Design Thinking for Product & Brand Naming

Don’t Just Brainstorm Names!

Product/brand naming is tough…  You’ve developed an amazing product, you have an awesome value proposition, but you have no idea what to name it.

Adding to the pressure — launching a product or company with the right name is critical. The name should support your product/brand positioning, drive differentiation vs. your competition, and ideally attract your target customer. Naming done poorly, may result in your product getting lost in the competitive mix, or even deter your target customer from engaging.

Design Thinking for Product Naming

Applying Design Thinking to Product Naming

Resist the urge to jump straight to ‘Ideate’ and blindly brainstorming names!

Avoid a “shotgun” approach to product naming and invest the time to get ‘Empathize’ and ‘Define’ right. The tenets of design thinking are fantastic for ideating product/brand names and staying disciplined in ensuring your team develops names with the end-user in mind. Here are a few ways I’ve applied design thinking to product naming:

  1. Empathize:  Human-centered design certainly applies to product naming and begins with a deep understand of your target customer (aka. “design target”). You can always start with online research (e.g. a simple Google search for “male centennials”, “shopper moms”, etc.) on your target customer to develop initial perspective.  Quickly follow up with in-person engagement (interviews, focus groups, customer intercepts, etc.) with your target customer to see what they do, hear how they talk, feel what they feel.  Develop a portrait/persona of your target customer.
  2. Define:  Define the customer problem you are trying to address with your product/brand.  Bring this problem to life in the target customer persona you’ve developed.
  3. Ideate:  Once you’ve developed empathy for your target customer and defined a meaningful customer problem to address, you’re ready to ideate names.  The work you completed in the Empathize and Define stages will pay dividends in ensuring your ideation participants are focused in their approach.  There is plenty of existing literature in conducting ideations/brainstorms.  While my approach to conducting naming ideations changes depending on the situation, one thing I always keep constant is enforcing the 6 rules of brainstorming I learned from Stanford d.School:
      • One Conversation at a Time
      • We’re Going for Quantity of Ideas
      • Building off Ideas of Others is Heavily Encouraged
      • Wild & Crazy Ideas are also Encouraged
      • Defer Judgment – No Blocking
      • Stay on Topic
  4. Prototype:  Take the best name from your ideation and combine it with a prototype of whatever you just named.  Many different ways of doing this…  If it’s a product you’re naming, you can create a written concept with a sketch of the product, the product name, and a description of it.  If it’s a brand/company, you can storyboard what the company is all about and attach the name to the storyboard
  5. Test:  Put your prototypes in front of your target customer and get their feedback. Do they like the name?  Do they “get it”?  Are they dumbfounded or confused? Whatever the feedback, be prepared to learn, iterate, and potentially go back to the drawing board (back to Empathize, Define, Ideate, or Prototype).

Product naming through design thinking is an iterative process so don’t get discouraged if initial feedback from your target audience is less than positive. Design thinking provides a framework to continuously rift on naming until you get it right. For your next naming assignment, don’t just brainstorm names, use design thinking to formulate a name that your target audience will love!

Questions?  Please don’t hesitate to post!

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