When brand names go bad: Temptations and pitfalls of product naming
Unless you’ve been living off the grid in some yurt (or more accurately, ger) in Outer Mongolia, you have witnessed the iPhenomenon: the overwhelming explosion in popularity of the iPhone, iPod and iProducts of all kinds to support and enhance the use of your favorite iDevice.
Essentially, Apple now owns lower case “i.” When I see a product named iWhatever, my mind assumes immediately that it refers to an Apple device, or products or services to support an Apple device.
All that makes good sense. However, let’s say you have a software product that supports manufacturing processes or data manipulation. Johnny, the engineering guru, thinks, “Hey, it’s about information. Information starts with an ‘i.’ Let’s call it the iFacture™ or iData™! That ‘i’ naming convention has really worked for Apple.”
Unfortunately, what worked so well for Apple, is not going to work for products that are unrelated. The market expectation is that anything “i” is Apple-related. Using that convention elsewhere, just creates confusion and, in effect, becomes anti-marketing. You are making it hard for your audience to understand who and what you are.
So, my first suggestion is always hire a professional. It’s not only smart to get someone involved who has no emotional ties to the deliverable, but also, whose outside eyes may see an angle to your product or service that you have overlooked. The naming convention should
- position your product in the prospects’ minds by creating an expectation
- lend itself to a clean, memorable graphic treatment for logo development
- have “legs” to allow for brand extension
- evoke appropriate associations
- be different from competitive products or well-known names
- not be embarrassing to say aloud.
Well, there might be exceptions to the last point, but to be on the safe side, unless you’re certain, don’t risk it.
It’s exciting to pick the new name and thus, everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon. My favorite caveat applies here: just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Get it done right and you’ll reap the rewards. A bad name can harm a good product, just as a bad baby name can scar a child for life. Am I right, Ima? Barney? Bossie?