What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet;
William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
Choosing the name for a product, feature or company can seem rudimentary. We all begin giving names and inventing nick-names for objects, animals and people practically as soon as we can talk. And yet, the process of naming a project and choosing its brand identity for years to come is often complicated and unnerving. The need to pick just one word that will represent everything your work means is a difficult task. It is further complicated by the human tendency to associate names with a power far beyond that of a simple technicality. The success of popular products is often attributed to the catchy quality of their name. Therefore, if our chosen name will prove not as memorable as we hoped it may cause the failure of the whole endeavor. And that’s a responsibility no one wants to take upon himself.
Because so much is riding on the choice of names used by companies for advertising and marketing, many product owners turn for help to “namers”: professional copywriters who specialize in creating identities. Others make use of the growing number of name generators that can be easily found online. Each of these solutions has its merits and you should certainly employ them according to your available time and financial ability. There’s also a staggering amount on naming resources and advice written by branding experts, that anyone birthing a new project should familiarize himself with. But no matter how much assistance you seek, the final decision on how a product will be called should still lie with those who developed it and know it best.
If you are struggling with the choice of the name to print on your company letterhead or the domain you should purchase for your next start-up, here are the things you should always remember:
Naming should be a part of your strategy
Your product name should be part of your broader product strategy. Only when you determine the core values behind your venture and fully comprehend your differentiation from competitors can you sum up your essence in just one word. This may sound easy to industry outsiders, but in the real world, we all work with stressful deadlines that require us to skip the groundwork. In this case, though, don’t skip taking the in-depth look at what you really want your product to mean. Any time invested in creating a name that serves as a real connection between you and your users will be well spent.
Naming means homework
There are many famous stories about product naming calamities. From a Ghanian brand of beverages named Pee-Cola to a Delaware-based biotech company named Analtech (both apparently completely real). These stories always have you saying “how could this happen?” Don’t let it happen to you by taking the time to check that your potential names are not offensive in English or other languages. Consult others to get more opinions on whether it’s strange sounding or hard to spell. Utilize the many available tools to make sure that the name you want to go with doesn’t belong to a competitor and that you can take over relevant domains and social usernames.
Master namer Margaret Wolfson was quoted in a New York Times article saying that: “Coming up with a good name is hard. Coming up with a great name is even harder. Coming up with a name that passes trademark. . . There are roughly two million active trademarks in the United States, and 5,000 new applications are filed with the trademark office each week. At least half do not pass, often because they happen to be merely similar to another name. And trademarks don’t have to be cleared only in the United States. For companies and products overseas, they have to be cleared in each country.” The amount of necessary research may seem intimidating, but it’s much better than having to deal with rebranding for a product that’s already on the market. And that still may happen even when you do everything right, as it did for Art.sy – a company that had to be rebranded as Artsy.net after the civil war in Syria caused sanctions on domains ending with “sy”.
Stay true to yourself
There are a lot of trends in product naming. Spotify’s success led to a boom of companies ending with -ify, Apple spawned an endless gallery of fruit names and the i-phone had given rise to a passion for i-everything. And in a world where new apps are often described by comparison to existing tools that’s not very surprising. However, resisting the urge to pick something that already sounds familiar is the only way to find a name that’s really going to work for you. It’s also important to remember that tech products often change over time, branching into new markets and adding new features. Only when a name stems from your product’s true essence can it be future proof and lead you to success.