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BRANDING | 10 Most Common Naming Mistakes | Part Three

A Great Name is Vital. Don’t Omit Crucial Steps.

When it comes to brands, the name is one of the most important elements of its proposition. A name is often the first act of public branding and helps establish the tone for a product, service, or company. It acts as the primary handle for a brand: It’s a recall and recognition device, it communicates desired attributes or specific benefits, and, through time and consistent use, it becomes a valuable asset and intellectual property.

However, many organizations take a very haphazard approach to naming, often omitting crucial steps that end up making the naming process longer, more arduous—and more expensive.

Following, I’ll explore some of the most common mistakes made when creating or choosing a name, and some tips to avoid them.

6. Ignoring Global Implications

Every company wants to avoid linguistic disasters. We’ve all heard the many stories (or myths) around names that fail the transition across borders—like the Chevy Nova in Latin America or Microsoft Vista in Latvia.

Yet it’s surprising how many global brands continue to launch names that are inappropriate in a culture—or even many—by ignoring the rigor of a linguistic disaster check. This happens, particularly, when a brand or product is only being considered for local launch or with limited expansion into other markets.

In today’s global economy, a thorough global linguistic evaluation is a must. With greater access to information, more and more people can pick up on issues—and talk about them. And with greater influences from other cultures and the rich cultural diversity of people in most countries, even when it’s local, it’s global.

Check names with native, in-country linguists. Idioms, slang and cultural associations vary from country to country, even if the same language is spoken. And, this way, make sure your name says only what you intend it to say.

7. Choosing Names Subjectively

When choosing names, the decision can be very subjective. We’ve all had experience naming someone, or something. We all carry with us personal associations around certain names. And we all have preferences, usually based on other successful brands in the market or brands we personally like or respect.

So it’s important, when choosing a name, to choose based on clear criteria for success. We’ve covered many of the ways to do this early on in the process—a strong brand strategy, clearly defining the role of the name, and identifying the key attributes it should communicate.

But, once you arrive at a final shortlist of name candidates, research can be a powerful, quantifiable tool. By carefully testing names with the people who will ultimately determine the success of your brand—your target audience—you can determine appeal and weed out any unanticipated negative reactions.

Research can’t tell us everything, and it should not be the only way by which to decide on a name. Nor should it limit you from taking (calculated) risks. But it does help guide your decision and build consensus among your key stakeholders.