Software Product Naming Challenges

While all naming projects have their challenges, software seems to have more than its fair share. There are a number of reasons for this, including:

  • Software products are proliferating at a very fast rate
  • Software products change frequently
  • The barriers to entry are small
  • Software is being written by kids in the basement and corporations in the skyscrapers
  • Software travels fast around the world and is developed worldwide
  • Software programmers by nature use a lot of acronyms
  • International Trademark Class 9 (for software, hardware, photographic, optical and electrical goods) is the most crowded category
  • New agile software tools have accelerated the speed of development, as well as changed the definition of what is a product
  • Unlike music titles, software people usually prefer short descriptive names
  • Software design and release is so often driven by the engineering team rather than by product marketing
  • Software engineers are very opinionated when it comes to naming their creative works, even though few have marketing experience at all.

We used to say that software was similar to services. While you cannot see it per se, you can use it and see the results. So it can be productized and branded properly, even though there is no longer any physical packaging to put the name on. In fact, software is more and more offered as a service (SaaS) itself and is classified under service trademark categories (as opposed to goods).

A key point in software product naming is to have some sort of naming architecture in place. Just like you have product road maps This doesn’t solve all your naming problems, but at least sends a message to all constituent holders that in this company, software product names will be of this style.

Some may argue that since they are a business to business sale, the name doesn’t matter. After all, you have good direct salespeople. Well, does your name matter when you make a call? Does your CEO’s name matter? Your customers may remember you and sort out all your product names after you have spent a lot of time with them, but what about the prospects? Yes, as you sit here, someone is out there on the web searching for software that you offer. And they may have no reference point or referrals to you. Where will they likely end up? Wherever life is clear, concise and organized. That is the power of a name. It is not the product. It is not the brand. It is simply a mental shortcut to the full brand promise.

Leaving it to the engineers to name the products may work in a few rare cases (and make your trademark lawyers very nervous) but engineers are people too. Some will have a natural sense of marketing and naming. Some will be the other extreme. By putting an architecture framework and some guidelines in place, at least the products might look like they came from the same lineage.

In summary, it is difficult, but you still have to do it, or get help from an agency that works a lot with software. Else you might win the technical wars and lose the marketing mind share war.

Later: Multi Tier Branding.

In the meantime, the Top 10 Naming Factors still apply.


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