Friday, 12. March 2010 10:13
Purple or Prosaic?
It’s a tricky business naming a product. The first decision is probably to work out whether you want something suggestive, creative and ephemeral, or something literal and descriptive.
I always want to go down the purple path, but common sense (usually) eventually kicks in.
The right way to go might depend on a few variables:
- the nature of the product (Socket Set versus CK One)
- names of competitor products (Jif, Vim, Bam)
- fit with other products you make (iSnack 2.0???)
- your target market (Carlton Draft versus Mountain Goat Hightail Ale)
- and more
In the end, you want a name that resonates with the right people at the right time.
Getting the right ‘feel’
When I was thinking of a name for this business, I thought literal (Content Strategy Australia), personal (Ryan Strategy Group), evocative (too embarrassing to reveal) and thematic (WordWork) before hitting on Sitegeist. It’s a name that not everyone ‘gets’, but it works for me because it captured the spirit of the business I wanted to run:
Not everyone likes it, but most of my clients do.
I recently helped Ben, a friend and former colleague, come up with a name for some software he has developed. The original name – ‘Slipstream’ – was evocative; meant to imply speed and ease – two of the product’s main attributes. It was also already being used, so he chose another name – this one far more thematic and overt about the actual product: WindowFlow.
In hindsight, he was lucky my initial suggestion wasn’t available; the new name is clearer, less ambiguous, and should work better with the product’s target market. Smart thinking.
I also worked for a while on the popular online travel bulletin board at Lonely Planet, the Thorn Tree. A great name…if you already knew what it was.
But, as a smart website manager asked me, why would anyone click on those words in a navigation menu? She was right. The product name was too obscure. The result was a product that felt just a bit too ‘clubby’ and exclusive.
Solution? Simple: call it “Thorn Tree travel forum”. It retains its quirky on-brand identity, and also “says what it is on the tin”. Bingo.
Research. There it is again.
A word of warning, though. When naming a product, do a bit of research into what the words actually mean. Toyota’s Starlet is a good example: A starlet is a young movie star with potential. Yes. But another common definition is “a young and inexperienced actress who is projected as a potential star”. Overhyped. Hmmm.
Another car model is the Mirage: “Something illusory”. And there’s the whole Pajero=wanker debacle. Or does it mean “straw seller”. Or is it just an urban myth?
Here’s a fun product, snapped in a shop window in the charming Victorian town of Beaufort last weekend. It’s always worth checking out any slang implications for your product name too…