There is possibly no more exciting thing in your start-up business than to name your product. Your product (or service) is like a baby, it must be nurtured, encouraged to grow, and importantly, given a kick-ass, cool, whatever is the vernacular of the day, name.
It may seem like a little thing, but a product name can make or break a company. Words are important. As a writer, I understand this well. Words define the whispered caress from a lover’s hand and the roar of 10,000 people. Words can make you cry, laugh, become angered, feel empathy and compassion. They can be used to insult and compliment. The choice of the right words at the right time can change the world.
Enough of my ramblings…onwards and upwards as to why naming your product is a crucial business decision.
A few names that broke the company
Naming a product is part of your company brand and it isn’t easy to find the right name. If branding was easy, the London 2012 Olympics committee wouldn’t have agreed to the £400,000 paid for the Olympic logo. If you remember back to the London 2012 Olympics, the logo, costly as it was, had scorn rained down upon it. However, I remember that logo because of the publicity, negative or not.
Brand naming is an art and a science, and it can go horribly wrong as was the case for the following:
Yes really, a detergent called Barf
Barf means snow in Persian, apparently. However…
Literal naming does not always work out (but sometimes it does).
Sometimes a name seems perfect, but then events change the naming game…
And don’t forget acronyms
One of the universities in my hometown has an important tale to tell in choosing a name. The story goes like this… When the ‘old poly’ achieved university status, it had to be given a new name. The committee came up with this:
City University of Newcastle upon Tyne
One of the student members on the committee piped up, pointing out that the acronym may not be appropriate…
The old ‘Newcastle Poly’ is now Northumbria University.
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Some general rules of thumb when naming a product:
Whilst it may seem like a bit of fun to name a product, you should pay a lot of attention to the process. Your product will carry your company brand out into the wider world. It may come across naysayers, competitors who will try to attack it, and customers who can’t quite remember what it was called but they’d love to buy it. Your product name needs to be robust against all of the ups and downs of product life.
Our top tips to naming your product are not exhaustive but they are a good guide to making a start.
Hit at the core
What are you trying to say with your product? In other words, what is your core product message?
Generally, and there are always exceptions to every rule, your product name should reflect your core company message. For example, if you are selling healthy ready-made meals, avoid names that would imply they are unhealthy; for example, a healthy oat bar is probably not going to impress your focus audience if it is called ‘Fat Boy’.
Try to encapsulate what your company is about in your product name.
Can you make it your own?
One of my first companies had a product named ‘Cerberus’ (named after the three-headed dog of Greek mythology fame). It felt like the perfect name for an encryption product – the dog that guards the gates of hell (or data in the case of our product). Cerberus, unfortunately, was just too close to the name of a protocol used in Microsoft products known as ‘Kerberos’. Long story short, our company had to change it. But by the time it did, Cerberus had already been sold to many companies, ads had been taken out, a brand had been built. The true cost of changing the name I cannot say, but it was hard to recover from.
Whatever you name your product, make sure it is yours to keep. Check out your chosen name against trademarks and copyrights before you make it yours.
“Naming a business has to be one of the hardest things, right? Where do you find the inspiration, how do you protect it? My first business had the world’s worst name… the Business Fraud Prevention Partnership – catchy, right? Had I have nailed the name from the off, I wouldn’t have needed to do a complete rebrand – at both cost and confusion, after a few years. I’d definitely advise you to take your time – take some advice, before you jump in!”
– Eddie Whittingham, FounderRead more
Thinking ahead – portfolio naming
If you are likely to have more than one product and especially if those products are in any way related, you should factor this into your name choice.
Find names that group well together. For example, you might want to use related names, think of a family of related words, like gooseberry, raspberry, bilberry, and so on. Even made up words can have common themes or an associated letter scheme. This will help in the overall branding and creating memorable and associate specific meaningful words with your company and products.
Goose for the gander…insults and humour
The temptation to be clever or humorous in your product naming can be hard to resist.
I once named a product ‘privE’. It was a product that had a focus on data privacy, so it met the core message of the product. It was also a time when lots of tech products had the letter ‘e’ at the front, e.g., eCard. The double meaning of the word was a ‘privy’ i.e., the old slang word for outdoor toilet. I found it funny, but it was lost in translation by the U.S. audience that the product targeted. It ended as a big product name fail and a good lesson learned that humour is often personal.
Lost in translation
If you intend on making your product globally accessible you better watch your language. What seems an innocuous name in one language may well mean something quite different in another. For example, Kentucky Fried Chicken’s tagline “finger-lickin’ good“, in China translated to “eat your fingers off.” When you name your product, make sure it translates well in the languages of the countries you intend to market it in.
Side note: Ikea, the Swedish furniture store, has made a feature out of the ‘funny’ names it gives to its products and cleverly made this part of its branding.
From product name to brand
Naming your product or service is part of a much bigger exercise, ‘branding’ which makes your company unique and memorable. When building a brand, you want it to be as ‘sticky’ as possible. That is, people come back time and again. They hear your product name and know instantly what that product is and what it stands for. Good product names leave a lasting impression and they create their own buzz. The best product name might suddenly appear in your mind, but even so, you need to tie it down, make sure it is yours, and that your audience, wherever they live, can connect with it at a deep level.
Need a little guidance?
Naming your business is tough. Don’t worry, we’ve been there and done it. There’s often quite a lot to consider when it comes to naming your business that you don’t initially think about – whether that be coming up with inspiration, making sure you can get the right domains and social media handles, being able to protect it and so much more.
To help you make sure you’re picking the right name from the off, we’ve pulled together a super simple, step-by-step course to help you from start to finish.
Better yet, as with all of our content – it’s written by someone who’s actually sat where you are, struggled and succeeded.
So let us help you get going and you’ll have a great name for your business in no time.
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