What’s in a name? For new ventures and products, a lot

Chris Reddin
Chris Reddin

Naming a product, and especially a new business, is really hard.  There’s a lot of pressure to pick a great name. The name should be catchy and memorable, sophisticated and appealing and something customers will love. 

The sad truth is this task is so daunting that all too often entrepreneurs give up the struggle and slap a name on it just to be done.  They’re lured into picking a name that’s comfortable, familiar and not too bad so they can move to the next step. Before you go that route, pause to remember that picking a business name is not about falling in love with the beauty of your selection. It is about creating a brand.  A name should constitute a good fit with a future fully-developed brand strategy, and that’s a much less emotional choice than it is a rational, thoughtful and logical one.

To help get you in that “rational process” frame of mind, here are six of the key factors I consider when determining business-related names:

Pick a name your customers will like. It doesn’t matter if you, your mother or your spouse love the name. It only matters whether customers will respond positively. So even if you have dreamed for years of naming a product after your great-aunt, take a moment to make sure the market will love the name as much as you do.

I know it sounds obvious, but this point it not always considered. The best names are ones you test out with your customers. Take some of the stress load off your shoulders and let your customers pick the favorite.

Letting customers provide input on a name is easier than ever. Of course, you can use the traditional route of calling your top customers and asking them or pulling together a small focus group. You also can test names by posting new product information on your website, changing up the naming ever week or so and seeing what names generate the most traffic. You can run similar tests with Google or Facebook ads. Technology gives you all sorts of ways to track consumer response, so use these tools to pick a strong name.

Yes, having a memorable name is important. But it’s even more important to select a name that’s clear, simple and to the point. I think we try so hard to be different and unique we sometimes go too far. A name needs to be memorable, but not memorable because it doesn’t make any sense. Make sure the name is still relevant to the product. A customer’s first reaction shouldn’t be: what?

A name should be something that sounds good when spoken outloud. Remember that people need to say the name on the radio or in a video or conversation. Think about how your customers might talk about your product: “We need to order more XYZ.” “Let’s get a XYZ.” “I need to talk to the folks at XYZ.” These common phrases are especially hard to complete comfortably if a name is long or complicated.

A name must stand the test of time. Don’t get too trendy. Twitter and texting have left us with an aptitude for dropping vowels and adding numbers. Although very popular over the past three to five years, I have great hope traditional grammar eventually will return. Skip trends and say what your really mean. Potential customers for your new venture Skis4U should be able to easily look up the name without asking whether a “4” is a “for.”

Check to see what comes up under a Google search. Sure, you should start the naming process by making sure you can register the trade name with the State of Colorado (www.sos.state.co.us) and trademark the name with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (www.uspto.gov). But an equally important consideration is what’s already out there on the Internet under that name. Is it slang for anything? Is it a common term in another language? Is there an appealing web address available? 

If you really want to get advanced, try to come up with a name that lends itself to the creation of your own “language.”

When I tell my kids to put on their coats, the run to grab their Lokis. They don’t call them their jackets. They call them their Lokis. (Listen to the way kids talk about jackets up at Powderhorn. If they have a Loki, they call it a Loki). They’ve had other brands of jackets in the past they were referred to as jackets. But Loki is much more fun to say. So the brand has great traction and is easily worked into our everyday language.

Picking a name can be hard. But breaking it down into a qualitative analysis rather than a subjective process will end in optimal results.