Great Names Require Great Strategies, Not Tactical Roadmaps

Is there a best naming tactic or set of tactics? No. Tactics don’t automatically  predict outcomes. But there is a best naming strategy. That’s because a name is an invented concept that integrates all salient aspects of the brand and that ultimately comes to represent them (sometimes together with a tagline).

The best naming strategy, therefore, begins by looking at what a product/company does, what benefits it offers, whom/what it competes with, to whom it offers them, and what (in an ideal world) one wants evoked in a customer’s mind when he is exposed to that name.

That is, you start with the end, not the means; with the evoked, not the evoker.
Once you’ve got a handle on those issues, you can codify the attributes of a brand, develop a positioning/messaging statement and see the big picture. Only then can you start developing names and establishing measurable criteria against which to measure prospective names.

Google is a great name for a number of reasons (for Google, if you’ll excuse my reflexivity), but it’s not a very good name for an ultra-conservative bank. The  lesson: Context is everything. Without it, there are no great names or awful names, just boring, phonologically weak, meaningless ones.

The Zero Friction Branding™ Philosophy

An obvious—but oft-ignored—truth is that consumers never simply buy a product. First, they must find it on the shelf; next, they must pick it up; then, based on the names, designs, illustrations, and copy, they draw conclusions about it. Finally, if they haven’t yet lost interest, they buy it. To overcome these obstacles, packages must minimize or eliminate friction: every single distraction that would cause a consumer to lose interest and not buy (e.g., look at another product, become disenchanted with the current product, walk away, get engaged in conversation).

Zero Friction Branding™ is the name I’ve given to my philosophy that eliminating friction—which I conceptually define as any inhibitor to closing a sale—is the key to great branding and package design. Let’s apply this to the world of Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG):

1. Before the consumer decides to buy, he or she must see the product and decide to pick it up. Therefore, you first have to create a brand-coherent package shape, structure and design that immediately stands out from everything else on the shelf. After all, if the consumer doesn’t see the product, he or she will never get to steps 2 and 3 below.

2. Once the consumer is looking at the product, the first thing he or she will notice is the name and description or tagline. Both must be visually arresting, brand coherent, psychologically evocative and highly memorable. (Note that generic names don’t work because they are incapable of being psychologically evocative or memorable.)

3. Now let’s say the targeted consumer has provisionally decided to buy. That’s where compelling copy comes in. The third step, therefore, is to provide the knowledge-hungry consumer with precisely the information that will lead him or her to conclude: “Yes, this product is especially for me.”

The #1 Mistake in Hiring A Marketing, Branding or Copywriting Expert

Vertical market or domain expertise, for a person who has more than a modicum of smarts, is easily acquired (if not already possessed).  But if the ability to communicate compellingly does not exist, no amount of domain expertise can overcome that deficiency. In fact, a significant portion of my work comes from clients disappointed in the work of a self-styled “domain expert.”

Why? Because my domain expertise is horizontal: strategy, branding and positioning and their applications: naming, taglines, creative direction, copywriting, scripting, marketing planning, and the like.

That’s why the #1 mistake is looking for “vertical domain expertise,” instead of seeking someone who knows how to communicate passionately, persuasively and concisely. David Ogilvy, perhaps the greatest copywriter ever, built his entire agency and legacy on this principle.  As a result, his practice encompassed every industry imaginable.  He was a Renaissance person. So am I, and that’s why I can help you.

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