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The Art – and Science – of Naming

Written by: Phillip Nones

What’s in a name? Quite a bit, actually – all the way from discovery to deliverable.

In today’s over-communicated society, getting your message through to your customers is challenging enough.  Using a product name that’s confusing or meaningless makes it that much more difficult.

That’s why one of the important marketing decisions any company can make is what to name their products and services.

More often than not, a successful new name comes from a pretty rigorous process that’s as much a science as it is an art.

This doesn’t mean simply assigning a committee to come up with a product name and leaving it at that.  Or conducting an employee contest – a trap that may saddle you with a name that’s “the best of the worst.”  Instead, incorporate the following steps in your naming initiative:

Discovery

Gather as much information as you can about your target audiences and competing products in order to develop a clear picture of the marketplace and the environment.

Criteria

Using findings from the discovery phase, prepare a “naming roadmap” that will enable your team to evaluate all candidate names on a consistent set of factors.

Preliminary Name Candidates

Your initial brainstorming sessions should yield a “long list” of 25 to 50 name candidates (or maybe more).

Qualification Step

Evaluate each name against your set of established criteria, along with conducting informal legal research using the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office’s trade name database (TESS) to weed out obviously problematic ones.

Validation Screening

Name validation can include testing names via focus groups or in-depth customer interviews.  The screening step also encompasses search engines, foreign-language meanings and other due diligence designed to identify other issues or prior-use conflicts.

Formal Legal Research

It’s best to leave your high-priced legal counsel out of the picture until you’ve narrowed your name choices via the first five steps outlined above.  When you’re down to just a few finalists, now’s the time to submit them to a patent-and-trademark attorney (or your own legal department if your company has one).

Final Deliverable

The final step is presenting the name recommendations to senior company leadership.  It’s always good to present names in plain text typefaces – without artistic enhancements – to give an accurate representation of the name as it will appear in documents and correspondence.

One more point:  An effective strategy is to tie a new name to the marketing strategy.  Choosing a name that is “position descriptive” will help drive your marketing efforts, rather than hinder them.

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