Brand Naming: A Critical Marketing Decision

importance_of_brand_namesAn excerpt from CMA Chairman Neil M. Brown’s book, Branding Best Practices: A Guide to Effective Business and Product Naming.

What’s in a name? That which we call a facial tissue or gelatin dessert or adhesive bandage by any other name would still be the same Kleenex or Jell-O or Band-Aid. Yet, for fear of infringing on the more common “trademarks” of these products, you have to admit that there is a definite power behind these brand names. Creating the ideal name for your company, product or service will have great influence on its successful launch and staying power in the marketplace.

How important is a name? First, there is great power behind successful company or product naming. While not even the best name can save a bad product or idea, the ideal name can have tremendous impact on its success. A truly great name is an advertisement in itself. It is the foundation on which the brand can grow and thrive.

Brand name development is certainly one of the first, and very likely, most important steps in marketing, and can dictate success or failure. Consider that many marketing experts estimate new product failure rates averaging 90%. And while campaigns change often, naming is likely the most permanent element in the marketing mix, if not the most costly to change.

And the importance of naming is growing. Why? Many of the best names are already taken, if not trademarked. In some categories, trademark conflicts during a name development exercise can approach 80-90%. Consider that in 2007, 33 million domain names were registered, with total domains now over 153 million. Also in 2007, a record 298,796 trademarks were filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and another record 39,945 international trademark applications were received by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

Yet despite these trends, too often naming is subjective or poorly executed, without the disciplined processes that are applied in other business areas. While other departments employ statistical process control and black-belt initiatives, marketing may coordinate a naming contest in which the “favorite” name is voted on by employees. Or the CEO’s secretary weighs in. Or the top marketer campaigns his or her pet name. You know how ugly this can get.

Given the trends in brand failures and name saturation, a more thorough and disciplined process should be used. But how? An internal task force? A contest? Certainly you can hire a boutique branding consultancy, or the branding agency division of a major advertising holding company.

Internal committees are more often than not, not effective, while hiring naming consultants is most often very expensive. Typical fees will start at $10,000 for a boutique to develop a brand name, and rise to millions for a corporate name from a branding division of a large advertising network.

With the high cost of product development, market launch, or corporate name change, not to mention a name’s impact on image and reputation, the stakes are highand the probability of failure high.

To order the book: Brand Best Practices: A Guide to Effective Business and Product Naming, link here.