Naming Tip #10: If you’re going to conduct naming research, make sure you do it right.

By Mark Skoultchi

August 25, 2008

Many naming specialists cringe when they hear the words “consumer research.” This negative reaction isn’t because the idea of research is inherently bad. Instead, it’s because naming firms have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to the execution of naming research. And, because many researchers don’t understand the nuances of naming research, the results can often cause more harm to the naming process than good.

It’s incredibly difficult to test names out of context (i.e., without graphic treatment, marketing communication, PR efforts, etc.). It’s especially difficult to get at the underlying emotional and evocative aspects of a name when it’s still just words on a screen. These emotional depths are what give a name its foundation as you begin to build a brand around it. So, it’s incredibly important to structure your research to elicit responses to these factors. Simply asking “Which name do you like the best?” will almost always backfire.

When reviewing names out of context and being asked to pick their favorite, consumers almost always pick the most descriptive and familiar (aka, “boring”). Badly executed and rushed naming research can derail a naming process and end up leaving you with the Lowest Common Denominator – i.e., the name that customers felt most comfortable with, and not the one that has the potential to excite and intrigue them. Poorly executed research may have left us with CompuWorld instead of Apple, BookWarehouse.com instead of Amazon.com, or CoffeeHouse instead of Starbucks. Let your customers tell you what’s relevant to them, but don’t let them tell you what name to use for your brand.

Consumer-facing brands are the most appropriate for naming research (and even then, it’s not necessary in all cases). The more of a niche audience you have, the more complicated it becomes to find appropriate respondents. Furthermore, the more ethereal (less concrete) your product or service, the harder it becomes to test names for your concept.

Naming research can be incredibly useful when it is done well by experts. First, ask your naming specialist for advice on whether you actually need to conduct naming research for your project. If you decide that you do require naming research, then allocate an appropriate amount of time and budget, and hire a reputable naming researcher. Rushing a naming research project or using a cheap research provider is a recipe for disaster. Do it right.

This is the tenth and final part in our CatchThis series. Check out our previous Naming Tips here.

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