Brand Strategy


September 18, 2012
Naming research is tricky. It’s not quite the same as traditional advertising or even packaging design research. If you’re looking for a winner, then you will undoubtedly be disappointed. However, if you appropriately set expectations and develop clear success criteria, you’ll have a great data point to consider when evaluating name candidates and choosing a name around which your team can rally.

Research is ever evolving, and it’s important to learn from those who have come before us – why reinvent the wheel? Here are five important things to consider before embarking on a naming project:

“There is a new distance between the brand and consumer, and regulations such as tamper-evident packaging are having a significant impact”

1. You Shouldn’t Expect Consumers to Pick the Winning Name

If you do, then, yes, you’ll end up with something that no one hates, but it will probably be the one that no one loves either. The most bold and evocative names typically end up at the bottom of a “favorites” list because they are uncomfortable and often atypical for the potential category.

Subconsciously, our minds try to make associations with existing knowledge when we learn something new. But if it’s a new brand or product, there should not be existing knowledge about your brand promise that consumers can associate with the name – that has to happen over time. Only the marketing team knows where it wants to steer consumer perceptions. The goal of naming research is to make sure that the name does not inadvertently mean something that could be detrimental to brand development.

2. Dont Ask Consumers What They Like or Don’t Like

Responses will be all over the map. Instead, share an idea or statement about your brand and have them assess whether the name fits the concept or idea you are trying to communicate. Consumers aren’t the visionaries for your brand – you are. So don’t let them turn name selection into a popularity contest.

Was Twitter the most popular name? The results were probably mixed, but it communicated the right idea – quick messages that float over the Web. Consumers in focus groups generally prefer names that skew heavily toward relevance and description, which can be forgettable and uninspiring, versus different, vibrant names. Getting insight that is helpful will rely heavily on asking the right questions.

3. In Addition to “Fit,” the Name Should be Memorable, Easy to Pronouce and Free of Harmful Associations.

If your name sounds similar to other brands in the category, consumers will probably be more comfortable with it and less likely to hate it. But you will have a hard time getting them to remember how you are different and why you are better, so ask them if the name immediately brings to mind something else that they are familiar with. Keep in mind, however, that you will always have some negative associations, and those need to be evaluated strategically. Some associations can actually be helpful, too.

4. Just the sound of a name, often referred to as sound symbolism, is thought by some to communicate the meaning of the brand as much as the literal meaning of the word itself.

This can be used to your advantage. For example, words with that start with an “O” like OMEGA or “A” like “America” can drive bigger, bolder perceptions due to the lower vowel sound, where as the “E” sound in “teeny” will drive smaller-sized perceptions.

Ask consumers what attributes the name communicates. You might find that there are even some positive ideas that are unintentionally communicated based on the pronunciation of the name.

5. Be Sure to Give Consumers Context For The Name—Mock Packaging, an ad or another piece of communication.

It is very rare, if ever, that a consumer will ever experience a brand name outside of context, and you will want research to reflect real life as much as possible in order to get the best insight.

What tips do you have when developing name brands or naming a new product? Share your tip in the comments section below, or share it with us on Twitter @Kaleidoscopers – we love hearing from you!