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Judge Name Ideas From Audience’s Perspective

When judging naming ideas, keep in mind the real world experience, not the pseudo-experience of creative presentations. Here’s the thing, when you say or show a name idea to someone with the intention of getting her buy-in or feedback, she doesn’t have the same experience that the consumer in the field will have.

When you present the name ideas, your client or colleague is going to have her conscious, logical brain working. She’ll be thinking, “do I like it?” This behavior doesn’t match the experience prospects, customers, investors, employees, donors, users (and so on) will have.

Also, keep in mind that only people in the branding and marketing industry spend much time picking apart the pros and cons of a name. Well, unless the name is actually bad, that is. Then you might find Joe Consumer having a little sarcasm party at your expense. But if your name fits your carefully considered brand strategy, the average prospect doesn’t spend a millisecond on logical critique.

The reality is people experience names on a subconscious, emotional level. Let’s say your elevator speech goes something like:

Hi, I’m Jan Smith, a search engine consultant with Gazillions. I help people navigate the web when they’re in search of the right kind of information.

The listener isn’t thinking:

Do I like that name? Does it makes sense? Does everyone love that name? Does that name tell the whole story of this company.

No, the listener is processing all of what you’ve told him (and probably scanning you for clues that he can trust you all while running through a list of 20 things he needs to do later that day.) Your business or product name is just one tiny bit of information. When the brain catches it, it goes to work scanning internal files for what the name might be like or different from and associated emotions. The brain might register quick hits like:

Gazillions. That’s a lot. Sounds kind of fun. Not ordinary. Maybe risky. Must listen more.

I’m by no means saying the name isn’t important. In fact, it is a critical part of your brand signaling system. The name sets a tone or provides information or both. Like a logo or any number of other touch points, a name is an entry point to the images and feelings people will form around you, your company, your products, and services.

My point is really about the artificial environment of the creative review. Whether you are doing it yourself, working with a consultancy or are a consultant, you must frame your feedback from the perspective of the message receiver. Now please, go out and make a great name for yourself.

One comment

  1. 1

    I would have had a very different response to this before I read Blink (the book by Malcolm Gladwell). It basically breaks down the snap judgements that we make every day.

    Before I read Blink I would have said "ask a bunch of people and see which one they think is the best" but our decision making process is really much more subliminal. It's much more difficult to make marketing decisions when you consider this.

    For me, Blink was like the tree of knowledge in the Bible. I'm not sure I wouldn't have rather stayed in the dark.

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