Smart taste, dumb name

By Mark Skoultchi

December 17, 2007

As a naming consultant, I know coming up with new product names is hard. But still, I have to pick on a new one I saw advertised recently: Smart Taste (a new pasta product from Ronzoni). It’s not that the name is horrible; I’m sure plenty of people will still buy the product. It’s that the name doesn’t have any charisma. This is exactly the kind of name I would expect to perform well in a poorly-designed naming research study. “Which of these names best describes the product you see here?” Ugggh. Such a silly question to ask.

We know naming research can be done well. It’s just that so often, it is not. It isn’t about what the name describes. It’s not even about what name respondents *say* they like the best. It’s about the associations that each name candidate evokes. When you ask associative questions, you get answers like “This name feels energetic” or “This name sounds friendly.” If you want your new name to communicate ease of use, associations like energetic and friendly are close to perfect. Too few marketers ask the right question when testing names.

Had typical research methodologies been applied when Jobs and Woz were launching their company, we might have EduComp or GraphiComp instead of Apple. And instead of Yahoo, we might have SearchSmart or InfoSeek (oh, wait …). Instead of Nike, we might have QuickFoot or SportKix.

YAWN.

Please people: If you’re going to test your name candidates, do us all a favor. Ask the right questions, and don’t let respondents steer you away from the truly great naming solution. Charisma and style count for just as much as semantics when naming a new product or company.

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