When it comes to coming up with a name for your product or brand, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. After all, a name can make or break your product: either elevating it to a household name or tossing it into the shadows of obscurity.
Shakespeare may have said that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet but he clearly didn’t work in marketing.
Some product names have become so well-known that we use them instead of generic words without even realising. Words like Tannoy, Jacuzzi, Chapstick, Kleenex are all the result of clever branding.
The name you give your product does more than just boost your brand recognition, it can tell customers about the product, affect your online presence, and generally make your product stand out.
Since this is such a hefty undertaking, you don’t want to go in blind, so we’ve compiled a guide to help you get started with your product naming strategy.
1. Research & plan your brand name
The first step to all good branding is market research. Before you can get stuck into the fun wordplay and creative stuff, you’ll need a solid idea of what you’re up against and who you’re marketing to.
Look at your competitors. The top dogs in your field are a good indication of what’s working at the moment. Analyse their brand names and the names they give their products. You can use this as inspiration to do something similar or you might see an opportunity to make your branding even more unique by going in a different direction.
For example, top razor brands like Gillette tend to label their razors with words that make it sound like a fighter jet: the Mach3, Fusion, and the ProGlide. Manscaped entered the scene and decided to be a little more tongue in cheek with their branding, naming their products “The Plow” and “The Lawnmower”.
The main goal of your name is, after all, to have an effect on your customers, so it helps to have an idea of who they are and what they respond to. If you already have an existing audience, you can gain valuable insight from them or you can look at the demographics of your competitors. Consider building some buyer personas to help you visualise your target market.
2. Consider the type of brand name you want
Start by having an idea of what you want from your brand name: how it will represent you and how it will make your audience feel. Then, think about the type of name that you want.
Product names can fall generally into a few different categories (with a bit of crossover).
- Descriptive: The name relates to the function of your product in some way, i.e. calling your protein bar “Nutri-slim”.
- Associative/Evocative: A little bit more abstract, this focuses on a more emotional reaction to your product. For example, Yves Saint Laurent’s “Opium” fragrance evokes a sense of sultry seductiveness with a hint of danger.
- Arbitrary/Random: Sometimes your name doesn’t have to relate to your product/industry at all. Sometimes it just sounds good and feels right. Take, for example, the online magazine “Bored Panda” which dubbed itself “the only magazine for pandas.” Unfortunately, pandas can’t read but the name stuck and it’s quirky so people like it.
- Brand New Word: Some of the most memorable product names are completely made up. Things like Spotify, iMac, Firefox, Kleenex, the list goes on….
You don’t have to pick one “genre” of name and stick to it at this stage. Naming your brand is a fluid process so you may find yourself doubling back a lot.
3. Brand naming exercises
Now it’s time to start putting words on the page. Brainstorming is a solid strategy here, and word vomit is your friend.
You don’t have to nail it on the first try. At this stage you just want to have words that will serve as the “raw material” for your final brand name. There’s nothing worse than a blank page, so just start playing around with it and refine it later.
You can make a list or a mind map, colour code it…do whatever works for you.
Here are a few exercises you can try to help you think outside the box:
- Word association: Think about your brand, what words come into your head? It can be anything: adjectives, memories, emotions, homophones… go crazy. Remember, it’s better to have too many words than too few.
- Explore the lexical field: You might have already covered this in word association but just in case, we’re going to remind you anyway. List words that relate to your products. For example with a pencil, you might use words like graphite, sketching, scribbling.
- Find Synonyms: Choose some words that stand out to you and use a thesaurus to find words with the same meaning.
- Try Alternate Spellings: Rules don’t apply here. Swap some Cs for Ks, throw a Z in the mix. Creative spellings make for memorable names. Just please, for the love of God, don’t end words with “izzle”.
- Prefixes Or Suffixes: Speaking of “izzle”, you can always slap a prefix or suffix on a word to spruce it up. Tons of big-name brands have used this, such as Spotify, Grammarly, Deliveroo, and Optimizely, to name a few.
The purpose of all this is to give you a lot to choose from. It’s easier to start big and then narrow down your choices.
4. Narrowing it down
Once you’ve experimented with different names, spellings, and combinations, you’ll probably have a few that you think are passable, maybe even one that you’re convinced is “the one.” Or you might hate them all and wish you’d never learned to read.
These options are all okay. Naming your brand is an important and emotional process. It’s not something to be rushed. Also, remember the final name isn’t necessarily going to come in a bolt of inspiration. You might not even like it that much at first. But what matters is whether or not it works for your customers.
When you’re narrowing down your options, try and ask some questions about your product name.
Brand name checklist:
- Is it evocative? Does it conjure an image or emotion?
- Is it appealing? Think about the way it looks and sounds.
- Is it memorable?
- Is it easy to spell and pronounce? This can be crucial if you’re marketing internationally.
- Will it endure? You ever seen someone get a tattoo of a meme? Yeah, it’s bad. Try not to be based on fads.
- Is it too complicated?
- Finally, is the name right for the brand? It might be a killer name in its own right but that doesn’t mean it’s right for your specific brand. Of course, you shouldn’t discard it altogether. If it’s top-shelf stuff it might come in handy later, so save it for a rainy day.
It’s Time To Get Naming
Naming your product is something of a Herculean task but a strategic approach will make the process easier. It will almost certainly get frustrating spending so long trying to produce one or two words but finding the right brand name will provide a tremendous advantage for your business.