Brand name selection does not have to be difficult. Proper consideration of brand names does take time and thought provoking analysis, however. Not considering the following four brand name factors could potentially prove fatal for a company’s new product launch.
1. Distinctiveness – Is the name legally protectable?
Terms/names that are considered to be generic for products are never protectable as trademarks. For example, the term Lawyers.com for providing legal services via online channels will never receive trademark protection. Selecting a generic term as a trademark is brand suicide.
Further, names that merely describe certain attributes of a product will not receive trademark protection upon first use and may never receive trademark protection. Although descriptive terms may become eligible for trademark protection once the “mark” has been put to continuous and substantially exclusive use, that can take years and tens of millions of advertising dollars. I hear marketing folks say that if my mark is descriptive, I don’t have to spend much money on advertising, right? If that were only true. In fact it takes MORE money and resources to advertise a descriptive “mark” because it can take tens of millions of advertising dollars to convert a legally unprotectable descriptive term into a recognizable trademark.
Tip: Select brand names that are legally protectable upon first use.
2. Distinguishable – Is the mark distinguishable from the competition?
Why select a mark that is not distinguishable from the competition? Although a selected mark may be “legally” distinguishable from competitors’ marks, it still may get lost in a noisy marketplace of similar marks.
Companies that use marks similar to their competitors’ marks run the risk of losing sales and potentially developing bad reputations that belong to their competitors. For example, if a competitor’s product with an overall similar name receives bad press or even worse kills someone, that publicity may inevitably rub off on those companies with products with similar names. Why take that risk?
Tip: Only select names that are legally protectable and sufficiently distinguishable from the competition.
3. Da Position – Does the company have a positioning strategy?
A brand name should communicate a product’s positioning strategy. Select a name that begins the positioning process. For example, what products have the slogans “Melts in Your Mouth Not in Your Hand” and “The Uncola?” Those slogans positioned their products at the top in their respective categories. Also consider whether a slogan can re-position the competition. Think about how Procter and Gamble re-positioned Listerine with the simple slogan "Medicine Breath." Re-positioning a competitor with a slogan is one way of gaining market share.
Tip: Select a mark or slogan that will capture the position or niche and then don’t let it go!
4. Da Attributes – What are prospective purchasers looking for?
Selecting a mark that suggests an advantage of a product or a result that consumers want from a product can be a game changer. Rather than look at how a company perceives its own product, a company should look at how consumers already perceive it’s product or similar product, then look for the solution in the mind of consumers. Then select a name that reinforces consumers’ perceptions. What do consumers want from car batteries, for example? Of course, they want a long-lasting dependable battery. That’s why the mark “Die Hard” has been a huge success.
Tip: Select marks that convey attributes desired by consumers.