Marketing tip #42: How to name a product

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Over my career, I have worked with many companies and entrepreneurs to name their products, services and organizations.  It's actually much more science than art — you need to have a very good understanding of what you are trying to communicate.

It's much more about tone than the actual words — that's the tough part to help clients understand.  It's the feeling the name evokes — not so much the literal translation of each word.  

Take the product above — Anti Monkey Butt Powder.  Sure…they could have called it Chaff-B-Gone or something that was more clinical.  But this company decided that part of its brand and its product was to have a little fun.  They wanted it to pop off the shelf and for its packaging to be difficult to ignore.

I think they accomplished their goal.  Now…why was this a good decision?

Their name:

  • Gives us an idea of how the product can help us
  • Takes into account the attitude of their core customers (bikers, people that work outside in the heat, extreme sports enthusiasts…and now they have added, new parents with their baby version)
  • Is memorable
  • Differentiates them from the competition
  • Gives us a sense of their corporate culture/attitude — what will they be like to do business with?
  • In today's world — you can find the right URL.  (Hard to imagine that someone else hadn't scooped up already!)

Many business owners get hung up on the wrong thing when they're trying to name their company.  It's not the specific words — it's the overall effect.  If the folks at AMBP had worried about including the word "butt" in their name or debated if "anti" was a negative word….and they only wanted to create positive feelings — they would have ended up with a boring and forgettable name like Chafe-B-Gone. 

But…they let the attitude, tone and message of the name carry their decision.  They didn't over analyze or get too far into their own heads.

They trusted their culture and their brand.  And created a very memorable name!

And if you're wondering if the Anti Monkey Butt Powder is just a gimmick — check out their testimonials.  Pretty impressive.

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5 comments on “Marketing tip #42: How to name a product

  1. Rob says:

    Heh, great commentary. Here I was thinking you were going to rip these guys apart.

    I actually just saw this product on the shelf at my local Rite Aid, I only glanced at it, but you proved your point as I instantly recognized it here. Much needed words of wisdom Drew as I’m molding service offerings I’d like to provide for online entrepreneurs. I’m assuming the same thoughts go for naming a service type “product”? I’m finding it a bit more challenging though, the right mix of obviousness, character, and distinctness is hard to find as I’m putting things together. Thanks for the thoughts!

  2. Rob —

    Nope, no slam from me. I think it’s brilliant.

    Yes, the rules are the same when you’re naming a service oriented business. But it’s more challenging because typically what a service business sells is less tangible.

    One thing to be mindful of — you often have the combination of the name and the tagline to set the tone and differentiate yourself. So sometimes, it’s easier to be more straightforward in one and a bit more fanciful in the other.


  3. tracy says:

    Good article, it is however a risky move going with a non-traditional name, companies must make sure it works well with their customer base, and most importantly the product or service must be superior to competitors. An original or silly name may attract a customer but if it is not a quality product or service it will merely be passed off as a gimmicky name to attract buyers. Bottom line, original names will grab the customers attention but quality will keep them coming back.

  4. Bill says:

    All very interesting and insightful observations. Taking into account building goals for a brand image when naming a product is paramount. Today, when consumers are overwhelmed with choice, a fresh, funny brand name catches their attention and drive the ultimate deliverable – sales. However, companies should be careful about sounding too forced and phony when choosing an off-beat name for their product. If consumers feel that the company chose this name just for attention or to imitate another brand, they’re liable to dismiss it. I recently wrote a blog post about brand verbs, addressing this very issue. They cannot be forced.—home-run-or-strike-out

  5. Alyson says:

    To get a real sense of their brand community, you should check out the Anti Monkey Butt Powder Facebook page then:

    They LOVE the monkey!

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