-term objectives should guide the creative name development. The right name is one that aligns with your strategy and meets key objectives.
2. It is personal, but keep it objective.
People respond to names on an emotional level. Often, it’s difficult to gain consensus among co-workers because everyone is reacting to the names based on their own preferences and personal experiences. Remember, it’s not about finding a name that everyone “likes”— it’s about determining what name works. Again, the key to success is assessing names against strategic criteria. It will be more productive and easier to get everyone on board if they start thinking about the name in a more objective way.
3. Be true not trendy.
Branding is about creating a unique identity to introduce to the world. One of the best ways to ensure success is to develop a name that is authentic and projects the brand positioning. At first, the name should help to convey what is different or desirable about the new offering. Over time, it will come to represent the experiences your audience has with the brand. As a rule, the more unique the name or concept, the fewer trademark and URL conflicts there are.
4. Don’t default on important decisions.
Determining the optimal kind of name for a given launch is critical to success. Yet, this important consideration is often determined by default rather than serious deliberation. Arbitrary names (like Apple) may be tempting for their potential iconic stature, but can be far more costly to establish than other kinds of names. If you don’t have a significant marketing budget or the time needed for it to acquire meaning through audience engagement, customers may not “get it” or make a meaningful connection with the brand. Suggestive and descriptive names that more directly convey attributes or benefits may be better options. They can provide the momentum needed at launch and, if open-ended enough, can have the staying power to remain relevant over time.
5. If it’s broken, fix it.
The name is a critical component of your brand and if it isn’t connecting with consumers, it could be hampering or even crippling your business. It could be the message, the tone, or the kind of name that’s not working, or it may be that the other levels of communication aren’t supporting the name effectively. While rebranding is an investment, if you are committed to your business, it’s worth the effort to explore your options. Many companies invest in logo redesigns and costly marketing campaigns to shore up a lackluster moniker, but if the name or core messaging is underperforming, it may be time for a change. Yahoo can never be a Google.