TriComB2B Blogger - Chris Eifert

What’s in a B2B Product Name?

Chris Eifert

It turns out … a lot.

This should be easy, right?

You need a name for that new product you’re about to launch. That should be easy enough. Just get the team together (or ask the agency) to start putting some ideas on the white board. Stack up the ones you really like and put it to a vote. In a couple of hours, you should have a nice list of options you can live with. If Legal doesn’t find any conflicts, you’re good to go, right?

Not quite.

Picking a B2B product name is one of those things that sounds about as easy as making a can of soup, when in fact it’s probably a lot closer to making Thanksgiving dinner — more of a multi-course meal than a lunchtime snack … and for good reason.

Keeping B2B names simple and easy to understand

Alphabet Soup letters image


First, there’s the matter of best practices. Our John Acquavita crafted a blog with some considerations that address such factors as: naming goals; distinctiveness; memorability; imagery; length (actually, lack thereof); and believe it or not the psychological response correlations to ease of pronunciation and cognitive understanding. It’s all here in John’s blog, Your Product Is Called What?

That’s just the start.

Five more product naming considerations

The process of creating a product name is — and should be — more involved than you might think. Here are five other factors B2B marketing professionals should consider to ensure the best possible result.

  1. Geography — Where will the name be used? If the answer is globally, then you’ll need to be cognizant as to how the name will translate or be interpreted. Idiomatic expressions or meanings (e.g., a clever double entendre in English) are frequent sources of naming inspiration, but they usually fail the “will this make sense” test when applied outside the originating country. In some cases, a word might have a strong, negative association in a certain region, either based on its exact spelling or how it’s pronounced (during a recent evaluation, we found one name idea had a strong association with a terrorist group in the Middle East!). Needless to say, care should be taken to perform linguistic evaluations in applicable international markets before it is released.

FOOTNOTE: We’ve all heard the Chevrolet Nova (“no va” = no go) product naming disaster from the 1970s. It’s even cited in textbooks. Turns out, the story is a fabrication. The Nova sold just fine; the name was never associated with “no go” or a similar meaning in any Spanish-speaking markets. Just doing my part to discredit what I’ve always assumed to be a true marketing story.

  1. Internal naming standards and processes — In many large corporations, product names and conventions can follow myriad conventions, creating an unruly, hard to manage and even costly product name landscape. To avoid this trap, many organizations develop naming standards. Parker publishes a standard encouraging the use of “descriptive names” (which connote a key benefit or function) as well as a decision tree and process that must be adhered to if a group wants to create a unique product brand. It’s a simple, well thought-out document that accounts for numerous factors to ensure the naming landscape remains under control and the costs of creating original brands are managed.
  2. Product road map — The naming team should have a comprehensive understanding of how or if the product fits into a bigger picture. Are there other products in the same category that are already named? Is this the first product in a series of similar or adjacent products? Understanding the surrounding landscape or the future development road map will allow the team to account for all sorts of details that will keep you from regretting a name choice down the line. For example, the name may need to:
    1. account for future, more technologically advanced models or releases
    2. allow for enhancements or added features
    3. mirror an already established nomenclature
    4. expand to accommodate new family members in the future

Choosing a name without consideration for the bigger picture can lead to a lot of angst in the future for some unfortunate soul saddled with a poor choice which had painted the organization into a corner.

  1. Accompanying descriptors — Be sure to provide guidance, if not rules, on how the product name should be used. Specifically, product names often require an accompanying description. Without some rules, communicators are left to their own devices, which can lead to frustrating inconsistencies that leave customers confused. Take a moment to think about the correct usages and document them. Here’s an illustrative excerpt from one of our clients:

• In instances where the communication is about the family of compressor electronics or the offering in general, refer to CoreSense technology in copy. The CoreSense brand should be modified by “technology” whenever possible. (NOTE: The word “technology” is always shown in lowercase when used in text; however, when the graphic form is used on a label, “Technology” should be capitalized.)

• When making reference to a specific product in copy, always follow the CoreSense naming convention, capitalizing both the CoreSense brand and the primary value, i.e., CoreSense Diagnostics.

  1. Competitive conflicts and legal reviews — Your legal team will have the last word on what name options can be used, but do everyone a favor and spend some time online exploring potential conflicts within your competitor or peer set. Doing so will help eliminate obvious conflicts and save the team from evaluating and iterating options that aren’t really options. Visit websites, Google name combinations, and use the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS). Provide your first round of research with your name options to help the legal team in their evaluation. If you really like a name and you’re not sure if there is a conflict, include it as an option with specific instructions to the legal team as to why you would like it evaluated. They may come up with a way (like affixing a company or brand name) to avert what would otherwise be an infringement.

And yes, there’s even more you can do

There are more things you should consider along the way, depending on the strategic significance of the name: internal stakeholder reviews, customer focus groups, graphic treatment options and more. So, the next time you send your B2B marketing team a note and ask, “Hey, I need a name for this product,” think through all these considerations and the ramifications of short-cutting the process.

If you do, you’ll be remembered for a great meal, not a disappointing can of soup.

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