The Science of Picking a Name

Product success can be propelled by a product name that sets it apart, describes what it does and invites engagement.Washington State University researchers call it a germplasm repository. Reporters quickly dubbed it a honeybee sperm bank.

A product or service name is key to a target audience's recognition. With all due respect to WSU researchers, few people would know what a germplasm repository is. Most people wouldn't exactly understand what a honeybee sperm bank is, but they certainly understand what it is all about. Moreover, the name's cleverness adds to its attraction.

It would have been interesting to be a fly on the wall during the discussion over naming Dave's Killer Bread. The logo for this marvelous, great-tasting organic bread tells the story — it has the word "Killer" inserted into the logo, almost as an afterthought.

In fact, it wasn't an afterthought, but a clever ploy to distinguish the new bread line from other premium breads. The word "Killer" was a not-so-subtle reference to Dave Dahl's criminal past, as well as a prominent adjective to describe the bread's texture and taste.

However, chances are good that somebody in the room brainstorming the name thought adding the word "Killer" would be too risky. The success of the bread suggests it would have been riskier not to include "Killer." 

Google is testing the use of balloons drifting in the stratosphere to provide Internet connections in remote, unserved areas of earth. The improbable experiment involving a flock of solar-powered balloons seems at first blush laughable and foolish. Thus Google's choice of a name – Project Loon.

The name invites speculation about the project. Is it crazy or brilliant? Could a gaggle of balloons floating near the edge of outer space perform the same role, at a much cheaper price, as a telecommunications satellite? If the idea pans out, what implications does it have for expanded connectivity?

The idea of so-called "wonder craft," which can hover more or less in one place for years, is not new. But Google has pumped new air into the idea, giving the rapidly evolving search engine company a great opportunity for earned media and positive attention.

Names serve many purposes. They can describe your product or service, create clear differentiation or invite interest and engagement. 

So when you launch a product to save the modern honeybee, don't let your honeybee sperm bank fall flat by calling it a germplasm repository. Pick a name that creates buzz by telling your potential customers what the product does and why they should be interested.