BLOG: Tamara's Tech Marketing Tips

February 27, 2012

Leading a Naming Brainstorm

In my last post, I talked about some things to think about before trying to come up with a new company or product name.  In this post, I’ll lay out some brainstorming ice-breakers and discussion starters, as well as how to test your new name.

Things to Consider

Before starting the brainstorm, arm yourselves with a good thesaurus and an Internet connection because you will want to consider:

  • Noun forms and meanings
  • Verb forms and meanings
  • Etymology — earlier forms of words
  • Morphemes — word parts
  • Idioms — common phrases
  • Synonyms
  • Greek & Latin
  • Characters
  • Mythology
  • Folklore
  • Cultural references
  • Literary references
  • Plants
  • Gemstones/Minerals
  • Animals
  • Internet MEMEs

Different Brainstorming Exercises

You can either break up into groups and assign various exercises or just work through these as a group.  Assign a time limit to each exercise so that you don’t get bogged down in any one category.  Remember to eliminate those that don’t match your naming criteria.

  1. Just Say It  — get right to the point and say what you do (Brown n Serve Rolls, U-Haul truck…)
  2. Just Imply It – suggestive words that call to mind by logic or association (Campfire Marshmallows, Holiday Inn, Acutrim…)
  3. Suggest Expertise / Preemptive / Leadership — incorporate an authority figure or use words like best, first… (Mr. Coffee, Burger King, Best Buy…)
  4. Suggest results / benefits — e.g. save, reduce, increase
  5. Words that describe the buyer — e.g. demanding, cautious…
  6. What is the buyer trying to get rid of — e.g. confusion, costs, risks…
  7. Morphemes / Combination names — names made up of one or more words and/or word parts with partial or complete meaning retained, limit to 2-3 syllables (e.g. Facebook, Microsoft, WordPress…)
  8. Homophones — e.g. Higher / Hire
  9. Visual Imagery — leaves a visual image of what the product does, its benefits, or the user
  10. Evoke Emotion — words that evoke strong feelings or give an emotional appeal (e.g. Victoria’s Secret, Guiltless Gourmet…)
  11. Arbitrary names — names that have no specific meaning, open brainstorm, can make up words
  12. Keyword Research tool — research related words or search terms to words you like from the exercises above
  13. Altering suggestive words to make them unique — e.g. Compaq
  14. Oxymorons — e.g. Cold Fusion
  15. Alliteration — e.g. Intel Inside
  16. Rhyme — e.g. Shake n Bake
  17. Onomatopoeia — words that imitate sounds (e.g. Sizzler Steakhouse…)
  18. Stylized Spelling — e.g. KwikMart

Once you’ve completed these exercises you need to narrow it down.  Get each committee member to select their top five names using tally marks on a white board with the names on it.  Use the highest overall ranking results to create a list of names to test.

Testing Your Names

  1. Does it meet the criteria you agree upon?
  2. How long is it?
  3. Say it out loud — is it well understood? Can the listener guess the spelling?
  4. Say it over the phone — is it understood? Can the listener guess the spelling?
  5. Ask strangers to pronounce it.  Did they get it right?
  6. Look it up in the dictionary — what does it mean?
  7. Does it have a meaning in other languages in countries where you do business?
  8. How will it be shortened? Are those variations acceptable?
  9. Ask people in the real world what emotions it evokes, what they might guess the company does, and what they infer based on the name.
  10. Do a Google search on the name, what comes up?
  11. Is the domain available?
  12. Are social media profiles available? (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube…)

Selecting a Name

Based upon your test results, narrow the list down to your top five.  Get feedback from your employees, board, and customers, then make your final selection.

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February 07, 2012

Choosing a Company Name

I’ve worked with quite a few organizations over the years to brainstorm new company and product names.  Along the way, I’ve come up with a process to help stimulate the creative juices and keep the team on track.  This is the first of a two-part series that will walk you through what I’ve learned and some tips for start ups searching for the perfect name.

1.  Assemble your Team

Names rarely just pop into your head.  You need a good team for a brainstorm — and not just the marketing department.  Bring together people from management, technology, sales, marketing, and even HR to get a well-rounded team.  But don’t forget that teams need leaders.  If you think you will find a new name that everyone loves you are deluding yourself.  Someone needs to be in charge and make a decision on a name that meets the mutually-agreed upon criteria and passes the testing phase.  Maybe it is the CEO, maybe not, but you can’t have anyone pull rank once the decision has been made so if your CEO has the last word, then provide him/her with 2-3 options and let them make the final selection.

2.  Set some Brainstorming Ground Rules

In addition to choosing a “decider,” you also need someone to lead the brainstorm.  The moderator needs to reinforce certain rules throughout the brainstorming session such as:

  • Criticism is withheld.
  • Quantity vs. quality (at least to start!)
  • It is an open field — far out ideas are welcome.
  • Feel free to combine words/ideas or expand on something already stated.
  • Move quickly, don’t stop to think or analyze.  Save that for after you have a list of ideas.

3.  Decide on your Naming Criteria

Before your brainstorm starts, you need to decide as a group on your naming criteria. For example, do you want your name to be descriptive, stand-alone, or a blank slate?  Here are some common naming criteria to get you started:

  • Simple and easy to pronounce
  • Memorable
  • Timeless
  • Appropriate globally
  • Positive connotations
  • Distinctive
  • Available (domain, social media…)

Other criteria that may be relevant to your company include:

  • Suggestive meaning (e.g. AdWords, WordPerfect…)
  • Short (1 word only)
  • Portrays personality of the product/company (fun, serious, irreverent…)
  • Consistent with the company image (professional, smart, leading, cutting-edge…)
  • Free-standing /blank slate (e.g. Oink)
  • Provocative
  • Expresses benefits
  • Other: evoke emotion, define new category…

4.  Assign some Homework

Before the brainstorm, it is good to give some homework assignments that will get your team thinking about what they like and don’t like about names and what personality the company represents.  Here are some “take home” questions I like to ask:

  • Review competitors’ names and try to identify what criteria they meet.  What do you like and dislike about their names?
  • Describe the company/product personality traits you want to convey.
  • What are the cultural references that will resonate with your target audience? Are they sports fans, music lovers, sci-fi geeks, history buffs, art critics?
  • If your company was a TV/film character, who would it be and why?
  • If your company was a public figure, who would it be and why?
  • If your company was an animal, what would it be and why?
  • If your company was a song, band, or type of music, who or what would it be and why?
  • If your company was a sport or athlete, who or what would it be and why?

Next we will get into some brainstorming exercises, stay tuned? What other tips would you suggest?

February 02, 2012

Shazam and IntoNow: The Audio QR Code for Advertising

Tap to Tag with ShazamWhen Shazam first launched, I thought it was the coolest thing on my iPhone.  How awesome that an app could recognize a song by listening to a snippet of it playing on the radio, TV, etc and tell you what it is and who sings it.  I’ve bought a couple of songs using Shazam but honestly, I’m usually driving when I want to use it and digging out my phone, unlocking it, opening Shazam, and tapping to tag is not the safest driving practice.  When IntoNow launched I thought, cool, Shazam for TV.  Except, I already know what I’m watching so they tagging process was really just to check in and frankly, the way GetGlue shows trending shows and your favorite shows, checking in over on GetGlue seemed easier.  Plus, I like the stream you can follow of fellow viewers/fans.  I’ve long thought there is a market for an app to facilitate these impromptu conversations about an event, show, etc. outside of following hashtags on Twitter or only seeing what your friends are updating on Facebook.  For me, GetGlue wins out in the TV check-in app category over IntoNow or YapTV.

However, when Yahoo! bought IntoNow, I realized it could play a whole new role in advertising and possibly resurrect Yahoo! with a new ad revenue stream.  I’ve started to notice some Shazam bugs during TV shows but the news today shows that Shazam, and to a lesser extent IntoNow, are going big when it comes to the Superbowl and I’m thrilled.

I’ve spent years lamenting the lack of mobile integration into Superbowl ads, and the social media talking heads have bashed agencies for not going further to integrate social outside of a hashtag or Facebook page.   Now we are finally about to see both.  Shazam and IntoNow will offer a perfect way for viewers to interact with the ad using their mobile device, and get a reward with additional content, coupons, donations on their behalf, and more.

I’m not a huge fan of mobile QR codes because seem more effort than the value they deliver.  However, Shazam or IntoNow becoming what I’ll call the “Audio QR code” for advertising has many interesting implications for broadcast advertisers.  Now to see if people know what the heck to do when they see the little Shazam bug on their big screen.  I’ll be watching.