If product marketers are asked to rank the most difficult tasks they face, the most likely responses will be something like: “it is hard coming up with new product ideas” or “we struggle deciding on what is the best price to charge” or “it is challenging finding distributors that are willing to sell our product” or “we rack our brains trying to come up with a great slogan”. It is almost guaranteed that way down on the “challenges” list is deciding on what name to give to a new product. This is because many marketers view product naming as a secondary decision that can always be addressed later. That is, the challenge of giving a name to a product is not considered as critical as other issues they face.
Yet, as we discuss in our Product Decisions tutorial, product naming is one of the most important elements in establishing a respectable brand. Along with creating specialized features, such as a unique design, the name gives products an identity that may help separate it from competitive offerings. The name is also the leading element in product promotion as it is repeated over and over.
Naming is so important it has led to the creation of specialized marketing companies whose key service is to come up with brand names. However, these marketing specialist mostly target big companies, who can afford the large consulting fees that are charged. Smaller companies searching for a brand name must do so in-house, and this is not always easy. They often lack the skills or research capacity to figure out what names may grab the attention of potential customers. They also may not be fully informed of the legal consequences for adopting a name that may infringe on the same name owned by someone else. Others find it hard to come up with a name because Internet trolls have swooped in and registered the domain name and potentially hold it hostage unless someone is willing to fork over large sums.
A good example of smaller companies facing naming challenges can be found in the craft beer industry. As discussed in this National Public Radio story, craft breweries are among the most innovative industries when it comes to new product. However, the proliferation of products has led to problems with name creation. In some cases brewers, who have named a product, are discovering that other companies have already trademarked the name, and this has led to legal battles. What is particularly interesting is that nearly all words that are associated with beer and brewing have already been trademarked to the extent that it is nearly impossible to name a beer with these words. The story also notes that the issue is not limited to words. Trademarked images appearing on craft beers is also resulting in legal battles.
Image by klorrainegraham