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What The Heck Should We Call The Great New Product We Are About To Launch?

Are you getting close to launching your great new product but are struggling to come up with a name? Or maybe it’s early on in the development cycle and you haven’t given it much thought, after all what’s in a name? That’s just marketing fluff right?

Not really, just like good logo design and product packaging, a name can make a difference on how consumers react to it – perhaps a difference between selecting your product over the competitors product. But of course, it’s only one factor, and probably not the most important factor. But a factor never-the-less.

Let’s consider the case where a product simply isn’t needed by anyone, or flat out doesn’t work. No name, no matter how clever or catchy, can change the reality of a bad product.  A great name might draw a couple of initial bites – but the market will spit out a bad product sooner than later.

But how about the situation where we have a good to great product, and a really bad name? I’ll let you be the judge, checkout this list of “The 30+ Must See Really Bad Product Names” and you tell me.

Wow, there are some real doozies on that list. Perhaps some of these products ended up doing okay because they weren’t marketed in English speaking countries – or maybe they were so funny customers just had to buy it for a chuckle. Irreverent names can work but they are risky business – handle with care.

The simple fact of the matter, yes a bad name can definitely affect a product’s success, perhaps not outright kill it, but definitely wound it. More likely than coming up with a toxic name, product development teams will come up with nondescript names like the XL-472-ZY …. (or a part number!). Talk about no market charisma! We can certainly do better than that, can’t we?

So names do count. But how much effort and expense should a NPD team (yes marketing and branding is part of the NPD team) put into naming a new product?

Once again it depends. If you are planning to launch a global product with a projected market size of hundreds of thousands units or more, then a naming and branding strategy is a big deal and worth the investment and effort.

On the other hand, if your product is for a relatively small niche, and requires a lot personal touch and selling, the product name will be relatively a small factor in the overall success of your product venture. A name like XL475 might be fine for that situation. But that doesn’t mean you should gloss over the naming strategy. It still counts and makes an impact on how your customers will perceive your value.

A product’s name is part of its identity. It can help a product stand out from the rest of choices a consumer has. A good name starts with a good positioning and overall brand strategy. For example, if your positioning strategy is to be known as a tough and dependable product in its category, then you want a name that communicates toughness, not elegance. Think about “Ram Tough.”

The name you choose should complement the “story” behind your product, and not just be an attention getter. Check out how Dodge Ram name fits the story behind the product “This is guts, this is glory, this is Ram. Sorry but Miata would be bad choice for a rugged car image – but a better choice for a “sporty” car.

Okay there is definitely some art to naming – Miata worked fabulously for Mazda – what the heck does Miata mean anyway? Nothing!  But it sounds good and unique enough to be crafted into a great brand. Had Mazda called it “Land Cruiser,” it probably would have flopped.

I am not suggesting you get too hung up on the name because it’s only one piece of the user experience. But the more memorable and recognizable the name is, the easier it will be for you to differentiate the product from the rest.  And a good name really helps out the marketing effort. A name that matches the image like the Dodge Ram, or a fun name to play off, like Miata does work.

Here are some characteristics and objectives of a good name:

  1. Be in character and consistent with the product positioning strategy.

  2. Industrial strength, rugged, reliable, dependable, etc.

  3. Provide name recognition and product differentiation.  The name should be memorable and be different from other names in the competitive landscape.

  4. Ideally the name should be, short, easy to pronounce and easy to spell.

  5. A name should not have unintended or negative meanings, including in other languages/cultures. Do your homework!

  6. Provide emotional appeal and immediate product “meaning”. When people hear the name and see the logo, they get an emotional connection with the product reflecting what the product “means” to the customer and how it measures up to alternative solutions.

  7. Trademarkable – i.e. no legal restrictions in using the name.

  8. A name should be searchable. Ideally a URL is available but this might be hard to secure. If a URL isn’t available, you can still use the name but you will have to modify the URL. (e.g. add “the” or hyphenate, etc.).

A name is important. It won’t make a bad product good, but it can help a good product standout amongst the crowd in the market and allow it to become a huge success. Do your homework and pick a name that matches the story behind your product and brand.


PS: a couple more fun URL’s on names that worked and didn’t work

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