We all understand the risk of Bill Lemon opening up a used car dealership under his name or Messrs. Dewey, Cheatum, and Howe launching their own law firm. Given the power in a name, it’s surprising how little attention is often given to developing the best company or product names.

Having split my marketing career between B2C and B2B companies, I’m often amazed (or maybe disillusioned) at how few of the customer-centric B2C marketing disciplines are adopted by B2B firms. One in particular: Naming. Whether creating names for a new product or for a company.

There is often a failure to recognize that a name can be a tremendous asset. A name can help communicate value, can contribute to why a customer chooses a product or company over another.

Unfortunately, too often the naming exercise is all too brief, without investing the effort that is warranted. “Hey, everyone in the conference room—let’s brainstorm on the name of the new product we are launching next month because our sales materials are due at the printer.” Or worse yet, an email is circulated to team members: “Here are some ideas for names, anyone want to add to this list?”

You’ve seen some of the most egregious errors:

  1. A company is named after the founder: Unless your name is Vidal Sassoon and you’re a famous stylist selling hair care products with a multimillion dollar ad budget, how is your name going to help your sales team sell product?
  2. Company name is based on city or even street name. I was VP Marketing at Manhattan Associates just after they went public. It was (and still is!) a great company with great products and a great team but the name wasn’t an asset to leverage. Besides, there was plenty of confusion: most thought it was because we were based in NYC but we were based in Atlanta. And, actually, “Manhattan” referred to Manhattan Beach, where the company was founded.
  3. Too many products/companies have made up names that mean nothing to the buyer and aren’t connected in any way to any delivered benefit.

Important considerations when developing a naming strategy for a product or company

  1. Your naming strategy should flow from your marketing and positioning strategies (if you don’t have a positioning strategy, please see me after class). What should the name connote? What is the character of the name (e.g. sophisticated, fun, etc.)?
  2. Should the name be more about what the company is or what value it can deliver?
  3. Easy to say and Easy to spell
  4. If possible, one-on-one research with your target audience can be helpful in both name generation and validation.

B2B Names That Are Better Than Others

The name doesn’t have to be literal, nor should it be. It doesn’t have to have any innate meaning. It needs to be something that you can leverage in communication where it will make sense in context.

  • Both “Evergage” (The Real-Time Personalization Platform) and “Reflektion” (Real Time individualized commerce) work as an asset in the website personalization category.
  • “Logility” was launched to offer logistics in supply chain.
  • TechCXO client “PokitDok” makes sense once you learn it is a cloud-based API platform designed to make healthcare transactions more efficient and streamline the business of health.
  • “Chainalytics,” does supply chain consulting and analytics. In a morass of consulting and analytics companies, this name stands out and implies an expertise a buyer might be looking for.It’s easy to see how these names can be leveraged in conveying the values delivered by the company.

The Big Finish

You should look at every customer-facing opportunity to demonstrate why your products and services are better than others.

Strong names provide a differentiating advantage over competitors, and can be effective for promoting the business.

Will the names you select be a real asset that contributes to success—will they resonate with your customers?