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Naming the Baby: Product Naming 101

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If you ask business
experts what is the most fundamental ingredient in a successful product launch,
you may hear three things: distribution, quality, or pricing. All three are merely
givens in this era'mandatory.
But what really
makes a difference?
The real
competitive advantage
for a new product is its name.  Likewise, a bad name can sink a good product
like a stone thrown into a lake.
A strong name that
conveys the emotional essence of a product's value can improve sales, create a
brand that grows in long-term value, and quickens first-time purchases. A bad
name can kill a product during the launch phase. In fact, a good name acts as a
calling card in the world, instead of a source of shame, confusion, or indifference.
Yet, product names
are sometimes created for wrong reasons or are off target for the intended
Let's examine a loser
before we look at a simple framework. Ask Audi about their TT. You could just
as likely ask any kindergartener about their TT and get the same response.
self-respecting man wants to drive a TT?
Absurd! Idioms
matter. Be careful for the traps of translation, too.
When Colgate introduced a toothpaste in
France called Cue, it may have proven
comical with readers of the porn magazine of the same name, but no-one else.
Think of successful
naming as including both sound and sense. The sonic values have to work, as
does the sense making given the dynamics of culture, nationalities, and the
competitive landscape.
There are many
factors to consider: positioning, market trends and drivers, translation
issues, URL availability, more.
Product naming
should be done justice in either a long essay or book on the subject; however,
here is a short take.
First off, know
your enemy. Look at the competitive landscape and make sure you are not naming
a me-too product. Aim to be wholly your own. The key is to be different,
unique, and helpful.
Secondly, the best
names are literal and poetic at the same time, like Office or Raid. Tapping
both the descriptive and figurative sides of the brain with one name makes it
resound and resonate with denotative and connotative value.
Third, short is
best. TT may be the exception to this rule; it's bad for other reasons.
Fourth, don't suffer
feature mania. A simple, non-technical name that conveys the end promise or
benefit is always more effective than a name that describes a feature.
Fifth, use a name
that evokes some emotional resonance in the audience and rewards their use of
the product.
Mostly, avoid
really bad mistakes like Poolife, which reads more like Poo Life than Pool
Life. Use good judgment and be smart.
Michael Graber is the
managing partner of the Southern Growth Studio, an innovation and strategic
growth firm based in Memphis, TN. Visit
www.southerngrowthstudio.com to learn more.

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