Naming is one of those marketing tasks that isn’t well loved. It’s not substantial or intellectual, but it can be very political – and high profile. Names can also be left
un-researched due to time-consuming and option-limiting legal processes. Or if they are researched, there’s a nagging feeling that research promotes the wrong name – the one that’s the most blandly inoffensive and most descriptive wins out. The more interesting names are less likely to research well. After all, if they’d researched Google…

We’re seeing a glut of naming projects recently, as the marketing engines are starting up again, so we thought that the time was right to share our thoughts for how to incorporate good naming research as part of an agile process, without falling into the classic pitfalls:

1. Go with a flow
Start with a process or set of principles that can be applied. Think about the naming needs:

  • Big launch, or brand extension which needs to fend for itself?
  • Descriptive, conforming to existing category conventions, or evocative, perhaps even deliberately surreal?
 2. Break down the internal walls
  • In large corporates, NPD often happens in silos where information doesn’t flow effectively
  • Consider how to efficiently integrate the legal team, get to know their time frames and gateways. Help them see research as the other side of their checks.
 3. Bring discipline to the filtering process
Limit the number of names (we suggest 6-10, because it gives options and generates language learnings).4. Cross-pollinate learnings
Brand naming isn’t an everyday affair, so a body of knowledge isn’t built up, and
macro-principles aren’t developed, meaning that research finds them out anew each time. It’s helpful to plunder previous work to understand principles such as: descriptive names win out in online environments; alliterative names don’t work with too many syllables, and so on.5. Don’t destroy creativity and potential
Don’t create a creative straitjacket – principles and processes are all well and good but not if they’re so onerous that they kill the kernel of a good idea. Sensitivity is required.

6. When it comes to the research itself, keep it real
Recognise that names are consumed in the blink of an eye, they fire synapses of association. Too much naming research overlooks this point and sits firmly in the zone of System Two thinking.

  • Use non rational, system one techniques
  • Allow for spontaneous response
  • Scaled questions are helpful, but as an additive rather than the main event
  • Enlist a language expert, semiotician or behavioural psychologist to provide a second lens on the issue

Your name is your story. It’s Chapter One. It can take you anywhere you want to go.
So nurture it, allow it to emerge and develop before closing the book on it.