Linguistics & Research

How will a name fare in different countries, languages, or cultures? If you are international, you’ve got to make sure a name is consistent with your brand in the languages your customers speak. Our highly structured linguistic and cultural evaluation system and network of native speakers probe the pluses and pitfalls of names under consideration. We’ll protect you from embarrassing missteps that could alienate your customers.

And though your customers shouldn’t make your naming decisions for you, they can provide insight if approached correctly. When they hear the name Duncan, do your customers think Scottish king in Shakespeare or purveyor of tasty doughnuts? Our validation methodology for customer research combines focus groups and online surveys to ferret out associations evoked by different name candidates and identify strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities.

Linguistic & Cultural Evaluation  |  We’ve got your back … and your espalda

The last thing you need is to fall in love with a name that has inappropriate or negative connotations for some segment of your target audience. That’s why it’s absolutely critical to submit names headed outside the U.S. to a rigorous linguistic and cultural evaluation.

Catchword’s Global Performance Scorecard (GPS) is a highly structured analytic system for identifying the potential snags and strengths of your name candidates in your key markets. To give you an example, our GPS once saved a company from naming their new kids game the equivalent of “He Screwed Up” in Mexican Spanish. It also saved a global brand from calling itself “Vomit” in German. The cautionary tales abound.

More than a disaster check, the GPS assesses the strengths and weaknesses of name candidates across a variety of criteria. Besides probing for undesirable associations, we research whether a name is hard to say, sounds odd in a particular language—or resembles a competitor’s. We consider whether a name is appropriate for the brand and the culture in which it must live. And we assess how well a product name or company name delivers desired messages.

Of course, an evaluation is only as good as the evaluators. Catchword’s global linguistic team is the best in the industry. We have immediate access to language experts who speak virtually every language and dialect in the world. Even Canadian.

And unlike typical translation services, our network of specialists is comprised of native speakers who actually live in the countries in question. So they’re aware of cultural nuances that a translation service might miss. They’re also knowledgeable about branding and advertising, so they can evaluate names (as well as logos and taglines) from a marketing perspective. And they conduct probing interviews that go well beyond “person-in-the-street” reactions, to identify potential branding issues and cultural concerns.

We conduct linguistic testing in just about every spoken language on Earth, and have had some exposure to Klingon and Ewokese. Here are the ones we most commonly encounter:

North America

Canadian English
Cuban Spanish
Mexican Spanish
North American English
Puerto Rican Spanish
Québécois

South America

Argentine Spanish
Brazilian Portuguese
Chilean Spanish
Haitian Creole

Africa

Afrikaans
Amharic
Hausa
Ndebele
Moroccan Arabic (covers Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Sahara, Libya)Sudan Arabic
Somali
South African English
Swahili
Zulu

Middle East

Bahrani Arabic (covers Bahrain, Oman)Dari
Farsi (Persian)
Hassaniya Arabic (covers Mauritania)Hebrew
Iraqi Arabic
Jordanian Arabic
Syrian Arabic (covers Syria, Lebanon)UAE Arabic (covers UAE, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Qatar)Yiddish

Europe

Albanian
Armenian
Basque
Belgian Dutch
Belgian French
Bulgarian
Catalan
Croatian
Czech
Danish
Dutch
Estonian
Finnish
Flemish
French
Georgian
German
Greek
Hungarian
Icelandic
Irish
Italian
Latvian
Lithuanian
Luxembourgish
Macedonian
Norwegian
Polish
Portuguese
Romanian
Russian
Scots Gaelic
Serbian
Slovak
Slovenian
Spanish
Swedish
Swiss
German
Turkish
Ukrainian
Uzbek
Welsh

South Asia

Bengali
Burmese
Gujarati
Hindi
Kannada
Kashmiri
Malayalam
Marathi
Nepali
Punjabi
Tamil
Telegu
Urdu

East Asia

Cantonese
Hmong
Japanese
Khmer (Cambodian)
Korean
Laotian
Mandarin
Mongolian
Shanghainese
Singaporean
Taiwanese
Thai
Vietnamese

Australasia

Australian English
Cebuano
Fijian
Hawaiian
Ilokano
Javanese
Kiribirati
Malay
Maori
New Zealand English
Philippine English
Samoan
Tagalog
Tok Pisin
Tongan

Customer Research | A conversation, not a popularity contest

Customer research can be extremely useful for figuring out whether a new cereal tastes good to a lot of people, or a new mobile phone is easy to use. But should you use customer research to help evaluate naming candidates?

Well, it depends.

The open secret in the industry is that testing names is often an act of insecurity. If 51% of respondents select Dewey, Cheatem & Howe as the best name for a new law firm, it’s awfully tempting to hide behind that “hard data.” Especially when the name later ends up being a train wreck.

On the other hand, for some things, naming research can be truly useful. For instance, it can be an excellent way to

  • find out whether a name has damaging associations in slang or regional varieties of English
  • convince your CEO that certain name candidates are acceptable to your target audience
  • help determine what messages a name effectively communicates

We’ve learned that there’s a right way and a wrong way to use customer research in the naming process.

The wrong way is to show customers a list of names and expect them to tell you which one would be best for your brand. Customers don’t have the benefit of your vision or understanding. And without the marketing context in which they’re used to encountering brand names, it’s often the most familiar or literal (read: boring) names that do best in testing. Names like Apple and Google probably wouldn’t have made it through the gauntlet of much of today’s customer research.

The right way is to conduct qualitative research to tease out nuanced insights from customers. Over the past 18 years, we’ve developed a name validation methodology that uses focus groups and online software tools to help our clients anticipate implications of naming strategies, assess strengths and weaknesses, and leverage opportunities.

How to conduct Naming Research.

10 Criteria for Great Names

MAGNETISM
Does it engage you and spark your imagination? (Crazy 8, Method, and Häagen Dazs all do, in wildly different ways.)

DISTINCTIVENESS
Will it pop in your space, or blend in without a trace? (There’s Alaska, American, United, Delta…and then there’s JetBlue.)

BRAND FIT
Does it capture the essence and spirit of the brand? (Think Timberland, FedEx, Orange.) ...

View and download all the criteria