How to Name a Product – 10 Tips for Product Naming Success

It’s not easy to name a product. Just as you learned in my previous post about how to name a brand (follow the link to read it if you missed it), you need to do your research, planning, and brainstorming first. My next post will cover all of the research aspects of brand and product naming. First, I’m going to share a variety of tips that brand and product naming experts use to help jumpstart creative thinking.


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creativity roomWhen you need to name a product, not just any name will do. Your product name needs to fit within your broader brand name umbrella while telling its own unique story to consumers. It needs to be memorable, findable (particularly on search engines), unique, understandable, and relevant.

Follow the 10 tips below to make your efforts to name a product more efficient, effective, and creative. Keep in mind, these tips also apply to naming a brand.

1. Be Descriptive

The first place most people start when they have to name a product is to simply create a name that describes what the product does. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer product is a perfect example of a descriptive name. Consumers use it to explore the Internet. It can’t get more descriptive than that!

2. Use Real Words with a Twist

Words don’t have to be used literally in product. They can be suggestive like Ford’s Mustang (it’s fast and sleek) or Ford’s Expedition (it’s built for adventure).

3. Add a Prefix or Suffix

You can turn a common word into a product name simply by adding a prefix or suffix to it. Apple uses this product naming technique all the time with the iPhone, iPad, and iPod offering perfect examples.

stickups4. Create a Compound Word

Since so many brand and product names are already trademarked and the associated domain names have already been registered, it’s very common these days for product names to be compound words made by putting two words together to form an entirely new brand or product name. PhotoShop, TurboTax, and Stickups are great examples.

5. Make up a Word

One way to ensure your product name is unique is to make up a word. Gatorade, Fritos, Doritos, and Tostitos are popular examples.

6. Change Spellings

Products like Trix, Kix, Fantastik, and Liquid-Plumr use real words that are misspelled. It’s creative and helps when the name you want is already trademarked or the related domain names are already taken.

pictionary7. Tweak and Blend Words

When a single word or a compound word won’t do, you can tweak and blend words to create a brand or product name. For example, Nyquil is a tweak and blend of night and tranquil.  Pictionary is a tweak and blend of picture and dictionary.

8. Use a Place or Person’s Name

The Clark Bar was named after its creator, David L. Clark. The George Foreman Grill was named after its celebrity endorser. However, use caution when including a place or person’s name in your product name. A day may come when you want to expand out of that geographic area or the person whose name you used in the product name might leave to work for a competitor or in another industry. Make sure your product name can withstand these types of changes.

9. Create an Acronym or Use Initials or Numbers

Acronyms and initials are short, but they don’t say much on their own. Therefore, you need to exercise caution when you use an acronym or initials in your product name. It typically takes longer to develop brand recognition and comprehension with a name filled with numbers and letters that is difficult to remember. However, many companies have achieved great success in launching products with names that use numbers and letters. Honda’s CRV, Toyota’s Rav4, and even Formula 409 are examples of how this naming technique can work.

10. Use a Verb

You can use a verb as your product name (like Bounce dryer sheets or Apple’s iPod Shuffle) or you can turn a word used in your product name into a verb. For example, the Skype application name has turned into a verb over the years. Today, it’s common to say, “Skype me later and we’ll talk.” The Swiffer product name is also used as a verb sometimes. It’s not uncommon for a Swiffer user to say, “Look at that dust! I have to Swiffer that.”

As you can see, it’s okay to get creative when you name a product. As long as consumers are willing to accept the message and promise that your product name communicates, then you’re on the path to success. That’s why it’s so important that you follow the 10 steps to name a brand (or product) that I provided in my previous post here on the AYTM blog. When you combine those steps with the 10 tips above, you can confidently name a product or brand. For more timeless brand and product naming tips, read 33 Tips and Tactics for Generating Names from Devon Thomas Treadwell on Branding Strategy Insider.

Stay tuned for my upcoming post that will dive into more detail about the research that goes into identifying, testing, and monitoring a brand or product name.


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Images: srioj, Air Wick, Milton Bradley

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Gunelius
Susan Gunelius, MBA is a 25-year marketing and branding expert and President and CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She is the author of 10 books about marketing, branding and social media, and her marketing-related articles appear on top media websites such as Entrepreneur.com and Forbes.com. She is also the Founder and Editor in Chief of WomenOnBusiness.com, an award-winning blog for business women.