How to pick a product name that stands the test of time

Have you ever seen that episode of Superstore where Amy and Dina are unpacking the logic behind product names?

Joking about Fig Newtons, they remark that Fig really is an unusual fruit choice for any kind of snack, but Amy observes that she’s so used to the slogan, she can’t imagine pairing it with any other fruit.

Even their attempts to think up different slogans fall flat, with Amy unsuccessfully trying out, “It’s not a cookie, it’s a… straw…newton?” In the context of Superstore, this is pretty funny, but it also raises a good point about marketing. 

As Superstore’s Fig Newton debate shows, product names matter. If a name is too weird, people may be less likely to buy it. If it invokes negative connotations, you’ve done yourself a major disservice.

But the same is true for names that are too boring, too forgettable, or too much like another common product name. 

Those are a lot of concerns to worry about and, at first, the pressure may scare your creativity away. But the good news is that you really don’t have to be afraid. Although it may sound complicated, the process of choosing a good product name isn’t really as tough as you’d think. 

In the end, you simply need something meaningful and original that will connect with your customers and add value to your brand.

So, if you’re the founder of a new startup and you’re thinking up names for your product, let’s explore some insights that can help you develop a kick-ass product name.

What's the difference between a brand name, a business name and a product name?

Think of a brand name as the embodiment of a company itself. What you think of when you think of X. A brand name is also used to identify and distinguish product ranges.

A brand name can be the same or different to the business name, which is the name registered when the company is incorporated. Whereas a product name is the specific name of a specific item or service.

Let's take Nike as an example. Nike is a recognisable brand, the business itself is also called Nike and it sells a selection of products all named various things. Nike has collections of products that in a way have their own brand identity too, e.g. Air Jordan and Nike Pro.

What NOT to do

Some things serve as great examples of what to emulate and others, well, they exist to be a cautionary tale. So, before we dive into our naming top tips, let’s take a look at some questionable product names. 

  • Memories of Butter 

    “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!” was one thing but… memories of butter? Seriously? Yes, tragically, this was a real butter substitute.

  • The Great Wall Wingle

    Everybody wants a car name that sounds at least relatively cool, which is why it’s so baffling that Great Wall Motors named their pickup truck The Great Wall Wingle.

  • Nintendo Wii

    This one speaks for itself, purely because of how it sounds.

How to choose a great name for your new product

These examples are pretty funny to read but they also offer some valuable lessons. No one wants their product - or their entire brand - to end up on a list of something to laugh at, yet we can instantly recognise that the name choices on this list are completely unappealing.

And although it may not be pleasant to imagine your product as the butt of a joke, there’s a lot of value in that as a thought exercise. So, let’s consider some helpful steps you can take to avoid bad name choices.

1. Get feedback

If you think you have a good idea for a name, surveying other people is a great first step. Ask them what comes to mind when they hear the name. Pay attention to any puns, negative connotations, or language barriers that other people may pick up on. 

If your product name invokes laughter, disgust, or offence out of the gate, you probably want to go in another direction.

2. Be aware of your demographic

If you plan on making your product available to a wide range of people - and especially if you plan on marketing in other countries - it helps to be aware of cultural and linguistic differences that may be problematic. 

For example, if your product name sounds great in English but translates to something offensive in another language - especially one that’s commonly spoken by your prospective customers - it’s worth doing extra research and changing the name. 

Just take a lesson from the story of the Chevy Nova, which didn’t sell well at all in many Spanish-speaking countries because its name essentially translated to “this car doesn’t run.” Nova might sound cool in English but no one wants to buy a car that literally says it doesn’t run!

3. Avoid gimmicks

Lots of product names rely on wordplay, crude jokes, or references to pop culture as a way of making an instant splash. But while that may get you a few sales out of the gate, it’s not a good recipe for establishing a successful and respected business.

If you want to succeed beyond the initial hype your joke might generate, it’s important to plan for the long game. If you’re basing your product name off of a joke, will it still be funny in 10 or 20 years? Or will your product fade into obscurity because no one relates to the joke anymore?

A lot of time and effort goes into developing good product names but we promise it will be worth it in the end! Because, honestly, it’s worth it to not become a laughing stock or to see your clever, useful product fail because of a stupid name.

It may take you a few tries, a lot of surveys, and even more market research to find the perfect name, but don’t be afraid to put in the hours and work to find something that resonates with your customers. 

Choosing a company name and picking product names is exciting. Admin on the other hand isn't. With Launch, you can take care of the tedious but essential tasks to help your company run smoothly. And then set up fair and flexible equity agreements to motivate your team to strive for success.

Book a free discovery call to see how Vestd could give you back time to focus on more of the stuff you love.