The 5 Worst Mistakes You Can Make When Naming Your Product or Company

By Jed Rendleman

October 28, 2015

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Take it from us, product or company naming is not for the faint of heart. It’s a lot harder than just sitting around the kitchen table, drinking wine and shouting ideas at your friends (that’s actually what we do after work). Name creation is part art, part science, and it’s very easy to do it wrong. If you’re reading this, we’re hoping it means you’ve abandoned the company and product name generators and you’re ready to move onto the real deal. That’s great! Now that you’re ready to take control of the naming process away from the robots, make sure to steer clear of these five common naming pitfalls

1) Forgetting who you are and what your customers love

At Catchword, coming up with creative and memorable names represents only a fraction of the time we spend working on a project. Good naming is like therapy in that it forces the client to really figure out who they are. Before we even start naming, we make sure that our client has honed their brand positioning and identity so that they’re totally clear about what makes their brand tick and what they’re audience is looking for. Get all your brand’s stakeholders together and really figure this one out. Do your customers value the reliability of your grocery delivery service or the lifestyle that it enables them to have? The answer will be the difference between a name like FreshDirect or Thrive.

 2) Saying ‘me too!’

It’s human nature to look at all of the successful brand names of the world and want to copy them. And likewise it’s difficult to embrace a name that’s unfamiliar in its uniqueness. However, courting naming trends or trying to sound like your competitors is one of the most common mistakes we see brands make. Just look at how many Zen names there are. While these names might have seemed fresh five years ago, they already feel cliché, and that’s bad news for all the companies that have to live with them (props, though, to ZenPayroll for changing their name to Gusto).

Your brand name should differentiate you from your competitors, not show how you’re the same. Resist the urge to drop an ‘r’ or add –ly or –able. These trends will all fall out of fashion; a creative, sophisticated name that resonates with your audience is timeless.

3) Saying too much and therefore nothing at all

Your name should be a rallying cry, not an infomercial. Too often, brands want to adopt a name that incorporates every aspect of their identity. You may value your company for its convenience, innovation, youthfulness, and customer service, but that doesn’t mean you should name your company AwesomenessOnline365. An effective, memorable brand name will deliver strongly on one or two messages. It will pique curiosity, not confusion or boredom. Pick a name that you think succinctly communicates one or two great things about your brand and let your packaging, advertising, and website copy say the rest.

4) Fearing the thought of being a pioneer

Do you think the name Google sounded like the world’s most trusted source of information when it first started? What did people think of Virgin? Don’t fear a name just because it’s edgy or provocative. When naming your product or company, you have a much higher risk of being ignored than condemned. Your name should be like a sexy sports car – you want it to turn heads, not just take up a parking spot.

5) Not screening your name for trademark issues

So you’ve got a robust shortlist of brand names that you’d be happy to adopt for your brand. Now you just get everyone in the company to vote for their favorite, right? Well, no. First of all, adopting a new name should never be a democratic process, as this will almost always result in the most unobjectionable (read: boring) name being chosen. But more importantly, you must ensure that you’re not adopting a name that’s already being used in the same space. We’ve heard plenty of stories of a company finding the name of their dreams, creating a slick logo, and hosting a launch party only to receive a cease and desist letter a few weeks later. Do your research! Use the USPTO database to screen for trademarks, as well as Google to see who else is using your name already.

 

Now that you know what not to do when naming your product or company, we can tell you one thing that you should do – hire a naming company! There are so many more considerations to consider and deliberations to deliberate, we could never fit them all here. However, we understand that your average mom & pop isn’t in the market for a full-service naming consultant. For the intrepid entrepreneurs who pooh-pooh those who say ‘don’t try this at home,’ our naming guide can walk you through the entire naming process, start to finish. Happy naming!

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