How to “Sprout” new brand and product names

When you meet someone for the first time, you introduce yourself with a handshake – brands introduce themselves with their name. The way the text reads, the way it sounds when you say it, and the connotation the name evokes, are the first interactions you have with a brand. And if first impressions really are everything – brands know they better make a lasting one.

Some companies have cemented their names with us – Kleenex, Apple, Q-tips, Google. Then there are some with the ever so creative A-1 (insert almost any service here) titles. And while a name is not solely responsible for the success of a company, successful companies do understand the weight a name bears. Often times, just one or two words become responsible for conveying, establishing, or promoting, the brand’s entire personality.

When it comes to pairing product name with brand personality, we think HP’s newest endeavor is one that is going to blossom.

Last week HP released “Sprout”. Equipped with a touch mat that doubles as a second interactive screen and a projection system that scans 3D images, this computer is allowing an immersive and 3D experience to reach a general public audience.

The technology is cool, but as marketers concur, a great new product needs an even better brand; this starts with a product name. Choosing the correct name for any product or service is extremely important since it will communicate a connotation about the product. Let’s take the new Sprout for example. Most computers running Microsoft Windows as their operating system aren’t seen as “creative stations”. With this new 3D immersive technology, HP is able to target the creativity industries, such as advertising, photography, graphic design, engineering, etc., you know all the people who swear by Macs. To enter this market HP needed a word (or phrase) that would convey the technology and stimulate the imagination. Sprout does just that.

A lot is at stake when choosing a name.  The last thing you want to do is invest serious time, money and effort into signage, advertising, and packaging, only to find consumers don’t like, believe, or understand it. To avoid this situation, consider a couple points mentioned below.

Whether it’s the company name or a product, the goal is the same – to make it memorable. In their own article on product naming, Matt Gordon and Nick Foley, are spot on when they discuss the importance of memorability. You don’t need to worry about your place in the phone book, they say, you need to worry about your rank on search engines. Having a name that is too similar to others can yield thousands of search results, instead of isolating your brand as uniquely identifiable and easily accessible. As such, this point goes hand in hand with another one the article makes – stand out in a crowd. Gordon and Foley note how you should look at your company/product category and the direction it is headed and ask yourself, what are customers expecting and how can you signal that you are different?

However, signaling that you are different, means breaking through both clutter and competitors. For whatever market you are attempting to break into, think seriously about what names are currently being used in the marketplace. First, make a list of competitors names, even tag-lines. Using too similar of jargon can lead to consumers associating you with another brand, overlooking you, and easily forgetting you – all of which fails you in establishing your mark as independent, and most importantly, different. Secondly, when it comes to serious brainstorming, remember, “The first hundred names you think of are likely to be the same ones your competitors tossed around.”

Whether you hire a branding agency, call in naming consultants, or do it yourself, all these approaches have one very important factor in common – brainstorming.

As we mentioned, your brand name should reflect your brand personality. Therefore, you’re first starting point should be to create a launch pad of words that describe your company/product/service. Use these words as jumping off points but don’t confine yourself to like-minded terms. Consciously look for words that stand out to you – inspiration can come in many forms – a restaurant menu, a flyer on the street, tv commercials, an article you read, etc.

In addition, keep in mind other resources you have at your disposable such as a dictionary, thesaurus, latin dictionary, or a rhyming dictionary. And just as we mentioned how you should avoid confining yourself to like-minded jargon, the same applies for your brainstorming team. Pull in people from different departments and levels to get a range of different perspectives and ideas.


Having a range of input in your brainstorming sessions is pivotal for ensuring a broad list of words. This is important for two reasons: the first being it ensures the potential for creativity and originality. Secondly, there are more than 200,000 annual trademark filings in the US – this means that great name you came up with, might not even be available for use. However, because you generated such a broad list of words, if this happens to be an issue, it might be challenge that can easily be overcome.

After you spend your time building up your word list, the next step is to narrow down. Eliminate words that are cliche, difficult to say, and too generic. According to Christoph Moller, you should disregard any words that are apart of these seven name deal breakers:

  1. Copycat — similar to competitor’s names
  2. Random — disconnected from the brand
  3. Annoying — hidden meaning, forced
  4. Tame — flat, uninspired, boring
  5. Curse of Knowledge — only insiders get it
  6. Hard-to-pronounce
  7. Spelling-challenged

When you have narrowed down your lists to a tangible number of either words or names, make a list for each one that describes the pros, cons, definition, and connotations associated. Strive to pick words that have a meaning behind them, that you can directly relate back to your brand personality or mission. While arbitrary words are often the ones that are most fun and quirky, it can often be hard to package the association between product name and product service.

After picking your final favorites, (we would say between three to five options) Mikael Cho, states that you should ask yourself these four things: What domain could we get? Could we get a trademark? What Twitter handle could we get? What do the Google search results look like if someone searched the name using keywords?

The answers to these questions may solidify that you made the right choice, or they may send you back to the drawing board. And while all of these things can help when it comes to deciding, don’t let logistics dictate. If you love a name, don’t bypass it just because you can’t get the exact domain name or twitter handle. Don’t forget to use your gut too, go with a name you love and are going to love to market.

For example, for our own blog, “Communication Minded” was the pairing we obviously came to love. And in reaching our final decision, we can attest to the helpfulness of the brainstorming strategies above, because we used almost all of them ourselves. We picked Communication Minded because the words illustrated something we, as co-creators, had in common, and what we would have in common with our readers. It alluded to the idea of expressing our opinions and sharing ideas, as well as, encompassed the communication-focused professions we write on.

So what brands or products do you think have good names? Tell us why in a comment below.

-Savannah Valade & Caroline Robinson


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s