It’s really hard for consumers to remember most product names, but when companies get it right, it can really help their product gain traction. The companies that launched the brands Swiffer, Snuggie and Fitbit all did it remarkably well.
It’s especially difficult in cosmetics, where there can be multiple launches a year in face, eye, lip and nail. When I worked in marketing for a cosmetics brand, I learned that consumers only remember the basics, like colors and shapes. For Maybelline, the iconic Great Lash was memorable because of its contrasting colors of pink and green. But names? They are hard to retain, especially with so many shades to choose from.
Most brands shy away from lengthier names, but they lose the richness and storytelling. The truth is, consumers often remember product or variant names when they touch and engage them. So how does a company solve the problem of ownable names? By enlisting brand, culture and people in the foundation of the name development.
OPI and L’Oreal are great examples of brands that have and continue to develop brand connections with consumers through unique names. OPI set the bar and others have followed. It must have been a big risk to put a six-word name on a tiny bottle, but it paid off—it’s now a basic requirement in the nail category to have an interesting, fun and evocative name. When your boyfriend remembers the name of the polish “Affair in Red Square” you know they are on to something.
Here is what you can learn from OPI that will help you if you are faced with the task of naming a product. First, stay true to the your brand’s core belief and purpose. In an interview for divinecaroline.com, Suzi Weiss-Fischmann, executive vice president and artistic director at OPI, says she tries to put the essence of the brand in each name. That can be hard with dozens of colors launching at a time. The brand’s purpose is “accessible escape” – the color “I’m really not a waitress” is the all time best seller (making the names is their own sort of brand – see the color below on the Dell laptop chassis).
Second, consider the cultural context. Weiss-Fischmann says she looks into street fashion, food, music and movies, all of which helps her keep her finger on the pulse of popular culture. She also takes into account fashion and runway trends that are leading and uses them to influence naming. While your brand may not be involved in multiple launches a year, it does pay to take into consideration the cultural movements that are affecting the locus of your brand’s geographic market.
Lastly, you have to consider people, i.e., your specific target consumer. OPI nail color naming really keeps their target in mind as part of the name development process – Weiss-Fischmann says she creates nail color for the average woman, whom she observes as inspiration. This works out well for OPI, helping them stay grounded and understand what the consumer would consider an appealing, accessible escape.
Brands can learn a thing or two about naming from winners like OPI, a leader in the nail category known for its unique and memorable monikers. The added benefit of phrasal names is that they are more ownable because they tell more of a story. Regardless of length, the key things to keep in mind throughout the naming process are how the brand, culture and people play a role in developing the right name for your product and help it stand out from the crowd.