naming research: is your brand name easy to digest?

by: Sarah Kneebone


You’ve worked hard to produce a fabulous new food or drink product, but what should you call it?

Choosing the right name could make or break your product – so how do you avoid the pitfalls and land on something that’s new, engaging and mouth-wateringly good?

When good names go bad

We’ve all seen the images on Facebook; those ridiculously named foods that probably sounded great in their mother tongue but just don’t translate. Or those older product names that haven’t survived the test of time.

Of course it’s impossible to see the future and understand the slang used by every nation on earth, but there are ways to avoid giving your product a terrible or embarrassing name...

No idea is a bad idea

Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest and the earliest. A classic internal brainstorm can produce some great results.

The important thing at this stage is to develop a short list and not become too attached to any one name.

Research matters

Research can, of course, help identify a winning name or create a short list of maybes. At PLAY, we believe that good research is all about asking the tough questions but it’s also about using an approach that really identifies the cream of the crop.

Naturally, each individual will be drawn to a particular name based on personal preferences, and that’s important. Having positive feelings towards a brand name may make the customer more likely to buy and recommend your product.

Just liking a name is not enough

You should also consider:

  • Brand match: You need to ensure the product name fits with your brand and connects with it seamlessly. There’s no point creating a product name people love that feels out of character with your overall marketing message.

  • Memorable: A good product name sticks in the user’s mind; a great brand name becomes synonymous with the actual product. Think Weet-Bix and Coke. Your brand name must be easy to remember so that the next time someone is writing their shopping list, your product is top of mind.

  • Too cool: Sometimes wackier names are preferred because they sound cool or because they’re new and different. However, it’s important to avoid creativity for creativity’s sake.

    As Brett Miller from Quirks says:
    This mistake can often result in really ‘cool’ names that don’t help drive consumer excitement and purchase or, worse, cool names that offend consumers.
  • Pronounceable: Obviously if your target market can't pronounce the brand name, they won't ask for it. It's important to qualify how easy it is for your customers to pronounce your product name.

  • Associations: It's vital to assess what negative and positive associations exist with your new product name. These latent associations can be powerful indicators of a potential name’s success.

  • Think global: You should also consider how your name will perform overseas. Don’t assume that just because another country speaks English, your product name will work – often, cultural usage plays a big part.

Our approach

We use a variety of research methods and, unlike other research companies, we don’t take an ‘either/or’ approach to using quantitative and qualitative techniques. We blend the two methods to create a smarter hybrid research tactic. This integrated approach leads to richer, more usable customer data.

It’s important to ensure your product name resonates with your target market. Not just the marketing department, not just the upper management, and not just the CEO’s wife.

The 'thank god' factor

We’ve carried out naming research for a number of large brands and regularly highlight some real concerns about the ‘preferred’ names. So often it’s the simplest things that are overlooked because the marketing team is just too close to the product.

Through research, your customers are able to flag some possible disasters before it’s too late.

For us, it’s a great feeling when a client shouts, ‘Thank God we did the research!’ during one of our research debriefs.

Legal review

Of course it’s vital to make sure you dot your ‘i’s and cross your ‘t’s when naming a product. If the name is already in use and trademarked, it’s best to find out before you send the packaging to print!

So although it’s painful when the legal department send you back to the drawing board, you know it’s for your own good.

Over to you

Have you had (or heard of) a bad product-naming experience? Comment below and let us know.

At PLAY we have a tried and tested product-naming methodology that works whether you’ve developed a whizz bang new wonder jam, some perfectly posh cat food or an awesome new organic juice.

If you'd like to any help or advice, get in touch! Just call us on 02 8097 0200. We are always happy to help.

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about the author

Sarah Kneebone

Sarah is PLAY’s go-to content writer with a passion for marrying creativity and communication with clever strategy. A former marketer with PLAY and for international brands such as QBE Insurance and General Motors, Sarah moved home to the UK to raise her little family and start a health coaching business. Luckily for us, she continues to share her talent for the written word with the team in Australia.

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