I don’t know what to call this new service or product…but, hey, what’s in a name? Right?

08 September 2017

Well, quite a lot actually.  It’s central to brand recognition, it subconsciously evokes brand values. Its ability to be easily recognised, stated and shared (oh, and spelt!) will be key in developing and growing the brand. Ian Sparham comments…

All products and services are seeking a brand name that evokes a strong (positive) emotional response from target consumers. Brands or brand names can quickly disappear because name associations are unwanted. For example, anyone remember Cadabra? Allegedly, it was mistaken as ‘Cadaver’[i], got axed and the name Amazon came into being.

We researchers have a key role – and it’s largely around managing client expectations and ensuring we are doing the right things. We need to be clear about how we measure success upfront. There is unlikely to be a clear ‘winner’, but the output will provide guiding principles.

We identify 3 key rules of engagement;

  1. No beauty parades:
  • It’s not important if consumers like it … Provide the right measures for respondents to judge the names by (e.g. fit with brand, proposition, desired impact); and that’s not appeal
  • Key things to consider are:
    • What associations are evoked? Are these broadly engaging, interesting, clear and rich for respondents?
    • Is it standing out / differentiated – tapping into familiar, positive associations is fine, but it needs to live on its own merits too
    • How memorable is it? – mnemonics are important, but don’t just ‘ask this’… a popular name will be deemed memorable by enthusiastic audiences. But instead, use flash cards, don’t let names linger… what do they recall? That way you’ll know which names stick in their mind in the short term… In an ideal world, ask them again in a week’s time (even a simple 5 minute phone call with participants – you can explore how memorable any proclaimed memorable name really is!)
  1. Stretch those parameters for naming
    • Make sure the stimulus includes a full range of names to test how far consumers and the brand can go e.g. descriptive names, play on words, abbreviations, ‘made up’ or mash-up names
    • Don’t just rely on reactions to stim, make sure you spend time exploring the rules of good naming conventions and look to what works in the category or adjacent categories for learnings (e.g. what makes ‘Google’ or ‘Apple’ so successful)
  2. Identify what doesn’t work
    • Something that’s more key than delivering a successful name is ensuring the red flags and unconscious, negative or unwanted associations are drawn out.
    • If people don’t know how to pronounce it, it’s not going to work and likewise consider what the name means or sounds like in other markets. Think Ghanaian ‘Pee Cola’[ii]. Hmmm…

Perhaps, just as importantly, don’t get led into easy cul-de-sacs:

  • “Oh good, it ‘fits’ the category”… or does that mean it isn’t differentiated enough?
  • “But customers like the name…” So what? They probably like it because it feels familiar/comforting/or indeed ‘fits’… it’s probably a (very) literal name or similar to others they’ve heard before.
  • “It sounds modern/fashionable” – but therefore may date quickly…
  • “But the consumers we struggle to attract, in particular, like it” – unless they like the brand proposition, the marketing campaign and, ultimately, the product or service experience too, this isn’t likely to be a deal breaker…

Ultimately it’s about listening to the associations and the emotional connections made by audiences.  But it’s the clients’ choice in the end. As such the key final consideration is ensuring the name is something that they feel comfortable with, as they’re the ones who have to live and breathe it going forwards!

[i] https://aytm.com/blog/research-junction/how-to-name-a-brand-market-research-steps/

[ii] http://www.oddee.com/item_96682.aspx


Ian Sparham
Email | +44 (0)28 9041 5217


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