How To Name A Product – Rules Top Brand Agencies Follow
Your product naming strategy is how you build brand recognition, one product at a time - it's how you anchor yourself in customers' minds.
When it comes to creating names for your products – not just any name will do. Your product names define your service, your purpose, your promise, and your values. They evoke powerful emotions in your target market – not to mention prompting brand recognition, boosting brand awareness and ensuring brand alignment. Creating powerful names requires a solid naming strategy, which every company – no matter your size – should have.
That being said – choosing the right name – that is at once unique and descriptive, creative and informative – is no easy task. Whether you’re naming a new product or overhauling your portfolio, it can be difficult to put something so complex into one word or phrase.
Whether it is software, an app, or a physical product, the name of a product matters. First of all, it will help you communicate internally: naming your new product will ensure that your designers are working on the right thing.
Secondly – and most importantly – names are important to your target market – they explain what something is and how it can be used.
And the truth is, a strong name that resonates with your target audience and is catchy, usable and distinct – is more likely to stick. These names allow people to spread the word about your products and become organic brand ambassadors. Consider Microsoft Word and Google Docs – relatively simple yet very effective product names. So much so that they are universally recognised and have become a commodity in their own right.
By the end of this article, you’ll know how to name a product, what conventions you need to follow, and how to create a product naming strategy that maximises brand recognition – so that when it comes to naming your own products, you’ll have everything you need to create names that resonate with your audience, connect to your brand image, and drive ROI.
First things first: what is a product name?
The names of products are not to be confused with brand names. For instance, Apple (the brand) sells products like the iPhone, iPad, MacBook, AirPods, iPod and so on.
Simply put, these names describe what a product is – it’s the word used to discuss or reference a specific product, be it by its employees, customers or entrepreneurs. More than just a name, however, the names you choose to use say something about your brand. They communicate your values, boost brand buzz, and build confidence in your products and trust in your services.
Creating names that have staying power and stick in the minds of your customers is the key to long-term success. However, choosing the right kind of name for your product can be challenging. Fortunately for you, we’ve put together this ten-step guide – providing you with the tools needed to create fool-proof, successful names for your products.
How to name your product: ten steps to ensure a successful product name
The importance of naming cannot be overstated. It’s critical to make the right choice when naming items and products – these decisions have the potential to make or break your brand.
Knowing how to master your product naming strategy is one of the best ways to engage your audience, and before launching a new product, you need to research, plan, and brainstorm. In addition to fitting within your broader brand name umbrella, your product name should also tell your unique story to consumers. Moreover, it should be memorable, findable (especially on search engines), unique, understandable, and relevant.
The process of changing a company’s name might involve developing a new marketing plan, repackaging items, and so on. The process can be expensive – and stressful. But, most of the time, using a professional branding or naming agency will ensure you won’t experience any headaches during the process.
Whether you decide to build a naming strategy of your own or work with an external agency – there are a few best practices you should keep in mind. Here are our team’s ten essential tips, rules, conventions, and best practices for you to follow to ensure that the names of your products are unique, memorable – and ownable.
1. Ask yourself the right questions
Coming up with the right name for your product involves asking yourself the right questions – and it’s important to approach your product naming strategy from the right perspective. For example, your name should instantly remind customers of the most valuable features of your products. Ask yourself some basic questions, such as:
- How does this product differ from others on the market?
- What are the USPs of the product?
- Is this product compatible with other items in your portfolio?
- How will your product appeal to your target market?
- Take a long-term view. Would you consider this a stand-alone product, or could it be an integral part of a larger product line if it proves successful?
Gather as many people from your company as possible to brainstorm potential names at this stage. Product naming conventions involve both technical and creative aspects – and a room full of diverse ideas is more likely to generate great ideas.
2. Research, research, research.
Perform competitor analysis to identify the types of naming strategies used by other brands in your market. If your competitors have opted for a certain naming route, you may wish to follow their lead. Or, you may wish to distinguish yourself entirely and opt for a naming strategy that helps your company stand out.
Be aware of trademarks and what kinds of words and phrases you can’t use legally. Following your brainstorming session, make sure that your preferred domain names and social media accounts are still available. It’s always a good idea to search for the name of the new product you’re coming up with – it doesn’t take a lot of time, and it can save you from big headaches further down the road.
You should focus on your primary target audience when creating product name ideas – your efforts might be put to waste if you fail to connect with them. You can avoid this by investing in user research to understand customers’ perceptions and opinions. As a rule of thumb – always consider your audience and the kind of language they prefer.
In every stage of product development, including naming, user research should be conducted. It helps teams test and iterate ideas, assess them against user feedback, and make any needed adjustments. Using a product naming survey can provide deep insight into which names consumers prefer.
3. Consider the different types of names
There are many different types of names available when you start exploring how to name a product or brainstorming a new product name – each distinguished by what it offers customers and stakeholders.
It’s worth getting your categories straight early on, since certain product naming conventions work better with specific products.
When naming your products, it is often best to select those that will resonate best with your brand. It makes sense for a playful company to use a fanciful word, while a sophisticated technology company might use a more descriptive name. The following are some of the most common options of different naming approaches:
- Descriptive names: These names describe what the product does concisely and straightforwardly. You may want to opt for a more descriptive name if you want your product to be easily understood, or if the benefits aren’t obvious at first glance.
Descriptive name example: Hotels.com. This name tells you exactly what to expect from this brand – hotels. It’s informative, descriptive and doesn’t leave anything to the imagination – need we say more?
- Evocative names: By using metaphors and suggestions, evocative names evoke a brand’s experience and/or positioning. They’re creative, imaginative and versatile and are often used to create a brand identity that encompasses more than just your products or services.For businesses hoping to connect emotionally with their target audience, evocative brand names are a great choice. They’re meaningful and engaging, easy to remember, and great for growing with your business.
Evocative name example: Apple (whose name has its origins in Isaac Newton’s ‘apple’ epiphany) uses both its name and logo to evoke a powerful and all-encompassing brand identity. If you think of the word, the tech giant instantly comes to mind.
- Acronymic: For technological and mechanical products, acronyms or numbers are often used instead of words. You may want to consider this approach in particular if you regularly release updates to your older products.
Acronymic name example: UPS, which stands for United Parcel Service. Using an acronymic name means that this brand is easy to remember, easy to refer to, and unique.
- Invented names: A great thing about brand names is that you can always make up your own if you can’t find the perfect word. Invented names give a business the greatest creative freedom and are often unique, creative and memorable.
Invented name example: Google. This is invented name is ownable, memorable and distinct. The name Google actually comes from a mistake – the company originally named itself ‘Googol’ after its intention to provide a large number of search results, although the trademark application misspelt it as “Google”.
Down to its uniqueness, engagement, and modernity, the business decided to preserve the misspelling.
- Lexical names: A lexical name’s memorability is determined by its wordplay. This popular naming style includes puns, phrases, compound words, alliteration, onomatopoeia, intentional misspellings, and foreign words.
Lexical name example: Coca-Cola. This globally dominant brand’s name is fun, easy to remember and almost lyrical. Using this name as a springboard, Coca-Cola was able to forge a dynamic, energetic, playful and youthful brand personality.
- Geographical names: Brands can be inextricably linked to the regions they have their roots in. An association with a geographical location imbues a brand with the cultural and historical associations associated with that location, which can be sentimental and familial for consumers.
Geographical name example: British Airways. Few geographical brand names are as well known as British Airlines. It is one of the biggest airlines worldwide and in the UK. Millions of people from around the world visit Britain today thanks to it.
- Founder-based names: No matter what, brands will always be named after the people who founded them. Brands like Ben & Jerry’s, Martha Stewart, and Ralph Lauren have made founder-based names work since the earliest brands. Today they are a bit less common, but they can still work well.
Founder-based name example: Ben and Jerry’s. Imbued with a sense of humanity and simplicity, Ben and Jerry’s almost feels familial and have maintained a strong brand identity over the years thanks to the unique, friendly and simple nature of its name.
4. Weigh up the pros and cons of a descriptive name versus a creative name
Think about this question first before you start brainstorming names: are you looking for a descriptive name or a creative one?
Any naming process begins with these two categories. To start with, a descriptive name describes what the product does or is. If you consider Adobe’s product names – Adobe Stock allows you to store stock footage, Illustrator is for designers, and After Effects adds special effects after filming. Each product name is descriptive and effective – they make sense.
Take, for example, Acrobat and Dreamweaver, which have creative names that don’t immediately indicate their functions. Could you guess that Acrobat is a PDF program and Dreamweaver is a website design program? Most likely not.
Using descriptive names has some advantages, including making it easier to find and market products. Meanwhile, creative names can be beneficial if you are less concerned with the product type and operate in an industry where standout or emotional appeal is important.
Regardless of which category you opt for – great names are purposeful and tailored for their audience. So, whatever you do – don’t forget your audience.
5. Test the name, and collect feedback
Listen to what everyone in your company has to say about your name. How do they relate to the name? Is it in line with the brand identity?
The next step is to run the name by the people who are responsible for making it work. Talk to your sales team about how they envision the name being received by customers.
After that, your marketing and design teams will have their say. Does it work for SEA (search engine advertising) and SEO (search engine optimisation)?
What kind of logo design will the design team be able to come up with that name?
Are you seeing panic in your marketing team’s eyes or do they immediately think about great campaigns?
Your colleagues’ opinions are certainly valuable, but what matters most is what customers think about your name.
Do they understand what the product is?
In their minds, what does the name conjure up?
Can they remember it easily?
Do they have any emotions associated with the name?
6. Distinct, memorable and unique names work best
The key to success in any market is differentiation. It doesn’t matter how unique your product name is, if it’s too similar to other products, your keyword strategy will be a nightmare.
Give your titles a unique twist while finding something that your customers will understand and resonate with. You can add your own unique twist to your product naming process in many ways. For example:
- Don’t be afraid to use synonyms and alternative words.
- Make something new by combining two words.
- Make something unique by changing the spelling.
- Adding a suffix or prefix will add interest.
- Coming up with something previously unseen!
Whatever you do – be unforgettable. A memorable name is essential – to influence people’s choices, you must influence what they remember.
7. Keep it easy to pronounce, easy to spell and easily understood
Consumers are more likely to purchase products with names that are easy to understand. Keep the name simple, especially if it’s made up. Catchy names are often easy to say and spell – consumers are more likely to purchase products with names that are easy to understand.
If people keep misspelling the name of your product, you could end up paying a lot more to appear on Google’s first page when they search online for it – so be sure to try and get ahead of this potential problem.
Similarly, if you decide to use two words, make sure the combination is memorable enough that people won’t mix up the order and won’t swap one word for another.
8. Make sure it’s relevant and recognise the power of harnessing emotion
Your product names should be memorable, so pick a title you can use every day. Consider how we say ‘grab the Kleenex’ or ‘get the Hoover.’ Although these terms are names rather than titles, they have become synonymous with the product globally.
The name of your product should reflect what your product is, what you want people to feel when they use it, and/or what you want them to take away from it. It should be emotive and inspiring.
The best names will establish an emotional connection with the target market – Names that evoke emotions can also help your business grow, just as emotional marketing helps your customers feel more invested in your organisation.
9. Don’t overlook global or cultural implications
When operating globally, you should talk to some native speakers to ensure a name is safe, will not be misconstrued, and are appropriate for all countries.
The growth potential of your company is limitless, even if it starts off as just a small local brand. So, no matter your size, be sure to take the time to research your new product before you launch it. This will avoid you having to re-do work and will boost your credibility as a brand that does the research and takes the time to get it right.
10. Have a naming strategy for all of your products and establish cohesive brand/naming guidelines
There’s no other way of saying it – developing a product naming strategy is essential to your success. Not only will it make naming your products easier in the future and speed up your naming process, but you’ll also build a more cohesive and unified brand image, if you follow the same naming rules and framework.
Establishing a brand naming architecture system and style guide early on will help your company maintain consistency – from your company name to your individual product names. It’s important not to stray too far from the voice and style you’ve defined during the naming process. By using different names for the same product, you may confuse users. Your brand’s product names should establish consistency and prompt recall.
Stay consistent with the name you give to a product or feature – whether on social media, in articles, or anywhere else. By doing so, you ensure that you and your products remain memorable for users – and easy for them to recount, recall and re-use.
Need help naming your products?
Customer perceptions of value are influenced by your product name – great product names will increase brand awareness and generate excitement among your target audience. On the other hand, a bad one will do the same thing, but for all the wrong reasons.
Product names have power, and whether you’re an established or new brand, we’d love to help you create and implement a product naming strategy that secures your position as a business leader and enables you to flourish.
From brands to consultancies, campaigns to own-brand products, we create names for all. Get in touch if you’d like our help – we’d love to chat.