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By Lena HöckNov 16th
Published March 14th 2014
Naming things is hard. When you name something, it anchors it in people’s minds; the name and the thing are then forever connected. It creates brand recognition.
It’s why brands find it so hard to rename anything and why we still have the Carphone Warehouse in the UK, despite years without carphones. It’s also why actors keep their stage names even if they change their real name for marriage.
Names and words don’t exist in a vacuum. People often have history with them or create associations, and that needs to be respected. My parents wanted to call me Max, but decided against it because “Max White” sounds like a powerful detergent. Names matter.
I spend a fair amount of time naming new things at Brandwatch: new features, new products, new services.
Traditionally we have kept things fairly descriptive and matter of fact – Dashboards, Components, Filters – but recently we have tried to create more interesting names that evoke something more.
I have five rules I try to follow when naming a product:
If your product name is hard to pronounce, people won’t talk about it and if they can’t write it down (and spell it correctly!) when they hear it, how do you expect them to Google it?
Keep it simple and don’t go with any wacky spellings just for the sake of it.
It’s very hard in this day and age to be completely unique, so you can give yourself a bit of leeway, but your product name should at least be unique to your industry.
This makes it much easier to get the domain, do well in search and know that when someone says the name, they mean your product.
The longer the name, the harder it is to grab people.
Longer names also mean people resort to abbreviations that you often don’t get to control.
You want your product name to jump off the page and stand out next to all the other boring words around it.
When someone says it in a sentence it should stand out so everyone around pays attention.
Your product name should tie back into what your product is, what the feeling you want people to have when experiencing your product is, and/or what idea are you trying to get across.
It should be emotive and inspiring.
Let’s take something we recently named: Brandwatch Vizia.
Vizia is our data visualisation product; a second generation command center, if you like.
Vizia was tough to name. We spent hours brainstorming, looking at words, filtering through dictionaries, making up words, combining words, making acronyms and on and on until we finally settled on it.
Ironically, Vizia was one of the first names we came up with and it’s the one we ended up going with – sometimes that’ll happen.
Here’s how we came up with that name:
I had already named part of the product “Scenes” – the data visualizations that make up Vizia.
Scenes is a great name for data visualizations, as it evokes storytelling, beautiful landscapes, an interesting situation – which sits perfectly with my belief (and what we built Vizia to do) that a dataviz should tell the story of your data in a beautiful way.
But what to name the overall product?
With features, having a unique name isn’t as important, as it’s just a small component of a bigger deal, but with the overall product, being unique is important.
I started with the suggestion of Vista, building on that idea of beautiful landscapes and the feeling of wanting to look at something for hours.
The problem with calling it Vista was, well… we all remember how successful the last product called Vista was.
The suggestion was made to change it to Visia, because of the above and to play more on the word ‘visual’.
There are a few other companies using Visia though. We started to despair. This was the point when the design team stepped in with the suggestion:
The great thing about this tweak was that it suddenly met all the golden rules. Using the Z made it much more striking with all straight lines. It also has made it an “ambigram” – a word that when rotated would look the same (if you drop the line out of the A), which started to give us ideas about logos and design features.
That was it. We now had a cool name that was easy to say when seen written down and easy to spell when said.
It was unique, short, looked good and, most importantly, it evokes feeling, emotion and the idea of visuals.
Vizia launched and is now a name our staff and many of our clients say/read/write on a daily basis.
I now have the difficult job of naming two new products that will be coming soon. The challenge now is to find names exciting enough to match them.
I’ll let you judge how successful we’ve been when we announce in the coming months.