4 need-to-knows image
November, 2018 Cameron Krueger

4 need-to-knows of product naming

New product naming is exciting and is often the culmination of the hard work from engineers, designers, marketers, and more to bring a product to market. Often times, our clients must juggle naming input from all the contributors to the final product. It can be overwhelming. Outlined below are 4 considerations naming owners can think about to help them navigate new product naming.

1. Consider compete and naming strategies

Think about how a new product stacks up to the competition. Is it a wholly-new or differentiated concept within the category, or is it a direct compete with existing products? At Microsoft’s cloud computing organization, we help counsel product marketing managers to align to market leaders or industry terminology when possible as it best aids customer wayfinding and product discovery. In Microsoft’s portfolio you will frequently see industry terminology in names such as Microsoft Azure IoT and Microsoft Azure Virtual Machines that enable customers to quickly find what they are looking for. Furthermore, if a product release is playing catch-up to the competition, making a hurrah with a differentiated name only hurts its chances of being discovered and gaining traction.

2. Consider the composition of the current portfolio.

Looking at a new product’s portfolio surroundings is an important input for naming because adherence or difference from existing naming types or constructions can either assist wayfinding and cohesion or create purposeful differentiation. We worked on naming two new offerings for PayScale where the portfolio is primarily composed of descriptive and generic names. We named a new tool ‘Insight Lab’ that provides core competency visual analytics functionality to PayScale. Aligning this product to the existing descriptive naming strategy helps customers find the offering among the other HR data and analytics offerings. We also named a new, proprietary AI algorithm called ‘Helix’, which is a suggestive name that speaks to the fundamental technology that uniquely powers all PayScale products. This tech startup approach to crowdsourced compensation data is highly differentiated in the category. Breaking from the naming strategy helped signify that this a unique capability.

3. Consider the future of the product and category.

Introducing new products is exciting and is certainly a point of pride for the teams producing them. It can be tempting to append words such as ‘Smart’, ‘Intelligent’, and ‘Ultra’ to names to describe performance and add luster to products. Before adding a modifier to a name, think about the future of both the product and the industry. If this product is ‘Ultra’, what comes next for the bigger and better thing? For a ‘Smart’ offering, will the technology soon be standard/commoditized? Smartphones and smart TVs are becoming phones and TVs, as ‘smart’ features are now standard for the category. Naming and re-naming can be large investments, so considering this now can save money later.

4. Consider prioritizing clarity over accuracy for complex products.

The complexities of a products’ functionality or features are often what separate them from the competition and drive purchasing. Calling out these points of differentiation directly in the names highlights them, but they may not be understood by customers. Metaphors can be used to make complex concepts or functionality feel more familiar and easily understood. Ford’s Eco Boost technology doesn’t describe how it works, but it clearly communicates the benefit of improved fuel economy. Twin-Independent Variable Cam Timing accurately describes the differentiated technology, but it would leave customers dumbfounded by what it does. Prioritizing customer clarity over accuracy allows the customer to get grounded more quickly. Product details and sell points can always support the name in messaging.

Regardless of whether the name is descriptive, suggestive, arbitrary, or fanciful, conscious and strategic naming is an opportunity to elevate all the work put into development and support the long-term success of a product. If you’d like to work with us on a naming project, shoot us an email. We’d love to hear from you.

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