Imagine if Twitter’s product team decided to name the signature feature of Twitter “280s” instead of “Tweets.” Or what if Pinterest’s help center articles alternately referred to “pins” and “image cards” but meant the same thing?
While names of popular products and their features may appear straightforward, picking the wrong name can have a dramatic effect on the brand and user experience.
If you avoid common product naming mistakes and follow the lead of brands that approach product naming from a user-first perspective, you’ll create clear, memorable, consistent terminology that will drive user delight and loyalty.
1. Not doing user research
Your target audience will be the main users of your product. If you miss the mark with them, the work that you put into your product might go to waste. To avoid this, invest in user research to find out customers’ perceptions and opinions.
If you don’t perform and implement user research, you run the risk of naming a product something that can be misinterpreted or is insensitive. Misguided naming can signify a lack of attention to detail to users (or potential investors).
User research should be implemented at every stage of product development — including naming. This helps teams test and iterate ideas, assess their ideas against user feedback, and roll out any changes as needed.
A product naming survey helps offer deep insight into which names consumers respond most positively to. You can provide them with several name choices and categorize them based on factors like perception, trust, creativity, and more. Also, consider Qualtrics Product Naming Tool to help you assess users’ opinions about your product names.
2. Using technical terms
Calling a product or feature by its technical name instead of a simpler one can affect how users interact with the product. Take the technicality built into jargon and distill that into a name that directly explains the term. Familiarity with a term can help users connect with your product’s name—and any future ones.
By shifting focus from typical B2B UX copy to simple terminology for their features, Trello has been able to make its products and features more accessible to users.
Calling a product timeline just that versus calling it a “Gantt chart” changes how users interact with the product. As the CEO of Trello said, doing this inspires users to engage with the product creatively. Users will be able to use the product without having to think deeply about the technical terms usually used for it.
3. Not establishing cohesive brand/naming guidelines
If you refer to a product by different names, you could confuse users and risk getting roasted on social media. Good product names should establish consistency for your brand.
A good way to create consistency is to define a brand styleguide for your company early on. This can help guide your naming process as you won’t want to stray too far away from the voice and style you’ve defined. An example is when Apple decided to shift away from their usual number system to name the iPhone 10, ‘iPhone X’ instead. This decision caused quite a stir, with claims that Apple had hit a dead end with product names.
When you give a product or feature a particular name — on social media, in help articles, and wherever else you refer to it — stick to that name. This helps it remain memorable for users and easy to recall on the first ask.
4. Explaining everything about the product/feature
A product name does not need to tell users every single thing that you can do with it. Its purpose is to stick in the minds of users and be relevant to your target audience. If a toothpaste brand stopped using words associated with clean teeth and fresh breath and switched to centering all the ingredients instead, they would put off their audience.
When you visit an online marketplace like Amazon, you’re bound to run into products that put nearly all the features of the product in the listing title. This is a tactic that sellers use to distinguish themselves from the competition, and for SEO — don’t do this.
Where you can get away with communicating a new product in a straightforward manner, do it. A brand name shouldn’t be more than one or two words anyway, three if you push it. Let the design, copy, and product or feature itself say everything else you can’t fit into the name.
5. Trying too hard to be clever or original
To use a cliche: Call a spade a spade. Don’t sacrifice clarity trying to be special. Imagine a user tries to make a purchase, but they can’t find the cart because it’s called a “trolley.” They may or may not appreciate your attempt at being clever, but it’s not worth it, especially when you want to move users through the sales funnel quickly.
Innovation is never a bad thing, and it can help distinguish you from competitors early on. But it’s a risky approach to naming and might hurt your brand before you even get it off the ground. Instead, figure out a strategy that aligns with your brand and values — if that’s clever names, great!
Consider what users will do with the product or feature as you think of names. Microsoft did it with Word and Google with Docs. These companies created word processing tools which was probably a complex and expensive process but gave the products simple names. The names given to these products clearly communicate what the product is to the end-user.
6. Overlooking global and cultural implications
Unless you plan on staying local, your product names will likely have global and cultural implications to consider. You don’t want to be the marketing firm naming their company GreenBook, especially considering the history of that term.
Brands have gotten in trouble for names that are culturally insensitive, selected both knowingly and unknowingly. To avoid this, ensure that a diverse team is involved in the naming process. There are a lot of issues that a diverse in-house team will catch before user research takes off. Also, make sure to perform linguistic analysis in different languages to avoid misinterpretation.
Product names have power
When you land on the right name for a product or feature and use the name consistently across all your content, it imprints on the mind of your users and forges a stronger relationship with your brand.
A product name builds a story that can affect how customers perceive the value of your product. Although subjective, a good product name will inspire quick recall and excitement among your target audience. On the other hand, a bad one will do the same thing, but for all the wrong reasons.
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