How To Name A Product: The New Rules For Effective Names

How To Name A Product: The New Rules For Effective Names

By David Placek, President and Founder, Lexicon Branding

Naming a new product is widely viewed as a creative exercise, but is it in today’s global and digital marketplace? In this article, David Placek, the founder and Creative Director of Lexicon Branding, tells us that getting the right name has never been more important and the naming process has never been more challenging. He lays out eight essential rules and conventions of product naming designed to optimize the selection of your next name. Lexicon Branding is an agency that specializes in brand and product naming. Since 1982, they have created some of the world’s most notable brand names.

Importance of Effective Product Names

Creating a product name that goes beyond a simple label and represents a strategic communication tool has never been more challenging. While the following product naming rules are simple, our clients find them very helpful as we work together to create a winning brand name strategy and a winning new brand name.

According to David, “Lexicon’s success is based on the company’s mission to help our clients grow. Having growth as our mission drives us towards strategy + creative thinking and away from just being clever or descriptive.” By always working in the world of new products and new companies, we have gained tremendous insight into what works to establish a new brand quickly and to gain share early.

The reality is that most models – most products and services – can be copied over time. The brand name is the one thing that can’t be copied. As a registered trademark, a name is protected. It is valuable intellectual property, just as much as a patent. This makes selecting unique product names more important than ever.

When You Are Naming A New Product, Don’t Describe. Create Space For Messaging To Flourish.

This product naming rule is fundamental to creating an effective name. Effective brand names always have three “space creating” qualities.

  • First, names are both distinctive and thought-provoking. They help the audience imagine that there is something new, something that behaves differently or delivers something better.
  • Second, effective names are memorable, largely because they are distinctive. Lexicon strives to develop unforgettable names because if you are forgettable, you will lose.
  • And third, the name must offer a degree of relevance. But this is tricky and sometimes misleading because when you read the word relevance, most people think about names that are descriptive or highly suggestive. While this is true in some cases, relevance can also be delivered in attitude or by association. Think Google. Think Apple. Think Sonos. These names are not descriptive, but they deliver relevant attitudes. And they allow all of us to think fast. Understand your target market and target customer, consider how your product naming strategy affects them, and deliver relevance in the right way.

Product Naming Best Practices: Make Being Unforgettable The Primary Objective.

If your new product name is forgettable, you will lose. Keep in mind, if you want to influence people’s choices (and you do) you must influence what they remember. You cannot persuade, you can’t be a persuader unless you are memorable. Memorable names make it easier for consumers to buy your product. How valuable is that?

Based on deep investments Lexicon has made in consumer research and linguistics, we know that to be unforgettable the name must be easy to process – easy to understand. Our brains don’t like complex ideas. We like to think fast.

What is the best approach to creating a memorable product name? The first step is to abandon the need for comfort, abandon the need to be logical.

The second step is to understand that there is science behind memory. All of us remember what we understand and what we can visualize. Mad Cow disease is memorable, but Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (the scientific expression for Mad Cow Disease) is not. Keep this in mind when considering how a name can help to ensure your company will have lasting brand recognition.

Help Your Audience To Think Differently.

Pentium is a perfect example of a brand name that delivers on this approach. Prior to Intel’s Pentium processors, most consumers did think much about processors. But within months after launch, consumers were walking into Best Buy and asking for a Pentium desktop! Unless you help your audience to think differently you won’t have a winning brand name.

Develop Some Attitude.

Gatorade is a perfect example of an effective product name that reflects this thinking and it shows in the product’s widespread brand recognition. It uses one of the earth’s oldest predators to bring an entirely new idea and attitude to the market. It makes us think about what is in that bottle. On the other hand, Powerade is based on a benefit, suggestive, and far more mundane. 30 years after launch, Gatorade is still the leader. If your goal is to create a brand name that is truly effective, don’t forget about creating a brand name with attitude.

If You Can, Invent Something New.

Zero to One is a phrase that describes the process of creating something radically new and taking it to the first step of growth. This is where Lexicon thrives. When Intel asked us to help the company create a name for their fifth-generation processor we coined a new solution, Pentium, and for the first time consumers started thinking seriously about processing power. Pentium generated massive growth for Intel and set the stage for the future of Intel’s product line.

Believability Is Way More Important Than Popularity.

Another very traditional view held by many branding consultants and naming agencies is that brand names need to be popular. Many namers, copywriters and researchers will tell you that your audience needs to “like the name”. They are wrong. Comfort has no power in brand naming. The far more important idea is that the audience believes that the new product offers something of value, something for them. In other words, the name actually creates anticipation. President Reagan said it best, “before someone will listen to you, they need to believe you”. To get attention, you must create a new brand name that is uncomfortable.

Use Color To Stimulate The Imagination.

Less logic, more attitude, and more color stimulate the imagination. Color is often overlooked by naming consultants and naming agencies. The idea that purchase decisions arise from conscious choice flies in the face of much research in behavioral psychology. Logic brings us all to conclusions, emotion brings us to action. Think about the overwhelming success of Red Bull versus struggling brands like Amp and Full Throttle. Both Amp and Throttle are safer names. Logical names, void of imagination. Attitude and color rule the day. Always consider color when creating a new brand name.

Make It Easy.

The challenge of launching a new brand is to make that initial purchase easy. To help do that, the name has to have processing power. To increase processing power, we use high-frequency words and word parts and combine them to create surprisingly familiar ideas. Here is an example: think about the associations with titanium, uranium, and sodium. For many, the associations would be natural, fundamental, and elemental. By borrowing the familiar ending “ium”, we created Intel’s Pentium® processor, a novel but familiar idea which rapidly became one of the world’s most recognized brands. Pentium is a good example of using the past to create the future. Making it easy is always one of Lexicon’s selection criteria.