What's In A Name? Six Key Considerations
Spring is execution time for most marketing teams. New product launches are underway, big spring conferences are on the horizon, and programs are in high gear to help drive business through the remainder of the year. Along with these activities, you may have to choose a new name for a product, service, or even the entire company.
So what is in a name, anyway? Quite a bit. Our global, Internet-driven world has created a number of challenges for choosing a good, reputable name that will last. It's important to think beyond initial intentions and evaluate the long-term impact.
The automation industry, for instance, is famous for sliding by on names that use abstract acronyms and numbers such as TBD-311 Series. Our apologies if we happened to pick on a particular company with that product name. But what kind of name is that? If you need to be the supplier to understand your own naming strategy, you better think twice before saddling your customers with something incredibly forgettable.
Before you go and spend any money purchasing a URL domain name or filing for a trademark you may want to take a moment to consider the following six important issues that should be considered when naming in the technology and automation markets.
1. Be unique, but not so obscure that you become generic.
Ask yourself and your team this question: How is this product/service going to bring value to our customers? When viewed this way, you may discover a name that is a natural extension of the value you bring.
2. Avoid tying a name to numbers, technology, or years.
Tying a year or technology to a naming convention often ends up making customers feel like they are always behind. For example, "Software 2008" had better be updated in 2009 or your customers will be concerned they're missing out. In addition, the pace at which technology changes is so fast that your new name may end up obsolete before you finish printing the collateral. Be original and stick to value and memorability.
3. Brainstorm with your team.
Most companies can handle a "naming" brainstorming meeting on their own. You never know where the best idea will come from. It's not always from the marketing team (dare I say…!). But, brainstorming meetings can be an effective and low cost method for gathering ideas and creating a “short list.” Hold a couple of meetings first thing in the morning to get people while their brains are fresh and stimulated by coffee and other caffeinated beverages. Offer a light breakfast (sugar items help!) to get juices going. Don't go over the one hour mark as you'll see diminishing returns. It is possible to make it an "open" meeting for anyone, or you can narrow the list by departments, teams, etc.
However, if your naming project is something large, like a new product family brand with many tentacles, then you may want to consider engaging an expert to mitigate your risk in the long run.
4. Create a short list and immediately query the major search engines.
Just because you checked on Google doesn't mean the name is not out there. We recommend checking all the major search engines as your first pass to narrow down the list and find already used phrases or words. Continue to narrow down your name list by checking domain availability on any domain provider such as godaddy.com, networksolutions.com, or 1and1.com.
5. Choose the right domain name.
The wrong domain or abbreviation can add extra confusion for customers and partners. Many people jump on search engines to find a company name. About one-third of all Internet users go directly to a known domain, so make yours memorable and invest in developing the brand. Try to make your URL easy to remember and avoid added characters or acronyms (unless your company is recognized by that acronym).
For example, Telesian.com is a far better choice than Telesian-technology.com or Telesian-marketing.com or Telesian-technology-marketing.com. That said, we may choose to purchase four domains to preclude any competitors from getting to them. Then we'll just redirect them all to the main domain, Telesian.com.
Buying your new company or product domain can be a challenge these days. Some people just buy up domains and opportunistically resell. It is possible to negotiate with a domain owner, whether they're squatting or not. Just make sure you go into the negotiations with a price in mind. We have seen domains sell for $200 as well as for $200,000. Your success will depend on how badly you want the domain. Approach the owner and see where talks go. It does take time, however, to work this process and make the transfer happen.
6. Test, test, test.
Once you've narrowed your list of new names, run them by employees, customers, partners, and distributors. If you have a friendly analyst or editor, it doesn't hurt to contact them to get their feedback. Gauge their responses, gather the data, and analyze the responses for those that are most positive.
All told, the naming process can be fun and rewarding. However, it can become frustrating when the process stalls, and that's known to happen at certain points. Just remember to relax; let it go for that day and pick it up again later. You never know where the best idea will come from. Some companies have successfully used naming contests, and some just engage other people who can offer a new perspective.
You can also read a recent Wall St. Journal article, "Name That Firm" for a few more thoughts on the subject. Good luck!