How product managers can create product names that make people smile
Not many product managers get involved in naming products, and that is a mistake. If you were involved during the initial idea work and problem solving—creating a product concept that fulfills customers’ unmet needs—then you have valuable insights for the product name. You can be a great brainstorming resource to help Marketing or a naming consulting.
That is, if you know the attributes of a great name, how to avoid naming mistakes, how to use a creative brief, and how to effectively brainstorm. Those topics and more are in a new book titled Hello, My Name Is Awesome: How to Create Brand Names That Stick. The author is Alexandra Watkins and she joins us to discuss many of these topics so you can become a product naming champ.
Alexandra has created names or renamed many brands and products you would recognize, including the Wendy’s Baconator. She has many great tips for us that take the mystery out of naming.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[2:59] What are the SMILE elements of a good name?
SIMLE is an acronym for the five qualities that make a name great.
- Suggestive—your name suggests what your product is; the name doesn’t have to be descriptive, just suggestive of a positive brand experience.
- Memorable—a name is memorable if it is based in the familiar; for example, the bike lock Kryptonite is based on the familiar kryptonite from Superman.
- Imagery—when someone sees your product name, they have something to picture in their head; for example, the energy drink Bloom gives you a picture to imagine.
- Legs—your name lends itself to a theme, which is great for brand extensions; for example the Scrub Daddy sponge expanded to Scrub Mommy and Caddy Daddy.
- Emotional—your name makes an emotional connection, which can help you command a premium price; for example, you might buy a bottle of wine you’ve never tried before because you connect emotionally with the name.
[9:50] What are some examples of product names that deliver all the qualities of SMILE?
- Silk Almond Milk—it suggests that it’s rich, creamy, silky smooth; it’s memorable because we’re familiar with silk; we can picture something silky; the connection between milk and silk gives it legs; and it makes an emotional connection with something luxurious.
- Retriever GPS for dogs
- Wendy’s Baconator
- The Church of Cupcakes
Suppose Anne is a product manager trying to come up a with a great name for a new pool cleaner. What advice would you give her?
[13:00] Creative Brief
First, we would fill out a creative brief. This includes:
- Background information on the product, target audience, and desired brand experiences.
- Styles of names that Anne and her team like and styles they don’t like.
- Tone and personality of the name—is it a pool cleaner for millionaires or for families with kids?
The creative brief is your brand name roadmap that helps you keep on strategy while you’re going through the naming process and helps you know at the end whether your name meets all your needs.
[14:57] Kickoff Meeting
Next, we’ll do a kickoff meeting with the team. We discuss words that Anne and her team might like to have in the name, perhaps clear, sweep, or speed. We also explore themes like less energy or quiet.
We brainstorm name ideas. I look for metaphors, parallels, and things that are unexpected. Let’s say we’re focusing on speed. I would look up lists of things that are fast, maybe names of power boats. I use the internet to search and dig deep. As another example, I was naming an athleisure clothing brand for a client who like mixed martial arts, so I looked for lists of movie fight scenes. I skimmed the lists and saw the name “stunt double,” and that was the name.
[21:32] What do you think of making names by mashing together foreign words?
I’m not a fan. It’s the go-to for a lot of people—using a word from another language that relates to their product. Foreign names are foreign to customers, and you want your name to be approachable, friendly, and easily pronounceable.
[24:20] This podcast is named The Everyday Innovator, because it’s for people who think about innovation all the time. However, my core audience is product managers. How could I come up with a better name?
The Everyday Innovator is approachable and aspirational, but if you wanted to focus more on product managers, put the word product in your name. My first go-to with any naming assignment is alliteration. I would look up words that start with P. You could be the Product People Podcast. You want to include interesting words, although not too many. Product by itself isn’t very interesting, but Product People is. We all want to find our people. Product People Podcast fits all the qualities of SMILE.
Action Guide: Put the information Alexandra shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide.
- Check out Hello, My Name Is Awesome on Amazon
- Visit Alexandra’s website, EatMyWords.com
- Check out Alexandra’s online course How To Create Super Sticky Brand Names and get $300 off using code EVERYDAYINNOVATOR
“Sitting in a white room staring at a white board is not how colorful ideas materialize.” – Alexandra Watkins
Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.