Identifying and developing a new name for your product portfolio can be a tricky business. Here are some quick tips to make sure development stays on track.

Start the Process Early

And by this we mean while the product is in the development stage, not prior to an estimated launch. Ideally, name development should be part of product development with marketing taking the lead. We live in a cluttered marketplace. The key is to build a cushion of time assuming that several name candidates will fall out due to legal restrictions. The naming process should start a minimum of six months out, prior to public release. The more pressure the team is under to get a name out the door, the more likely nobody will end up pleased with the result. Even worse is the prospect that the new name would potentially result in making the portfolio confusing to understand to the customer.

Develop a Naming Framework

Ask key questions that will guide strategic direction:

  • How will this new product name (brand) relate to other products in the portfolio? Will this be sold as a bundled solution or a point product?
  • Are we developing a name that complements or distracts from our existing name nomenclature?
  • Will we be making improvements to this product in the near future in terms of features and benefits? Does it make sense to develop a new name or leverage an existing name form the customer's point of view?
  • How will this product brand be differentiated from what is currently on the market? And will the customer understand this differentiation? Have we tested this in the marketplace? Or are we just working on internal assumptions?
  • What is the role of the product name (brand) in the portfolio? Is is a me-too or a category leader? Is our resource allocation in alignment with the type of name we are developing?

Consider the Brand Portfolio

Avoid developing the name without considering your product portfolio. This is one of the single greatest mistakes to make because what may be right for the individual brand (new name) may be wrong for the entire portfolio. This often ends up resulting in:

  • Too many names in too many segments
  • Duplication and overlap
  • Gaps in communicating how the names are different from one another
  • Inefficient and diffused resource allocation of names we choose (for example, if we invent a name that has no associative quality do we have the funds to build the right recognition)

The Typical Steps Required for New Name Generation

1. Competitive Analysis

2. Naming Brief

3. First Round of Name Generation

4. Preliminary Legal Screening

5. Second Round of Name Generation

6. Short List Selection

7. Full Legal Search

8. Linguistic Evaluation

9. Oral Evaluation

10. Name Decision

Work Closely with Corporate Counsel

Your internal corporate counsel can provide the team with a sense of how cluttered the field is by forwarding a small list of names for pre-screening. The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office also maintains an online database that lists registered markes where you can search their database at  Also, don't be shy to check out names that come up in a Google search and other engines to get a feel for what is currently taken and in circulation. Doing basic online searching will help determine what types of naming nomenclature is already in the public domain and protected.

Wait for Legal Clearance

Resist the urge to start putting a new name into circulation on draft marketing materials and collateral, until it has been fully cleared by corporate counsel. First, it adds an unnecessary legal risk. And second, it tends to make it that much more difficult to try and switch to a new term. Once a name starts being referenced internally, it almost automatically moves to adoption by the organization.

Great Brands Are Built Over Time

Contrary to popular belief, strong names take time and investment. Even the ones with a built-in evocative feeling like "Yahoo" require marketing support. Don't expect a new name to simply take-off without generating internal enthusiasm for it. It is important to make sure that the sales force and customer service representatives will embrace and support it as well.