In my first “Name Game” post, I outlined the following four core processes for developing optimum names:
- Establish a strategic framework as defined by both the company’s purpose and the company/product benefit(s).
- Develop a clear understanding of the target audience’s sensibilities–the key to “connecting” with a name.
- Undertake a competitive audit. What is the competition doing or not doing?
- If working within an existing portfolio, conduct brand equity research to understand what value, if any, existing names have.
This third step for developing optimum names–competitive analysis–is where the science of the process is applied. In this step, the industry best practices in which a company competes provide the necessary framework for understanding naming opportunity.
Here is how these best practices work.
Start with a list of key competitors. Once you have your list, then you undertake a positioning analysis of each competitor (i.e., look at the benefit they are providing and how the name aligns with that benefit). For each competitive company/brand name, you analyze two levels of positioning:
- Positioning Distillation: The competitive positioning distilled down to a few phrases or one to two sentences.
- Full Positioning: The entire competitive positioning. What’s the theme? What’s the tone? Who are they targeting?
With this information in hand, you analyze the positionings to identify which naming “bucket” each competitive company/brand name falls into. I consider the following four naming buckets as the standard taxonomy for naming best practices.
- Descriptive: Names that describe a function of the company, a pragmatic benefit, or the category in which the company operates.
- Invented: Made-up names with either Greek or Latin roots, or constructed names based on rhythm–sonically poetic .
- Experiential: Names that reflect a human experience, that establish a direct connection that requires little explanation.
- Evocative: Names that directly call on the strategic company positioning, evoking future benefit(s) rather than describing a function or an experience.
These analyses should provide you with a clear picture of where the naming gaps are in the market–and where the naming opportunities are for your company.
A Case in Point: I was recently involved in helping a client name a new product platform designed to be state-of-the-art. In following the process I just described, we realized that the majority of competitors’ names were evocative or invented, potentially reflective of the fact that the brands did not have unique positionings–they used the name as a means to differentiate the platform.
As such, we pursued a descriptive name, one that reflected the unique benefit and essence of the new platform. With this unique benefit in mind, we named the platform Command. The name literally means “to direct with specific authority; to have or exercise authority or control over; be master of.” Command was launched in September as part of an overall rebrand, to initially positive response.