7 Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing a Product Brand Name

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

William Shakespeare wrote that...

He obviously never tried to sell Pee Cola to tourists in Ghana =)

The reality is – names do affect perception.

The instant we hear a new word our brains immediately go to work trying to make sense of it: Does it sound like something we've heard before? What does it remind us of? How does it feel?

That is, if we care enough to focus on the name in the first place! Companies of all sizes routinely underestimate the importance of the naming process. Understandably, executives want to release their products and services into the marketplace as soon as possible.

The problem is that such haphazard decision-making often ends up doing more harm than good. In this article, we'll review the 7 crucial mistakes to avoid when choosing product brand names.

7 Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing a Product Brand Name

1. Rushing Through The Process

Naming a product is more complex than most people realize.

It's equal parts strategy and creativity.

Not only do you need to choose a name that is memorable, and not already in use, but you also need to choose a name that can grow with you as a company. The strongest product names are often the ones that transcend the physical attributes of a product to create their own category.

Begin the process by authoring a comprehensive creative brief, outlining strategic objectives and setting naming criteria. Once you begin brainstorming, play with a variety of naming mechanisms (i.e. descriptive, evocative, abbreviated etc.) before narrowing your search down to final candidates.

Note: While legally cleared names can be used as early as a month into the trademark process, full trademarks can take anywhere from 12 to 18 months in the U.S. So, start early!

2. Trying to Be Too Clever

Have you ever had one of those jokes in your back-pocket that no one seems to get? YOU think it's hilarious. But every time you tell it? Crickets.

The most cringe-worthy product naming mistakes is "trying too hard." Choose something too cutesy, and no one will take you seriously. Choose something to complex, and no one will remember you.

Which is why you should always test name ideas for clarity. Not only should you ask your target audience for initial impressions, but you should also ask how comfortable they would be relaying the name in everyday conversation.

For example, say you are considering the trademark AmericInn for a hotel chain (Side Note: It's already taken). You might find learn that focus group participants have a difficult time communicating where they are staying to family and friends:

Person 1: Hey, I thought I would able to find you by Googling American Hotel, but couldn't find you.

Person 2: No, we're not staying at the American; it's the Americ-Inn!

3. Choosing a Long Name

The only way you can get away with a long product name is if you already have a HUGELY recognizable brand. For example, Microsoft named a software program "Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate UPGRADE Limited Numbered Signature Edition." Phew, that's a mouthful.

Compare that to shorter names like Sprite, Twix, and OxyClean. Which would you have an easier time accurately communicating?

Scientific studies show the average person can only remember up to seven numbers at a time – this is why our phone numbers are seven digits long. Though the mind can obviously retain longer chains of letters, its reasonable to assume shorter is better (especially when it comes to domain registration).

4. Deciding With Emotion

We all have names that we become attached to for whatever reason. The classic example of this is parents and baby names. Oftentimes, one parent latches onto a particular name early-on and later feels hesitant to consider other options.

But we're not naming babies; we're naming products. So, remember: Your product name does NOT exist to please you; it exists to communicate with your customers.

Carefully test your name ideas with the people who will ultimately determine the success of your brand, and remove personal bias from the process.

5. Ignoring Global Discrepancies

It happens more often than you would expect. Companies trademark perfectly acceptable product names only to later realize they mean something completely mortifying in another language.

By the time the company realizes their mistake, a difficult decision must be made: Overlook the embarrassing cultural discrepancy OR pay thousands of dollars (if not millions) to rebrand. In today’s global market, the former isn't always an option.

Due to the nature of online sharing, everything that is "local" is now "global. Unfortunately, identifying potential double-meanings has traditionally been challenging; essentially, requiring a search professional who processes a well-rounded grasp of linguistics.

Someone who would say to themselves, "Hmm... Nova sounds like it has Latin roots; I better double-check variations of meaning in the romance languages." The good news?

You don't have to rely on human perception any longer; TrademarkNow's technology assisted software virtually eliminates such naming faux pas with it's Word Meanings linguistic check. The program evaluates idioms, slang and cultural implications to help business stay clear of embarrassing double-meanings. make sure your name says only what you intend it to say.

6. Assuming Top Choices Are Available

You've heard the saying, "Don't put all your eggs in one basket."

While the adage MIGHT be debatable in some areas, it is 100 percent correct when it comes to choosing a trademark. There are more than 28 million active trademarks and 200 million registered URLs in the world.

There are approximately 250,000 words in the English language. Most of these words will NOT work for your product name. All that to say, your choices are limited.

Does that mean "All the good names are taken?" Absolutely not.

But it DOES mean your team may have to go through several ideations until finding the one. Keep costs down by choosing an UNLIMITED SEARCH provider who charges one flat rate.

7. Limiting Yourself to Descriptive Names

Descriptive product names are ideal because they tell consumers exactly what you have. However, unless you are first in your category, finding one not already in use can be challenging.

Kudos to Microsoft for trademarking the name "Internet Explorer." Instead of solely relying on descriptives, turn to metaphors and foreign language roots for fresh ideas.

For example, Roku, the popular streaming entertainment stick, devised its name from the Japanese 六 (roku) meaning "six" and 郎 (rou) meaning "son". The name was traditionally given to the sixth son. While Roku has undoubtedly had to educate its consumers as to what it is, they also have something completely unique unto themselves. The Bottom-Line: Don't be afraid to think outside the box.

Choose The Right Product Name For You


As you can see, there are many pitfalls to avoid when choosing product names.

The good news?

The naming process just got A LOT easier.

Thanks to NameCheck, companies can now conduct UNLIMITED trademark searches for ONE FLAT RATE. Since we don't believe creativity should be compromised by budget, we've designed a technology-assisted program that delivers human-caliber results.

Ready to learn more?

Download This Free eBook: 5 Time Saving Tips for Searching Trademarks Faster With Less Mistakes

by Nick Potts.