Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Name for tomorrow

The easy thing to do when naming a new product or service is to select a descriptive name based on a key functional feature or attribute. Generally, however, it's not the right thing to do.


Just ask the folks at the Big Ten Conference.

With yesterday's announcement they will soon have 14 teams. So now it appears that these fine institutions of higher learning – including my alma mater – don't understand basic arithmetic.

Naming your brand after a functional attribute can inhibit your growth by boxing you in when you change your products or attitudes change around them (Kentucky FRIED Chicken anyone?) At the very least it will cost you a lot of money when you have to change your name and all your identity elements down the road.

The best names are evergreen. They are built upon larger things like vision, values, or elements of the brand's heritage that will not change, like Ford, Visa and Nike. Or choose a name that has no inherent meaning or no relationship to the product, then make it meaningful over time through their association with the products and your marketing, like Lexus, Apple and Google.

Between trying to come up with a name that's both trademarkable and dotcommable, the process is harder than ever. Don't make it harder on yourself by having to do it again in a few years when your product inevitably changes.

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