Names come from everywhere. There are names that describe an offering like International Business Machines (IBM). Names derived from key ingredients like coca leaves and kola nuts (Coca-Cola). Names of actual people like McDonalds and Hewlett Packard. Names that are random (Adobe was named after Adobe Creek that ran behind the house of a founder) and an endless list of other name origins — names from jokes, nicknames, linguistic algorithms, mythology, etc.
So why then with an abundance of possible sources of names, do naming projects tend to be rather arduous for clients? The main reason is a belief that the perfect name will make the brand, business or product. When in fact, that’s not the case. It’s actually the brand that makes the name mean something to a customer. Not the literal brand or symbol at the end of a hot iron stamp, but brand as an emotional and psychological relationship with a customer that elicits thoughts and feelings.

For example, say there’s a new product called Z, which you know nothing about, so the name alone doesn’t mean anything to you. You get to know Z though through direct and indirect experiences — everything from product, store, website, mobile, trade show and customer service experiences, promotions, pricing, advertising and press, corporate sustainability initiatives, community outreach, stock price, etc. Those experiences of Z (however few or many) form a perception, awareness or understanding of what you believe Z is all about. So when you see/hear the name, Z, the perception you formed about Z instantly comes to mind. And it’s those perceptions that elicit thoughts or feelings of interest or disinterest in Z’s product or service.

Did you notice when the name, Z, has meaning? It’s after an experience with the brand. The main focus then in marketing a new offering should not be the name, but the brand itself and how its communicated, experienced, consumed and felt by customers. Why? Because it’s the overall brand experience, not the name, that forms relationships with customers that leads to sales. That’s not to say that naming isn’t important, that some names aren’t better than others or that an established name with a lot of equity isn’t highly valuable. But the truth is, an awesome brand can make just about any name work, if not sing.

So, the next time you embark on the process of naming, remember its role in supporting and reinforcing the real key to success — your brand. How you go about that is namely two-fold:

  1. The advertising and marketing efforts need to deliver the right message, to the right people, at the right time, in the right way.
  2. The offering needs to deliver on the promises of the advertising.



Magnani is an experience design and strategy firm that crafts transformational digital experiences to delight users and deliver sustainable competitive market advantages for our clients.


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