Consider this: 1,092,279 trademark applications were filed in the United States in 2020, a significant increase from 2003, when 461,002 trademark patent applications were filed. There are now so many new brands and products popping up that it’s extremely hard to come up with a new name that meets all of your criteria, but is also readily available. Yep. Naming a product isn’t easy. When coming up with a new product name, you need to research, plan, and brainstorm, then test before you launch. Let’s discuss.
Because 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 also needs to be memorable, findable (particularly on search engines), unique, understandable, and relevant.
In this article, we’ll cover:
- The role of your product name
- Product name must-haves
- Questions to consider before choosing a product name
- 10 tips for product naming success
- Best practices for designing a concept test
The role of your product name
It’s not just about finding a product name that simply sounds cool (although that doesn’t hurt). No, the primary job of your product name is to draw in your ideal customer to entice them to make a decision by showing them why it’s your product is the right fit. Let’s say you’re in the market for a new laptop. And because you’ll carry it in your backpack all day, you’re looking for something lightweight. So would you go for a MacBook Pro or a MacBook Air? There’s a clear winner here.
The name of your product should also instill confidence in your brand. This is accomplished with consistency. If all of your product names sound like iPhone, iPad, iTunes, and you suddenly launch a new music service called “McStreamy,” it’s going to sound random and could potentially cause your customers to lose trust in the brand.
Lastly, your product name should help your brand to generate buzz. You want your name to be the one that turns generic items into something specific. Think of brands that have made a mark. How many of us ask for a Kleenex, even if we’re reaching for a generic brand of facial tissue?
Product name must-haves
Let’s continue our discussion with some critical attributes that make a great product name. In order to drive your consumer in, the ideal product name will realize each of these must-haves:
Brand synergy: Contextualize your product name within your larger brand identity. That means making sure your product name aligns with your brand persona, tonality, and overall strategy.
Resonance: Your product name must resonate with your ideal customer. This means landing on a name that successfully evokes the desired feeling, perception, or impression within your target audience.
Scalability: Think long-term. Do you see this being a stand-alone product or if it’s successful, could it grow into a larger product line? If you envision the latter, you’ll certainly need to take that into consideration when choosing a name.
Distinctiveness: It goes without saying: Competition will be fierce. You’ll want a find a name that makes your product stand out from the crowd. This means considering the competition and their approach to naming.
Visibility: This is different from being distinct. It’s more about how it stands up, rather than how it stands out. It’s not that it needs to be flashy, emotionally-charged, or overly-ornate. If people can’t easily find and search for your product online, you might as well consider it dead on arrival.
Longevity: Strive for timeless appeal—don’t be tempted to use the latest fad as inspiration for your new product name. If market research has taught us anything, it’s that trends can quickly be replaced. Ask yourself, “will this name make sense to people in 20 years?”
Simplicity: Sometimes, we misspell something and Google figures out what we meant and points us in the right direction. But do you really want to leave it up to chance? Make sure your product name isn’t too difficult to spell or pronounce; otherwise, people will have a hard time finding it and talking about it. Make it easy for your audience.
Questions to consider before choosing a product name
Looking for some markers to guide your process? Sometimes breaking things down into answers to simple questions can help you move forward. Try asking yourself the following:
- Who’s my target audience?
- What’s my product’s value to them?
- What products do they already buy?
- Would my customers be more receptive to a real word or something I made up?
- Should my product name be long or short?
- Should my product name evoke an emotion? Which one?
- How does my product name sound next to my competitors’?
10 tips for product naming success
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. Grammarly is a perfect example of a descriptive name. People use it to check their grammar. It can’t get more descriptive than that!
2. Use real words with a twist
Words don’t have to be used literally in a product name. 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 iTunes offering perfect examples.
4. 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 Stick Ups are great examples.
5. Make up a word
One way to ensure your product name is unique is to make up a word. Gatorade, Twinkies, 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 taken.
7. 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. Triscuit was the first biscuit made with electricity.
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, or worse, become part of a salacious scandal. 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 (think Bounce dryer sheets) or you can turn a word used in your product name into a verb. For example, the FaceTime application name has turned into a verb over the years. Today, it’s common to say, “FaceTime 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 test your product ideas with your target audience before going to market.
So with that in mind, let’s look at some best practices for using quantitative research to test product names along with the value of your target audience.
Best practices for designing a concept test
A product naming survey (also called a concept test) offers deep insight into which names consumers respond most positively to. You can provide them with several choices and score them based on a number of factors like perception, trust, creativity, and more.
While you have the option of testing up to 200 alternatives, it's important to be respectful of consumers' time and consider providing your top 3-15 choices.
Begin with a detailed description of your product, along with an image that gives respondents a clear picture of the look and feel of your product.
There are so many ways to gauge how each name choice compares against your other options. For starts, allowing respondents to rank the names in order of preference will let you to see which ones come out on top.
But you can also build concept tests that will help you determine which names respondents deem trustworthy, creative, cutting-edge, empathetic, and other criteria. When you’re doing this, be sure to ask for input from your respondents so you can see if—based on their perception of the product—they have any additional suggestions for names you hadn’t thought of. Open-ended questions can be a really powerful tool.
If you want to test gut reactions to names, you can try using a rapid association test. These tests draw on your respondent’s System 1 responses to concepts by limiting the timeframe they have to respond. This provokes quick decisions that illuminate associations to certain feelings or emotions. Real quick: does Febreze associate with the word “Fresh?” Yes? How about “Futuristic?” Interesting…
Finally, you can measure a consumer's willingness to purchase your product based on each individual name. Lastly, include some open-ended questions to test what emotions a specific name may evoke.
Analyzing your results
Your results should show you the top names overall and in each category. Your analysis of the individual names will include sentiment, as well as critical data about the likelihood of a consumer purchasing your product.
Managing a ton of responses, especially from unstructured text, like open-ended questions, can be daunting. However, tools like aytm make it super easy to display open-ended text via word cloud, allowing you to see which names stood out. We have courses that can help you master these kinds of analysis.
Testing product names allows you to remove the speculation from your decision-making process and launch your new product with confidence backed by solid data. Still confused about what to name your product? We can help you tap into the voice of your consumers and take a data driven approach to your naming process.
Editor’ s note: This post was originally posted in 2020 but updated in 2023 for comprehensiveness and relevancy.