A rose called by any other name might smell as sweet, but it wouldn’t sell as well. Selecting the right name for your product is important and can have an enormous impact on your success. How can you stack the deck in your favor?
1. Avoid sound-alikes. If you’re going to start a courier or delivery service, you’d be wise to avoid names like WPS or YewPS. Why would you set yourself up for confusion with a well-known competitor? Create a unique name with as little possibility for mix-ups as you can manage. An additional benefit of selecting a unique name is that you’ll avoid any potential trade name infringements.
2. Leverage mnemonics. We’re visual creatures by nature, and if you can associate your name with a memorable image, then you’re headed in the right direction. Yellowtail, the Australian wine company, is a great example. Not only is the image of a kangaroo already associated with Australia in consumers’ minds, but each variety has a different color label as well, allowing consumers to easily identify their variety of choice.
3. Tell your story. My favorite example of a great story about a business name is Hedgehog Leatherworks. If you know anything at all about hedgehogs, you realize immediately that the creature in the company’s logo is not a hedgehog. In fact, it’s a wolverine. The website tells the tale: When the founder had the logo created, he spent his last dime on the design, only to discover that he couldn’t use his original name—Wolverine Leatherworks—for legal reasons. Since he’d already paid for the wolverine logo, he simply changed the lettering and tells the story. Now it’s a reminder of his modest beginnings and a chuckle for new customers.
4. Make it easy to spell. So many businesses are found online that it’s essential that new clients are able to find you, and remember how to find you again. Think about it—if Ms. Phillips decides to open a flower shop, people may never know to search under Phillips Phlorists. Don’t make it harder than it needs to be.
5. Make it easy to pronounce. Trust me on this one. My name is my brand, and it's certainly not the easiest brand to pronounce. Since I’m stuck with it, though, I’ve taken out the guesswork and even get a laugh from time to time because I include the pronunciation of my last name (it’s mi-KAL-o-wits, if you’re curious) everywhere. It's on my website, email signature—everywhere I can include the pronunciation, I do.
6. Embed a secret into your logo. Take a look at the Tostitos logo. The two people holding a chip over a bowl of dip is a clever way to incorporate the product’s function into its logo. Amazon’s logo, likewise, shows you that they can ship everything from A to Z.
7. Change the spelling. You won’t want to get too crazy here (see tip #4), but a fresh take on the spelling of a word can be useful. Consider Trix cereal or Liquid Plumr—these unconventionally spelled words have become memorable and unique identifiers of products. If you properly market a new twist on a spelling, you can get a boost from the novelty of your name.
8. Make your name a verb. Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a grammar lesson. If you can get consumers to use your product name as a verb, you’re set—that’s the cherry on top. Think about it: What do we call that VoIP video thingy? That’s right, Skype. Skype is a product, but it’s also a verb. You can “Skype” a client. The same is true for Google. It’s a search engine, but it’s also a verb. If you want an answer, you "Google" it. You may use a different search engine, but you sure know what a person means when they say they "Googled" something.
Though some products may be brilliantly named in a moment of inspiration, most good names are the result of careful thought, research and input from a team—even if it’s informal market research. Naming your product will likely be one of the most important decisions you make in your business, and it’s worth doing properly.
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