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Brand Strategy: How to Name a Product

Name your product or business with strategy.

Finding the perfect name for a product or brand can be an agonizing process. When we were rebranding Alleradd to OptiMind, it took more than a month of debating, searching, lawyering, surveying, and second-guessing ourselves before we had a quality name picked out. I learned a lot during that experience and developed branding strategy that I guarantee will save you stress. Let’s just jump right in.

How to Market a Product? Start with the Why.

A brand's promise represents the company's culture.

What does your brand promise? You need to know this to strategize effectively.

Branding and marketing are distinct, but they go hand-in-hand. Your brand name should capture the promise that your company is making to the customer. That’s how you will market to most consumers. Find out exactly why your business exists and use that as the centralized theme behind creating a brand name. Follow this simple process to identify your brand’s promise.

Recruit Creativity

Naming a product starts with brainstorming.

Creativity is essential in choosing the best name. Luckily, you can pay for it.

You’ll need your brand’s ‘promise’ for the next step. But now, it’s time to get a list of names together. Compile a list of 10-100 names. Don’t worry if you’re creatively stumped because you don’t need to have a brainstorming session to get the list together. Websites like Naming Force and crowdSPRING give you the ability to put up a “bounty” for commission to the person who submitted the best name. Essentially, you can buy creativity.

Name a brand or product with Naming Force.

Naming Force is a fantastic resource for generating names for a new product or company.

Does the product name represent the brand's promise?

Does the name represent the promise of the brand?

Now that you have a list, use the following process to refine your options. Once you have a refined list, we can start asking if any can be trademarked and what the competition is like for search engine results.

Check Google Adwords, Moz, and Namechk before choosing a product name.

Before you invest too much in a name, research the market to project future business.

Can You Obtain a Trademark?

Launching into the trademark begins with visiting the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). On the right hand side is a quick links drop-down; click on “search trademark database,” and then click “Basic Word Mark Search.”

I know what you’re thinking. It’s too soon. This might seem a bit unnecessary, but trust me: you want to do your due diligence on this.

Now, you would think finding a name you can trademark would be easy. Just type in the name you’ve chosen, and if it hasn’t been trademarked, then you’re good to go. Well you thought wrong.

If you’re a startup, the quickest way to bankruptcy is to choose a name that leaves you even slightly prone to a suit. If there’s an opportunity, then someone will sue, especially if you become successful.

It’s like the “if you build it, they will come” adage from Field of Dreams, but with lawyers and bankruptcy. Searching the name in Google and reviewing the first five pages of search results will help to reveal non-trademarked names, dead trademarks, or similar names. All of these are potential liabilities!

Even if the name isn’t trademarked, the individual or organization using the name may still have a claim to the trademark. A really, really good trademark attorney is crucial in the investigation. If you’re even thinking about cutting it close by using a name similar to one that’s already trademarked, research how litigious the trademark holder is in its trademark defense.

For example, we almost chose the name “Achieve,” but when we investigated similar names, our attorney pointed out “Aleve.” Bayer, the trademark holder for “Aleve” is extremely litigious so we dropped the idea.

I cannot emphasize it enough: do your homework!

Your product name is the last one left after this process.

These are the final branding strategy process to name a product.

Branding a Name

A name of a company or a product carries a lot of weight in terms of your success. There are pros and cons to different types of names with each influencing the branding associated. Here’s a chart on how to brand strategically between a standard word like Dove, a misspelled word like Lyft, or a totally made up word like Facebook.

Types of Brand Names

 

Pros Cons
Standard Words
  • Instant recognition of word
  • Quicker connection to product
  • High chance of trademark infringement
  • Low chance of good legal defense
  • Very competitive SEO
  • Very expensive SEM brand exposure
  • Unlikely available on social media
Misspelled Words
  • Familiarity of a common word
  • Easier SEO
  • Less expensive SEM optimization
  • Social media availability
  • Difficulty associating name with product or service
Made-Up Words
  • Less trademark constraints
  • Easier SEO
  • Less expensive SEM
  • Social media availability
  • Lack of familiarity from customer perspective = higher marketing costs (because you have to build familiarity!)
  • Difficulties expressing the brand ‘promise’

As you can see, each name type directly influences your branding and marketing. Search engine optimization (SEO) is critical for diversifying your traffic for long-term success. Search engine marketing (SEM) is the very basis for marketing products or business in our plugged in society. Social media is the future of marketing where prominent social media strategies are critical for profit.

It’s clear why so many new startups are using made-up or misspelled words. The pros outweigh the cons. However, that doesn’t mean that the cons are an easy obstacle to overcome.

Social Media Strategy

Namechk.com is an awesome website that allows you to check a variety of social media platforms to see if your potential name has been used. It tells you what it’s associated with and how it’s being tagged. You can even reserve the name if it’s available.

This step can be done earlier on in the process too. It can help give you an idea of the “trademarkability” of each name. However, this isn’t a reliable tell if you can obtain a trademark.

Search Engine Optimization

Moz offers a free trial and the site gives ratings for keywords based on the competition for that word in search engine results. These types of search engine results are referred to as “organic.” On Moz, if the metric is high, then it will be more difficult to get your product in the top search engine results. This site will give you some tangible metrics that can really assist in narrowing down the list of names.

Google Trends is another great tool that tells you how often a keyword is searched for on Google. This can be helpful in gauging the potential difficulty in getting a high “organic” search result. If the keyword is searched for a lot, most likely it will be difficult to secure a top result. You’ll want to factor this into your decision making process.

If you have a Google account, then you can take advantage of Google AdWords Keyword Planner. This will tell you the search volume for keywords as well as the SEM competition bids (PPC/CPA). Your brand’s keyword bid will help estimate the cost of buying ad space on Google. By seeing how much you would have to pay for a Google ad, you should be able to narrow down your potential names even further.

You should always bid on your brand’s keyword.

(Note: If you’re name is trademarked, Google usually honors the idea that others can’t use your trademarked term in their ads.)

No Embarrassing Translations

This won’t be an issue if you never plan to go international. However, in our highly globalized world, you should be prepared to go international at some point. Moreover, never limit your potential as a company because you didn’t account for the possibility of taking your company to the global stage. So, make sure that the name of your company doesn’t translate poorly in other languages (especially Spanish).

A great example of a poorly translated name is the Ford Pinto. Ford didn’t do their homework on this one. ‘Pinto’ is actually Brazilian Portuguese slang for a small penis. When Ford started selling the Pinto in Brazil, their sales were far less than expected. This isn’t the only case of a poor translation either. It would be terrible for your business’s growth to be stunted by a poorly translated name. Just do a little research, be sure to check for slang words, and you’ll be fine. You can even use Google Translate.

Survey the Market

At this point, the names that have made it this far are pretty thoroughly vetted and one of them may be your final choice. So, let’s test the market’s response to the top 5 names. With Google Consumer Surveys, you can literally see which name elicits a better response from each demographic. So, if you know that you’re targeting males, ages 18-24, why not ask them which name they think is best? Well, that’s exactly what this allows you to do. It costs $50 to ask 500 people. That cost is well worth it to be able to feel out a market before launching. You can also utilize this tool for testing logos, colors, packaging, etc.

Before we created this vetting process, we wasted a lot of time considering names with a trademark or undesirable association. Luckily for us, Google Consumer Surveys helped us catch some of loose ends. For example, we considered the name “Intellence” while rebranding from Alleradd. It turns out there there’s actually an HIV medication by the name “Intelence.” We didn’t even realize it until a consumer surveyed and thought of HIV when he heard the name. So obviously, it’s a taken name, which means it’s trademarked and if not, there’s more competition. Regardless of trademark, people reported associating Intellence with HIV, which isn’t an accurate association for a nootropic supplement. Consider asking the question, “what does the name remind me of?” Ask others about their associations with the names too. You may find that the name reminds people of something negative or undesirable for your branding.

Google Consumer Survey allows you to test the market.

This is a screenshot of Google Consumer Survey results from when we rebranded Alleradd.

You can also describe your product first, and then ask which name the surveyor prefers. That’s what we did (see screenshot). Take the most favored name from the Google Consumer Survey and hire a very, very good trademark attorney to run a soft search on the name. A soft-search is the attorney going through the trademark database and/or other legal databases. The attorney will be able to see potential issues with the name where you may not have. Trust me, it is worth the $150-$200. From there, it could go to a “hard-search” depending upon his or her legal opinion.

Keep in mind that in choosing a name, there will always be tradeoffs. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to check every single box along the way. When we took “OptiMind” through the process everything checked out, but www.optimind.com was an unavailable domain name. We went with www.getoptimind.com and accepted the tradeoff because it had a great market response and no trademark issues. DO NOT mess up the trademark parts of the process; there’s simply too much to lose with that kind of legal risk. However, if you strictly adhere to this process, you’ll end up with a great name that works for what you want.

Best of luck on your entrepreneurial journey! Thank you for reading and check out some of my other posts for helpful along your journey.

Tools

  • crowdSPRING – crowdsourcing platforms for creative names, designs, logos (base price (100 – 200) + bounty).
  • Naming Force – crowdsourcing platform for product or brand names (starting at $250).
  • 99Designs – crowdsourcing platform for logo designs (30 designs for $299).
  • Namechk – searches among hundreds of social media sites to see if name is being used. You can also register your name across social medias (Free to search).
  • Google Adwords Keyword Planner – allows you to estimate the cost of buying ad space on Google.
  • Google Trends – see how often a keyword is searched in Google (Free).
  • Moz – allows you to assess the competitiveness of a keyword for organic searches (Free Trial).
  • Google Consumer Survey – online survey allowing for market testing with specific demographic information ($50 for 500 people).

This is based on my own experiences. Please, leave your comments below for more discussion. But if you’re simply trolling without constructive criticism then go to Reddit.