Aaron Hall is the Associate Director of Naming at Siegel+Gale.
While naming your new tech product or company can be a lot of fun, it certainly isn’t easy. When approaching naming for the first or tenth time, there are some common pitfalls and traps in which companies tend to get caught.
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While it isn’t practical (or possible) to address every naming pitfall in a single article, there are a few easy ones to avoid when you jump into your next tech-naming project.
1. Exact dot-coms are hard to get. Get over it.
Everyone seems to want the elusive exact dot-com – a URL simply stating your company name – but searching for a name with an exact dot-com dramatically limits the sphere of your creative name options. You go from all the amazing names (that are still available as trademarks) to the few that are either misspelled and thus have domains available, or those that someone has listed for sale.
But why limit your options? Why not find the perfect name for yourself and figure out a novel new dot-com strategy that suits you, your customers, and your business needs?
One of our favorite examples of getting it right is the Method soap company. It found a great name for a great new home brand. But Method.com was not available, even for purchase. So rather than pick a new name that wasn’t as good a fit, it stuck with Method and chose MethodHome.com for its corporate and retail website.
And let us not forget the recent past when this passion for the exact dot-com went really, really wrong. During the Web 2.0 era enterprising startups latched onto names that had immediately available dot-coms like Thoof, Yoono, Heekya, Oooooc, and Yedda.
2. Cloud is here to stay. No seriously.
For years our clients have been asking us to seek clever, new ways to say and suggest “cloud.” Their fear always stemmed from a similar place: “We just aren’t sure ‘cloud’ is going to last, that it’s a trend.” I had a hunch then and it’s pretty clear now: “cloud” is not a trend.
The biggest companies named their products with the word “cloud”: Adobe Creative Cloud, Apple iCloud, Microsoft Cloud Services, Rackspace Open Cloud, Google Cloud Platform, Amazon Cloud Drive. The cloud might be nebulous(!), but it’s here to stay.
My advice is: if your product isn’t hyper differentiated and is pretty clearly a cloud product, service, or SaaS, then consider naming it Cloud + ___ to help your customers quickly understand what they’re getting.
However, also consider whether there isn’t something more interesting to say about your product, its features or benefits or the user experience. Perhaps a really good name can highlight another key aspect of your product/service/company, and let messaging cover off on “cloud.”
3. So your product is “connected?” Shocking.
We get it, technology is connecting us in newer, better, faster ways. But here’s the thing: connectedness is table stakes. We all expect it from technology. Expressing the concept of connection in a name is over and done.
From Microsoft Connect and Adobe Connect, to Sonos Connect and Sonos Bridge, to LinkedIn and even Groupon; the ideas of being connected have been covered with straightforward names, metaphors, and even extended metaphors. But why stop there?
Instead, search for those things that make your company or product unique. Do you have a compelling mission? Is your audience differentiated? What end-result or customer benefit is “connectedness” creating? What do you do differently that I should care about? And those are just a few places to start.
By searching for better, more salient and differentiating messages to communicate in a name, you’ll stand out in a overly “connected” naming space, and more importantly, communicate something of more value to your customers.
4. Constantly creating new sub-brands can cause chaos instead of clarity. Don’t proliferate.
The default paradigm for naming a new product, feature, extension, etc., is almost always to seek a fancy new brand name. And in some rare cases, a new brand name is warranted.
But in most cases, brand proliferation confuses customers who have to learn a new name for a new product/feature/extension. Communicating the story of this new name and its connection to the previous products creates a ton of extra work for market and sales teams and then you have additional expenses building, promoting, registering, protecting, and generally giving life to a new brand.
If done properly, brand and product managers should first explore extending existing brands with descriptive language or some other type of naming system.
Amazon has done this nicely. Kindle has remained its brand for eReaders, but as the company needed to extend the brand beyond books to encompass all media and multiple form factors, it didn’t jettison the Kindle brand in lieu of a half dozen new brands. Instead, Amazon developed the Kindle Fire (to indicate enriched media) and extended it with descriptive terminology like HD, HD 7, HD 8.9, HDX, HX 7, and HDX 8.9.
On the flipside, we have the story of Netflix and its splitting of its business models into two brands. Now we know there were many things Netflix did wrong in this situation, but most relevant for our discussion was its creation of the sub-brand Qwikster.
We wonder what would have happened, and if the negative press might have been less frenzied if they’d opted for something a bit less flashy and renamed its businesses Netflix Streaming and Netflix DVD Rental.
So there you have it. Exact dot-coms are overrated, Cloud is here to stay, connected is long past its prime and proliferating new sub-brands like giddy bunnies will cause more confusion than it solves. Hopefully identifying and waxing philosophical on these few tech-naming pitfalls will help you recognize and avoid them the next time you make an encounter.