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Naming Tips

Naming: Managing Expectations

By June 14, 2017April 27th, 2021No Comments

The Harvard Business Review published an article this month discussing two possible approaches when naming next generation products: 1. Brand-Name Continuation (or) 2. Brand Name Change.

Callaway Company launched its first Big Bertha driver in 1995 and then chose the brand-name continuation strategy: following with Great Big Bertha and then Biggest Big Bertha. This may be a cute and clever progression, but are there any downsides to this strategy?

Before answering that question note that many other companies like Nintendo followed the other approach, brand name change. In Nintendo’s case, they’ve launched the, N64, GameCube, and Wii gaming platforms. This approach involved a complete divorce from the previous name characterizing the product line. The obvious question is which one of these strategies is best?

This brings us back to managing expectations: taking into account your specific competitive environment and the evolutionary versus revolutionary nature of your next generation offerings.  Managing expectations also needs to take into account your budget or, as is too often the case these days, your almost total lack thereof.

When consumers see brand-name continuation (Callaway), studies have proven they often expect more evolutionary improvements to existing product features. When they see brand-name change (Nintendo), they expect fundamentally new features, more radical changes and too often perhaps, “they perceive the product as riskier (likelier to fail or more prone to compatibility problems with previous products)” (The Best Way to Name Your Product, HBR, 2011). That being said, brand-name change products are also viewed as being potentially more rewarding – better quality, more significant improvements and easier or more effective in use.

Of course, if you have almost no budget to launch the new offering, even one that is a radical step forward, the brand-name continuation strategy is usually the default. It almost always takes more money and more time to launch a totally new brand than leverage an existing one … Or does it?

This again brings up managing expectations. There are relatively inexpensive and expedient ways to launch a totally new brand name. But they only work well if the new name itself works well.  That is, it needs to engage emotionally, grab one’s attention on that first exposure and clearly differentiate from the competitive set.

We’ll share with you in future posts some of the techniques we’ve developed over the last 25 years in the naming business that have achieved this for many of our clients.  The two strategies listed here for generational products are effective, but oftentimes there are creative hybrids that may hit the mark depending on budget and specific company/project flexibility. If you have an immediate need, feel free to contact us.

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