10 Steps to Effective Business or Product Naming

10 Steps to Effective Business or Product Naming

Naming a business or product is one of the most important and strategic decisions ever made. No other marketing decision can have as great an impact on success, the level of marketing investment required, or is more expensive to change. In addition, naming is becoming more difficult with record trademark filings and domain registrations. Despite these issues, more often than not, name development is relegated to internal committees untrained in disciplined naming processes, subjective whims of executives, or assigned to advertising agencies without skills required for effective naming.

Following is an excerpt from the book that illustrates a 10-Step naming process: IDeas BIG employs a comprehensive 10-Step process to “optimize” name development. The steps include category understanding, customer analysis, competitive analysis, keyword generation, alternative positioning definitions, name generation, name scoring and ranking, trademark and domain screening and review, final evaluation and testing, and of course, name selection.

1. Research Category

The first step in any naming project is researching and understanding the category in which the business, product or service competes. Review all company or product information, industry publications, websites and research. Locate secondary or syndicated market research, and even primary research, if possible.

Even if you are a client that works in this category daily, step back and grind through this step to uncover new information or insights in a dynamic environment. The category read-in step will provide a great deal of input for the next two steps.

2. Identify Target Markets and Segment Customer

With category background, step two includes identification of customers, customer profiles or segments. This step is quite different for consumer versus business-to-business (B2B) markets. For consumer markets, identifying target audience demographics (age, gender, education, market area) and psychographics— personality, interests, attitudes, lifestyles—are important. For B2B markets, we often classify customers by industry or market segment, job title, purchase decision process, needs and benefits derived, or other attribute.

3. Competitor Analysis

Certainly the third step, identifying and analyzing competitors, is critical. Understanding relative competitive positioning allows you to define a market position that is unique and differentiated—not redundant and “me-too”. Mapping competitor names by name type is a great exercise. Again, you will find that most competitors tend to use literal name types. Some categories like pharmaceuticals and technology will have a concentration of synthesized names. Surprisingly, most internal name development projects neglect even basic competitive analysis.

4. Brainstorm

Fourth, brainstorm and generate as many keywords as possible that relate to your product, service, market, customer benefits, applications or uses. Review category, customer and competitor insights for more key word possibilities. Use a thesaurus to generate additional keywords.

5. Categorize Ideas

Next, group or consolidate these keywords into similar categories, ideally no more than five or six. Here’s where an experienced naming strategist can help. Based on insights from category research, customer and competitive analysis and keyword generation, step five entails identifying alternative positioning platforms using one or more keywords to describe each platform. Next, rank the viability of each platform.Criteria for ranking positioning platforms include importance to customers, unique/differentiated and defendable. Defendable means this position is more relevant to your product or company than a competitors’, or your product or company would be perceived as the most likely owner of this position.

6. Start Generating Names

Finally, we’re ready for the fun part, step six. With keywords grouped by positioning platforms, you can start generating names that relate to each platform. Use a thesaurus and a dictionary to identify synonyms, definitions and meanings. Attempt to generate names in each of the naming type categories —Literal, Synthesized, Metaphorical or Hybrids.Some positioning platforms will be easy to generate names, others not so easy. Try to generate 50-100 names, as internal screening, trademark screening and domain name screening will eliminate a high percentage (up to 90% in certain categories) of names. Step seven is the time to eliminate names from this long list.

7. Follow the IDeas BIG Proprietary Naming Process

To add objectivity to the process, for step seven IDeas BIG employs a proprietary technique that assigns scores to several criteria including distinctiveness, relevance, depth of meaning, trademark/domain availability, buzz potential, appearance, sound and others. The scores are then ranked highest to lowest, and the top ten or so are selected for the next step: trademark and/or domain name screening.

8. Trademark and Domain Name Screening

The eighth step, trademark and domain screening can be accomplished using the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) database (see the trademark chapter for more details). In some very competitive categories, trademark screening can eliminate up to 90% of generated names. Domain names are even less available but nevertheless, should be screened using the Internic Who Is database. If any potential trademark conflicts exist, engage trademark legal counsel to conduct a legal opinion.

9. Eliminate and Evaluate

Name development, step nine, involves a thorough evaluation and comparison of the final few names that are available after trademark or domain review. If possible, test the finalists with customers and stakeholders to support final name selection.

10: Select a Name

Step ten, final name selection, should be based on name scores, trademark and/or domain availability, customer and stakeholder testing or feedback, and your best judgment or strongest gut feeling.

So what can a business owner or brand manager do to ensure name development gets its due attention? A new book titled Branding Best Practices: A Guide to Effective Business and Product Naming details a complete naming process called Name Optimization™, along with supporting case studies and reference information. The 84-page paperback book ($29.94), downloadable version ($9.94) and free preview, is available at www.lulu.com, reference 2625656 or ISBN 978-0-6152-2146-1.

What do you think of the 10 steps of product naming above? What steps would you add? What experiences have you had in naming a product? Be sure to share this with others and comment below!

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