This Thanksgiving I noticed a couple of products while out food shopping …

  • “Thanksgiving Day Dinner” dogfood
  • “Turkey and Sweet Potato Formula” dogfood

They both include turkey and sweet potatoes, but my mind jumped to different impressions of each product. Which one would you have chosen?

Names matter. They form an impression of a product and set expectations in people’s minds.

Great names connect with us in some way. We understand them and get a sense for what they’re about. They tend to be

  • A good fit with the product
  • Meaningful
  • Emotionally connecting
  • Memorable and findable
  • Visually evocative
  • Unique

Some of my favorites are Amazon (vastness), Jaguar (sleekness), Snuggle (fabric conditioner) and Sheba (premium cat food)

Great names DO NOT

  • Box you in (Kentucky Fried Chicken was more than just fried chicken, which is one of the reasons they changed the name to KFC)
  • Have unintended meanings (e.g. the dating site “Plenty of Fish” reads awkwardly when the words are strung together … Plenty Offish)
  • Use problematic spelling (Flickr is frequently miss-spelt and they eventually had to spend heavily to get the website Flicker.com from a website investor)
  • Overpromise (the “24 Hour Fitness” near me is not 24 hour)

Towards the end of one of our recent naming ideations, someone asked how to narrow down the extensive array of names we had generated on flipcharts all around the room. The norm had been to ask “do I like it?”. But this doesn’t always help you narrow down to the best name; you might end up with a clever name being chosen, but nobody gets it (like “Xobni”). If you really want a great name, you’d be better off asking “is it great?” and judging it against the characteristics of great names mentioned above.

… and in case you’re wondering, “Xobni” is inbox spelt backwards.