How to Manage and Simplify the Arduous Process of Naming a Product or Service

Naming can be a difficult and thankless marketing undertaking.  Anyone who has had to name a product or service can attest to how challenging it can be.  Dealing with subjective opinions, tight timelines, managing approvals, trademarking, finding something original, that’s on brand, on strategy that will work in English and French…the list goes on.  Here are some tips on how to manage and simplify an often-arduous process:

  1. Start with the brief: Develop a naming brief as your guiding source of truth for the project. Collaborate and socialize with with your key stakeholders.  Include value proposition and product positioning, past research, competitive analysis, pricing and strategic work. This will all provide creative fodder and context for the agency.
  2. Establish guiding principles: To help govern the name development process, before you begin clearly identify who needs to provide input and who has final sign-off and at what key stages they should be engaged for review.
  3. Future proof your name: Determine where the product or service fits within your brand architecture.  Will this be a stand-alone name or will it need to fit within an existing taxonomy.  Do you need to plan for future product launches or expansion into new product categories/lines of business or are you renaming an existing product.
  4. Workshop it: Get all key stakeholders (agency, marketing, sales, product, pricing, insights, legal) into a room to collaborate on possible territories for exploration, work through the naming classifications.  Do you want an experiential name, functional name, should it be abstract or image based? Including these teams early and throughout the process will help approvals go much more smoothly.
  5. Research:  After working through options with the agency, shortlist your preferred choices and take them into testing. You will often be surprised with the results; your favorite is not always the consumer’s choice.  As well, testing helps remove subjectivity when you socialize your final name.  If you have data and customer feedback to back up your choice you can quickly shut down those difficult conversations.
  6. Legal & Trademarking:  Once you have your shortlist of preferred names before you go into research, engage your legal team to run a quick trademark check.  Yes, a quick Google search can often reveal if your name is already being used but often a name might not in active use but the mark could already have been secured by another company or even a competitor.  This will help avoid aligning on a name everyone loves only to find out that you cannot use it.
  7. Socializing and Branding:  Once you have your final name be sure to socialize it across the company. Share guidelines on how the name should be used in any and all instances, if it should include a TM and any other branding guidelines like logo lock up, fonts etc. as consistent branding and use will all help protect your new name and its trademark.

Hopefully these tips will help your next naming exercise go just a bit smoother and quicker.

By: Ariane Sauvé, Director, Brand and Corporate Marketing, Canada Post and Brian Carey, Director, Customer Marketing, Rogers, both members of the CMA’s Brand Strategy Council.

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