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Naming Research: From subjective to strategic

You’re in the home stretch—you’ve got a shortlist of names that everyone in the room feels confident about. But picking the “best one” can be the biggest challenge, especially when there’s a strong argument for each. With serious investment on the line, the reasons to believe a name is the right one are worth quite a lot.

That’s why naming research is invaluable: To build confidence and consensus, you must dig beyond what you already know about a name, put aside the subjective, and forge ahead with insights that match names to your greater growth strategy.

The power of perspective

The true test of confidence is seeing how others receive your name. To determine how a name will actually work in the market, you have to take on the point of view of your audience. Through naming research, you can gain the perspective of the people who matter most—those that are going to pick up your product off the shelf or choose to talk up your brand over another.

But it’s not just about tapping your audience to vote on their “faves.” It is about understanding how their reactions can shape the success of a name, and the growth of a brand. Our many-layered research methodology overcomes traditional naming challenges and gives decision makers actionable insights around shortlisted names, in the context of their strategic business objectives.

Beyond the beauty contest

In pure qualitative research studies, consumers tend to choose names simply on superficial appeal. But what looks great on the outside may not be best connected to the inside ambition of a brand. Establishing a set of diverse, strategic criteria against which names are ranked allows us to articulate just what a name can do for a brand. Seeing how names actually measure up to your strategy ensures that viable candidates aren’t eliminated too early—which is undeniably helpful in today’s supremely crowded trademark landscape.

The descriptive bias

Consumer testing often reveals a bias towards descriptive candidates because, as people, we prefer what we already know—potentially blocking great names that a brand could grow into. Depending on the needs of a business, brands are built to do different things. Some may be crafted to create clarity, but others are designed to be bold and stand out. We build all of these qualitative dimensions into the analysis, so that decision-makers can confidently arrive at the best name for their brand and business.

Just part of the story

A name is a brand’s story in its shortest form, but it alone can only convey so much. The key is to first pinpoint the most important target attributes, then measure the name candidate’s performance against each of those attributes. Those insights, coupled with creative expertise, help us build a unique strategy for bringing each name to market.

Think about a new banking brand that wants to convey three things: a sense of friendliness and approachability, a premium product, and the value of speed and efficiency. One name can’t possibly say it all. But research will showcase how a set of names stack up against one another on conveying diverse key communication points. This insight guides go-to-market planning, spotlighting where a name leaves off and where messaging needs to pick up to round out the brand narrative.

Looking at linguistics

In today’s hyper-connected global society, it’s also important to understand how speakers of various languages might receive a brand name. Our analysis provides decision-makers with an in-depth linguistic and cultural picture of names, based on insights from the in-country linguists that we work with. Reports include pronunciation details, phonetic analyses, literal meaning, and word associations, as well as possible connections to existing brands in that country. This knowledge can give executives the needed peace of mind that a global name won’t convey unintended meanings in key geographies.

For example, the name “Bloom” was being tested as a global name for a woman’s razor. Research revealed that this English term is very close to the Hungarian word for “siege”—not exactly a message that the lighthearted, feminine brand wanted to convey to potential customers in Hungary. Ultimately, the business went in another direction and successfully launched the brand worldwide, without a linguistic gaffe.

Building clarity and confidence

Whether aiming to disrupt an industry or directly describe a product, robust naming research helps business leaders better understand what a name can and can’t do for them. Powerful perspective and measurable data get decision-makers out of their own heads and into the brand’s future. Equipped with crucial insights, they can confidently arrive at a name that both captures the story of the new brand and resonates with people, and propels long-term growth.

Is there a name in your future? Let us help you find it. This handbook is your guide to Naming.

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Contributors

Director, Verbal Identity