Over the last 30 years, we’ve developed brand names that innovate and inspire for products ranging from cars to corporations. For the next two months, we’ll be releasing weekly posts dealing with branding myths we’ve frequently heard, in an effort to debunk and demystify much of the mystery that surrounds both the process and the strategies of branding.
Myth # 1: If the product we are naming is good, just about any name will work.
In 2011, oral hygiene giant Colgate released Optic White, a brand name Lexicon created for their new premium line of toothpastes. As a high quality product with the backing of a large and influential company, is it possible that Optic White could have been unsuccessful? In short, no. As a result, it’s easy for companies to underestimate the strategic value of the right name.
Colgate, however, wanted to communicate a better whitening experience in an industry where the promise of bright white teeth is a tired one. As a result, Optic White was developed to communicate newness and signal a meaningfully better offering. The fact is, a good brand name isn’t always the difference between success and failure. An undeniable product with a mediocre name can be successful. A great brand name though, regardless of the product, elevates the brand experience and optimizes success.
First off, let’s look at what makes Optic White a successful brand name. Simply put, it’s the combination of words; one an old friend of the toothpaste business and one an entirely new player. This combination of the familiar and the unexpected allows the name to be both relatable and memorable. Even the word ‘optic’ achieves this balance by itself, bringing a rich network of associations to an unrelated field. In the world of oral hygiene where aesthetics are king, ‘optic’ makes the experience visual. People whiten their teeth to show them off, and the name Optic White ensures consumers that they can do just that.
In the cluttered space that is the personal hygiene market, a high quality offering can easily get buried. In 2014, however, Optic White sold well enough to become the 4th highest selling toothpaste in America just three years after its launch. At 5th on the list is Crest’s 3D White, a similarly premium offering launched in 2010 – a year before Optic White – with a name that also plays on the word ‘white’. Unlike Optic White, 3D White is an uninspired name. It stimulates a visual experience – just the wrong one – and as a result, it feels gimmicky. The term ‘3D’ is most commonly associated with children’s movies, making it hard for the consumer to take it seriously; meanwhile, Optic White is sophisticated, creating a new brilliant color for your ideal smile. Beyond semantics, the word ‘Optic’ has a crispness that signals vividness and vibrancy, while 3D sounds heavy and flat-footed. When you compare the names, it’s no surprise that Optic White is outperforming 3D White.
Almost every company that comes to Lexicon comes with a high quality product or service that they are trying to brand. These people believe in their offerings, but they also see the value a good brand name can add to their product. To them, and to us, the quality of a brand name should reflect the quality of the offering. A brand name is a first impression, and like a smile, a good one can be the catalyst to a long and lasting relationship – between a product and consumer, that is.
Fact: A product with a good brand name has a huge advantage over one with a mediocre name.