How to name a product: Golden rules for next-level names

How to name a product: Golden rules for next-level names 

How to name a product

Naming something is tough.

Whether you’re choosing a title for an single new product or completely reinventing your entire product portfolio, it’s hard to define something so complex in a single word or phrase. Unfortunately, every great company needs at least a basic naming strategy. In this essential guide, we’ll explain precisely how to name a product.

When you give something a name, you anchor that item or service in the minds of your consumers and provide depth to the inner workings of your brand. Your product naming strategy is how you build brand recognition, one item or offering at a time.

The importance of figuring out how to name a product is why companies find it so difficult to change titles once they’ve established them. For instance, we’ve still got the Carphone Warehouse, even though consumers haven’t seen actual ‘car phones’ for years.

Naming a new product is one of the trickiest things you’ll need to do when you’re building your company, as it involves thinking about how you’re going to compete in your current market, how you’ll win the attention of your target customer, and how you’ll continue to identify your brand.

Fortunately, you just so happen to be reading an article from a team of product naming specialists.

By the time you’re finished here, you’ll know how to name a product, what kind of product naming conventions you need to follow, and how you can build your own product naming strategy for the future.

Let’s get started.

How to name a product

Product naming ideas: Why are they so important?


Not to be confused with brand names (which are a whole different issue), product names represent the services and goods your company sells. For instance, the business Chevrolet sells products like the Cruze, Colorado, Silverado, etc.…

A lot of entrepreneurs assume that the product naming process will be a simple last step in their brand building strategy. Unfortunately, product names carry a lot more weight than you realise. They need to have:


  • Brand potential: Your product naming strategy doesn’t exist in a silo. Your product titles should align with your brand image.


  • Market appeal: The more you know about your target audience, the better your product names will be. Remember to speak your customer’s language.


  • Visibility: Make sure your product is easy to find and search for online.


  • Uniqueness: You don’t want your offering to compete with dozens of other items. Make it stand out.


  • Scalability: Is your product going to go global or stay local? Is it part of a product line or a stand-alone item?


Ultimately, knowing how to master your product naming strategy gives you another way to captivate your audience. However, it’s not about selling the sizzle without the steak. Product naming best practices are good for you and your audience. They:


  • Help your customer choose the service/item that’s right for them: When you’re looking for a low-fat meal for your lunch, do you select the carb-free carbonara or the indulgent pasta? Names give people the information they need to make a more confident decision.


  • Build confidence in your brand: The right product names help to establish consistency in your brand identity and image. The more consistent you are, the more likely it is that your customers will feel as though they can trust you.


  • Build brand buzz: With a name, generic items become specific, which means that people can start to talk about them. Get your product naming conventions right, and your next launch will be on the tip of everyone’s tongue. Remember, you don’t buy tissues from the store, you buy Kleenex. You don’t purchase sticky notes; you buy Post-its.


How to name a product

How to come up with a product name: Product naming exercises


The biggest problem that brands face when it comes to figuring out how to name a product line is that they don’t have the right plan in place. Countless companies simply grab a piece of paper, start brainstorming and expect to have their product names by the end of the day.

If you want to find the right titles for the items you’re selling, then you need to get your product naming exercises right. Here are some tips to get you started.

1. Ask yourself the right questions


First, you need to make sure you’re approaching your product naming strategy from the right perspective. For instance, your names should automatically make customers think about the most valuable components of your product, and what they can get when they buy from you. Start by asking yourself some basic questions like:


  • What makes this product different from anything else on the market?


  • What’s the USP for the item?


  • How does this product connect with other items in your portfolio?


  • Who’s the target market and what will they be looking for in your product?


The more people you can bring together from your company to brainstorm at this stage, the better. Remember, while there is a technical side to product naming conventions, the process is largely creative. The more diverse ideas you can have in a single room, the more likely you are to come up with something great.

2. Consider the different kinds of product name


When you start exploring how to name a product, you’ll discover that there are many different types of name out there, each distinguished by what they offer to customers and shareholders. Certain product naming conventions work better with specific products, so it’s worth getting your categories straight early on. Some of the most common options available include:


  • Descriptive names: Descriptive names simply explain what the item does. If you want your product to be easy to understand, or you’re selling something that doesn’t reveal its benefits at a single glance, then you might need a more descriptive name. For instance, the ‘Nest Learning Thermostat’ is a name that tells you exactly what the product does.


  • Associative/suggestive names: Suggestive names suggest what the product might do, without telling you exactly what it is. These names are interesting because they show your creativity as a brand. For instance, Microsoft’s ‘Office’ doesn’t give you an office building, but it provides the tools you might need to run an office.


  • Deviant/arbitrary names: A deviant or arbitrary name is a real word that has an emotional connection to the product but doesn’t describe it in any way. For instance, the brand name ‘Apple’ is connected to the technology field by Isaac Newton and his ‘apple’ epiphany. However, there’s no direct link between an Apple and a Computer.


  • Neologistic/fanciful names: Finally, a ‘fanciful’ name is a unique, made-up word that’s designed to describe a product without drawing on existing language. For example, ‘Kleenex’ didn’t exist in the dictionary, but it’s something we can all associate with ‘cleaning’ things.


Choosing the right kind of name is tough. Usually, the best option is to select the product naming ideas that are most likely to resonate with your brand. For instance, it would make sense for a playful company to use a fanciful word, whereas a sophisticated technology company might use a more descriptive set of product names. Additionally, if your brand doesn’t already have a strong presence, then you may need to stay away from made-up names so that it’s easier for people to search for your products online.

3. Research the marketplace


Remember, any good branding strategy relies on research. The more homework you do, the more information you’ll have to both inspire, and educate your decisions. Block out some time in your schedule to:


  • Conduct a competitor analysis to see what kind of product naming strategies other brands in your area are using. If everyone else has chosen a creative, fanciful name, then you might want to learn from them and follow the same strategy. Alternatively, you might decide that you want to go a different route to help your company stand out.


  • Think about your audience and the kind of language that works best with them. This is something that you may have started to consider when you chose your brand name, or when you started looking into marketing techniques.


  • Check for trademarks and make sure you know what kinds of words and phrases you can’t use for legal reasons. You’ll need to double-check the availability of the names that you choose after your brainstorming session. However, some prior research may prevent you from wasting valuable time.


How to name a product

Product naming conventions, best practices, and rules


Naming is an emotional thing.

When you’re naming an item or product that has the potential to make or break your brand, you can’t afford to make the wrong choice. After all, changing a name might mean coming up with a new marketing plan, re-packaging items and more. It’s an expensive process, and it leads to an increased likelihood that your customers will end up feeling confused about your product and what it has to offer.

For the most part, the best way to make sure that you’re not going to have a headache with your product naming process is to use a professional service. However, there are also a few best practices you can keep in mind. For instance:

Product naming best practices 1: Make it memorable


When you’re figuring out how to name a product, you need to choose something that’s going to make sense to your customers, and something that they’re going to remember when they visit the store or go online. A product like ‘Doritos Jacked’ is easy to remember because it plays on the idea of jacket potatoes, which are associated with potato crisps, and ‘Jacked’ as a phrase to describe something strong.

How to name a product

While you’re working on making your product names memorable, make sure they’re:


  • Easy to spell: Remember that your customers have to be able to type the name of your product into a search engine. A slightly obscure spelling is okay, as the search engines will still pick up on words ‘close’ to your chosen name. Just don’t get too ridiculous.


  • Easy to say: A word that’s easy to say is also easier to remember. Try to remember the name of the last prescription pill you got from your doctor. It’s probably so complicated that you can’t get anywhere close to the real title. However, a product name like ‘Big Mac’ is instantly memorable.


Product naming best practices 2: Give it meaning


Names need to have meaning, or they lose their spark. You don’t want your customer to hear the name of your new product and wonder “Why did they choose that?” You can be as playful with the meaning as you like, as long as it’s something that your customer can understand.

For instance, the Chase Liquid card has a fantastic name. The word ‘liquid’ may have nothing to do with money or credit cards, but it automatically conveys ideas of free-flowing freedom and simplicity – which is exactly what you want from a payment option. By choosing the word ‘liquid’ to describe its new service, Chase ensured that everyone who saw the card would understand just how easy it is to use.

How to name a product

Product naming best practices 3: Make it stand out


Perfecting the product naming process is difficult. You need to find something that your customers can understand, while also giving your titles a unique twist. Differentiation is crucial in any market. Combine that with the fact that if you choose product names that are too similar, your keyword strategy will be a nightmare, and you can see how important it is to be unique.

For instance, the Microsoft Surface took a step away from the concept of creating a ‘tablet’ or ‘laptop’ without straying too far from a descriptive name. There are plenty of ways that you can bring your unique twist to your product naming process. For instance:


  • Play with synonyms and use alternatives to common words.


  • Combine two words to make something new.


  • Change the spelling of something to make it unique.


  • Add a suffix or prefix to provide additional interest.


How to name a product

Tips for improving your product naming strategy


The thing that makes the product naming process so complex and creative at the same time is the fact that there are no rules necessarily set in stone. For some companies, the best name will be one that explicitly describes what their product does. For others, the answer to “how to come up with a product name” will simply be “start making up words.”

The key is to look at product naming not as just another item on your to-do list, but as an essential part of your brand-building strategy. Here are some quick finishing tips you can take with you into your product naming exercises:

1. Don’t expect to instantly fall in love


The ideal product name is likely to be something very unexpected. Some of the shareholders on your team might hate the name you choose, while others love it. The only thing you need to be sure of is that it’s going to have the right impact on your audience.

If the majority of your team has narrowed your selection down to a handful of product names that you’re not entirely sure of, give them time to grow on you. Remember that as your name evolves, it will start to acquire additional associations that give it more depth and meaning. For instance, Google started as a typo. Now, the word stands for the playful and innovative culture that sets Google apart from its competitors.

2. Choose something that people can use


The biggest dream for any product name is to become a part of the everyday lexicon for a particular community. Think about how we say that we’ll “grab a Kleenex” or “get the Hoover.” These terms are the names of products, rather than the titles of the items themselves, but they’ve carved their way into our communities.

If you want your product names to be this iconic, then you need to choose a title someone can use every day. While calling your brand cookie ‘Chocalicious Fudgery Dynamos’ might sound exciting at first, it doesn’t exactly fit well in a sentence. On the other hand, a single word like a ‘Yumzor’ cookie is a lot easier to remember and use. Shorter names are likely to fit better with your marketing plan too!

How to name a product

3. Make sure your product names translate


Your product names need to accurately reflect your business so that they can build recognition for your brand. However, it’s important to make sure that the words you choose work well in every country. Even if you’re just building a small local brand, to begin with, you never know how far your company could grow. For instance, when Chevrolet launched their Chevy Nova car in Spain, they failed to realise that the word Nova translated to ‘does not go’.

Save yourself some embarrassments and the headache of a rebrand, and make sure that you do your research before you roll out your new product. You’ll thank yourself for the extra few hours of work in the long-run.

4. Expect the story to evolve


Finally, remember not to get too attached to the product names you choose. A product naming strategy is often something that evolves naturally over time as you begin to learn more about your user personas, and the company you’re trying to create.

As your business, product lines, and consumers continue to expand and evolve, expect the story of your product names to change with them. You may even discover a few years from now that you could reach a new market or connect with customers differently by changing the name of your product slightly or choosing a different spelling. While you don’t want to change your product names every few months, you also need to stay flexible if you don’t want to fall behind the times.

How to name a product

Give your products the names they deserve


At the end of the day, names are a lot more important than most of us realise.

Countless company owners spend months finding a name for their brand, then assume they can sit back and relax. They don’t realise that they also need to name their products and services too.

The good news is that if you follow the right product naming conventions, you should end up with a set of titles that allow people to talk about your products freely and generate natural interest for your company. Over time, your product names could even take on a life of their own, becoming verbs like ‘Google’.

It’s also worth noting that once you start learning how to name a product, the process of coming up with additional names in the future becomes more natural too. Your first batch of product naming ideas might take weeks or months to perfect. However, as you get to know your brand and its personality, you’ll find that titles begin to come to you more naturally, like extensions of your company’s identity.

Don’t just write the product naming process off as another bit of hard work. Give it the time and energy it deserves, and the rewards will speak for themselves.

If you enjoyed this article, you might enjoy these too:

— What’s in name? How to come up with a brand name

—Take note of audio branding for marketing success

— The name game: Rules for naming a business

— Stretching success: Creating a brand extension strategy

About the author...

Stewart Hodgson

Marketing Director. Brand master. Audiophile. Stewart lives and breathes design. (Even his toaster is a Porsche.) Has spent the last 20 years getting businesses like The BBC, Johnson & Johnson and AXA excited about what good design can do for them. Makes sure Fabrik delivers it – and then some… Always tuned in to clients’ needs. Always plugged it to iTunes. Has OCV (obsessive collection of vinyl).

More by Stewart Hodgson...

    One Comment

  1. The holy grail for brand naming is definitely when your brand hits the point where people refer to anything related to your product as your brand name or you manage to become a verb. ‘Pass me a Kleenex’ ‘Just Google it’. Once you get to this point you know you’ve hit the big leagues.

    Obviously, it’s pretty unlikely that many brands get to that level but it’s always good to have something to strive towards and you never know maybe one day you’ll be up there with the Post-it note!

    • By Mel Sais |
    • 28 October 2018
    • Reply

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