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Why the Executive Suite Must Be Involved in Brand Name Development

In Brand Name Development, Brand Naming, Branding, Business, Consumer Research, corporate naming, Naming on January 11, 2017 at 11:18 am

by Lexicon Branding Founder David Placek

executive-credentials

The role of the CEO — to drive growth, create new markets, and lead the process of meeting consumer demand — is inextricably linked to the development of effective, dramatic, and unique brands and the brand names that help to establish them. The difference between narrowly defined words or phrases like ProChip and ReadyMop and brand names like Pentium and Swiffer is dramatic. Pentium and Swiffer both represent platforms to create new markets, new products, and highly valuable intellectual property. While ProChip and ReadyMop merely describe products, Pentium and Swiffer define them.

In general, companies tend to under-value the power of a brand name. Although they look at names such as PowerBook, Pentium, and Swiffer and say “Wow,” they don’t necessarily understand or appreciate the investment of time, strategic thinking, and creativity necessary to create a name like Pentium.

Our work with Andy Grove at Intel, Dirk Yaeger at P&G, and John MacFarlane at Sonos demonstrates that when the CEO is involved, and they respect the power of good brand names, good things happen. Yet, every year hundreds of brand name projects are delegated to assistant brand managers and junior product managers, many of whom have no experience in leading a creative process or have the needed vantage point to understand the true potential of the product they are naming. It’s why we have so many boring, descriptive, and unoriginal brand names in the marketplace.

Several years ago, a company with a very generic name, “Internet Diamonds,” engaged Lexicon to create a new and distinctive brand name. The result of our work was Blue Nile. Consider the potential expansiveness of this simple solution: color, vibrancy, history, richness. The name fires up the imagination of consumers from around the world who are interested in buying jewelry and other gifts from the internet. Today, Blue Nile is the world’s leading online diamond jeweler.

Where would Intel be today if Andy Grove, then the President and CEO of Intel who led the naming exercise for the fifth-generation processor, had chosen the name ProChip? Would the brand ProChip be as well-recognized as Pentium? Would consumers be as brand loyal to a ProChip as they are to Pentium? In short, Pentium gave Intel a very distinctive marketing asset. Research conducted both in the United States and Europe revealed that the word Pentium sparked the imagination of consumers. When naming is driven by leadership, the results are exponentially higher because the CEO has the necessary oversight to see how and where to direct the product, service, or company.

Like It or Not: The Wrong Way to do Naming Research

In Brand Name Development, Brand Naming, Branding, Business, Consumer Research, corporate naming, Naming, Naming Research, Trademark Research, Trademarks on March 4, 2014 at 3:05 am

So you’ve been asked to evaluate potential brand names

You’re a marketing manager or a research manager who’s been asked to evaluate a set of potential names for a new product.

The innovations team has tinkered with design for months, years maybe, and the product will be ready for production soon. Meanwhile, stakeholders have been brainstorming names for the new product. Even the CEO has been promoting his or her kid’s name as a contender. Everyone has a horse in the race.

At Lexicon, we focus on creative development – inventing strategic brand names. We also offer a proven approach to name evaluation, which identifies candidate names that have the most positive impact potential for a new brand.

Often clients employ our research approach. But just as often, clients use other parties to evaluate candidate names. We’ve been witness to some of these traditional approaches, approaches that may leave you with a comfortable-yet-uninspiring name – a ‘ReadyMop’ instead of a ‘Swiffer.’

But let’s explore this well-worn path a bit.

How not to do naming research

Whether you’re conducting qualitative research (focus groups) or quantitative research (an online survey), traditional tactics call for asking the target customer whether or not they ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ a name and how well a name ‘fits’ to a concept.

By asking questions like these, you are essentially paying $100 to a stranger to make brand strategy judgments that you, as the professional, should be making. In addition, you’re asking a consumer to be logical in his or her decision-making, something they might do when purchasing a car or home, but not when they’re considering dish soap.

Another example of these ‘marketer for a day’ questions is: “How easy is the name to say?” Rather than having participants pronounce the name and listening, yourself, for problematic pronunciations, you’ve asked a set of people of varying degrees of linguistic understanding to make that call for you.

Finally, the worst: “How willing would you be to purchase a new [product] called [insert name]?” Clients often insist on including this question. When we oblige, the results have been pretty consistent. The more descriptive names, the names whose semantics directly relate to the concept itself (like ReadyMop), tend to win. If we followed this schematic, Intel’s Pentium could have been dubbed ProChip.

Beyond question types, there’s methodology to consider.

A client recently showed us a survey, which was essentially a series of multiple-choice questions listing all name candidates as answer options. This is problematic because by question #3 or #4 a given participant has likely established a favorite and will often speed through the survey, simply looking for their favorite name regardless of the question at hand.

Another survey we were shown attempted to correct for multiple-choice bias through a monadic approach (seeing one name throughout the survey and rating it on scales). Monadic is the right idea, but this survey ended with a final multiple-choice, likeability question, which included the full set of names. A more careful design would have considered the effect priming may have, not to mention the less-than-inspiring, comfortable names which typically result from such a question, anyhow.

Lexicon’s approach to naming research

Lexicon has spent over 20 years refining its methodological approach. Our efforts to date have given us the capability to test any number of names in a balanced manner.

In terms of question types, we leave the marketing judgments to our own branding experts. Our research respondents are tasked with conveying feelings.

And that’s just it. Put your respondents, whether in qualitative or quantitative exercises, into situations in which they are directly interacting with a name at a visceral level. Having them pronounce the name aloud is a simple example, albeit just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what you can ask respondents to do.

Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 9.54.55 AMLexicon employs a number of techniques to spark emotionally-based responses from participants. A classic example comes from a research program we led for a Coca-Cola bottled water many years ago. Seeking to understand which candidate name best evoked the qualities of relaxation, being pampered, and taking care of oneself, Lexicon descended upon the Sausalito spa scene, interviewing women who had just been massaged and manicured. It was a simple question: “Which of these names best expresses the way you feel right now?”

The answer has become one of our billion-dollar brands: Dasani.

The Lexicon approach to naming research accomplishes three things:

  1. Identifies the names with the most potential to get attention, generate interest and say something new
  2. Confidently eliminates the names with the least potential
  3. Identifies the relative strengths and weaknesses of each name

Finally, we make it our goal to understand the why as best as we can. In quantitative, we include a number of open-ended questions to this end. This helps us and our clients understand the deeper meanings behind the strengths and weaknesses of a given name.

— David Placek, President