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What's in a Name?


Google. Apple. Nike. Uber. Amazon. Coca-Cola. Lexus.

What's in a name? When it comes to marketing ... a lot!

There are monolithic (and handsomely compensated) brand agencies that spend hours and days and weeks and months coming up with names for high-profile companies. But, for most of us, generating names for a product or a promotion is just one of many tasks associated with promoting, marketing, and selling.

If you're a $218 billion dollar brand (Apple), by all means, invest in the experts.

If you're working on something that isn't quite so high profile, here are some tips that can help you generate names:

First of all, articulate a creative strategy for the name. In this way, a name is like any other marketing asset you might develop. Think through the questions and answers that will make your name as effective as possible. Who is your target audience? What other products are on the market? What are the product's features — and, more importantly — what are its benefits? Are there other products or solutions that this product name should relate to? Should the name reflect your company or corporate name? Is there a brand personality you'd like to convey?

Now, you're ready to start brainstorming.

It helps to have a list of linguistic building blocks to work with. Based on your answers to the strategic questions above, write down descriptive words. Don't edit yourself. Just come up with as many as you can. Include common words from the industry or category you're working in. Think about making connections to other unrelated categories, like mythology (Ford Taurus), music (Allegra), or nature (BlackBerry).

Now, try slicing and dicing. Are there word combinations (or truncations) that might fit the product you're naming? Do any of the now modified words spark some other thoughts?

You can also come up with nonsense words (there are tons of these in high tech). Or think of historic figures who embody the attributes you want to associate with your product (Baby Einstein).

Once you have a long list of potential names, do a quick Google search and make sure that they aren't already being used. Then, you can start critiquing them:

  1. Is the name unique?
  2. Is it descriptive enough?
  3. Does the name feel like your corporate brand?
  4. Does the name feel right for your target audience?
  5. Is it easy to spell?
  6. Is it easy to pronounce?
  7. Is it memorable?
  8. Does it strike a balance between familiarity and newness?
  9. Is it going to work globally?
  10. Can it be used as a URL?

If you're really in a bind, there are several free name generator websites. But, remember that these are automated; they work with synonym algorithms. Sometimes a human touch can make all the difference.

Just ask Ben & Jerry's.


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