If you have tried naming a new product line or service offering, especially in a big company, then you know what a challenge it can be. Who is in charge? Who makes the final decision? What name style do you like? Do the engineers like? Do the customers care? Should they even get a vote? What makes for a good name? Is it brandable? Is it even available?
A number of different pundits over the years have come up with their top 10 characteristics of a good name. Even we came up with our top 10 characteristics that make a name memorable.
But the little dirty secret of naming that few people want to mention is that there are two other over arching characteristics:
(1) Nothing matters if the boss doesn’t like it.
Yes, you can go through thorough exercises and proper creative brainstorming sessions. Even use outside consultants to help generate a large list of names to work from. Study the top rules for a good name. Even involve a lot of team members. Sometimes clients too. But at the end of the day, the hardest person to involve is the one that has final veto power. The boss himself.
So how do you plan for this? Remember he is too busy usually to sit through all the naming meetings. Realise also he is a manager who is not used to doing any work per se. Rather his or her job is to make decisions all day. So you have to find a way to involve him when you are down to a short list of potential names – and make sure you get his input and feedback at that stage. He is much likelier to endorse a name if it does not come as a surprise and if they feel they had some executive control or say over the final selection.
(2) Nothing matters if the company lawyer doesn’t like it.
Realize that the company lawyer is the one person who can even scare a president off a name. This is because they are looking at liking a name, or not liking it, based on a whole separate set of criteria. Legal doesn’t care if it is easy to spell or say, or catchy with the audience, or has good brand roots or plays off some technology feature. All they care about is can they register and protect the name. This is about when you learn that names are trademarked and not copyrighted and are registered in certain specific international trademark classes. And this has nothing to do with features or small differentiators like in filing patents. Here, a “confusingly similar” name or description is enough to disqualify an application. Also, names are usually trademarked by country or small region (EU, Benelex, etc). But you might be selling your products much further afield than your home country.
So you won’t know if your lawyers like a name until you present it (or better still a short list) to them. However, you can do you own provisional trademark checks by checking registered trademarks online in your primary target markets and also doing basic online searches to make sure no competitor (however vague or far away) has already used the name – or something confusingly similar. This is a great time to start to learn about trademarks to enhance any marketing career – including one overriding simple fact that “generic” names cannot be registered. So forget giving your product a very common (in the industry) name that is already widely used in the literature.
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