The best product and company names require the least advertising.
1. Know why you’re changing the name. Has your business or the market evolved so that your name no longer reflects what you do? Does the old name imply that you are out of touch with the times? Is the old name simply dull or meaningless or stale? Make sure your new name doesn’t retain the qualities you’re hoping to leave behind with the old name. Know what you want the new name to help you accomplish.
2. Do a competitive analysis. How are your competitors positioning themselves? Do their names and taglines reflect a similar approach to the market? How does (or can) your approach to the market differentiate you from the competition? Look for opportunities to stand out from the crowd and for a name that imparts what makes you different.
3. Your name represents your brand positioning. Make sure it’s the positioning you want. Your new name will anchor your brand in the minds of consumers. What do you want customers to think of when they think of you? Reliability? Cutting edge technology? Customer service that makes them feel warm and fuzzy? Maintain focus on your chosen positioning. If you try to mean everything to everybody, you won’t mean anything to anybody.
4. Identify your target market. Branding is all about making an emotional connection with customers. Some consumers are drawn to the low-price leader, while others are willing to pay extra for the highest quality. Some consumers are do-it-yourselfers, while others prefer a lot of hand-holding. Your name is the most succinct and ubiquitous communication you will make. Make sure you know with whom you’re trying to connect.
5. Be what your name says you are. Your name is a key component of your brand. If your name implies “fun and wacky” make sure your business style isn’t stodgy. If constancy and steadiness are your company’s most salient features, avoid names that evoke the bar scene from Star Wars.
6. Create a process for choosing a name. Don’t depend on chance or divine inspiration to bequeath you the perfect name. There are exercises to get your company’s creative juices flowing, and methods for focusing brainstorming sessions. If your process is effective, your problem will be having a plethora of great names to choose from, not too few.
7. Enlist the troops. When it’s time to brainstorm ideas for the new name, make use of all your resources. The people in your company have valuable, and varying perspectives on what is important to the customers with whom they interact. When choosing a name, you want to hear it all. That new intern from the local college just might come up with the name that makes your company unforgettable.
8. Establish your new name’s “must haves.” Different name qualities are important to different companies. For example, one company might require that their new name be:
a. Easy to say
b. Easy to spell
c. Short – only one or two syllables
d. Able to act as a verb (e.g. Xerox, FedEx, Google, etc.)
For another company, only one or two or none of the above may be important. Know which name qualities are important to you.
9. Be unique. Search your prospective name on Google. Make sure the domain name you want is available for your website, and that your new name doesn’t infringe on existing trademarks (check the USPTO Trademark Database). A name that is common – or even sounds common – is not going to provide the free marketing juice you’re looking for.
10. Think strong and deep. Make sure your name is robust enough to support the marketing investment you will make over time to build brand equity. An effective brand name will provide a deep well of marketing and advertising images. Make sure your name will support a tagline that breathes life into your company’s brand identity. If your name doesn’t inspire a clever tagline, it’s unlikely to inspire your customers.
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