Coming up with a name for a new product can be surprisingly difficult. It is also very important. If you get it right, a good name can become your brand.
One of the hardest things is that lots of good names sound silly when you first say them. A classic example is Smart Bear. When the company was a new startup people thought the name sounded odd and that they would not be able to sell to corporate companies. In the end, the company that acquired it ended up changing its name to Smart Bear (you can read the full story here). The key takeaway is that names sound strange or ridiculous until the product succeeds. At that point, everyone claims they knew it was a good name all along.
Blue-sky names are completely made-up words. For example our Java PDF Library is called JPedal, and our Java image library is called JDeli.
These types of names can be particularly hard to think up. Thinking of an acronym that describes what your product does can help. JPedal stands for Java PDF Extraction Decoding Access Library, and JDeli stands for Java Decoding and Encoding Library for Images.
- You can totally own the word
- Having a unique name means that people associate that word with your product
- It is easy to find when typed into search engines
- They can be particularly difficult to think up
- You have to be careful that your made-up word doesn’t mean something strange or expletive in another language
- They do not bring any desirable associations to build on
Another approach is to choose a word that already exists, but was not previously associated with your industry. Take Amazon, for example. Amazon is of course a real word, but it is now associated with an online shop as much as a rainforest in Brazil. Amazon was chosen because of the association with scale and plenty.
- You can associate your brand with something positive
- You can build on people’s associations with the word.
- At first it might be difficult to rank highly for that word in a search engine
- Competition from other people using the word.
- May come with unwanted ‘baggage’.
- Potential copyright and trademark issues.
Sometimes the best name is a description of what the product is or does. Our converters are called PDF2HTML5 and PDF2SVG. You can probably guess which one converts PDF files to HTML5 and which converts PDF files to SVG. For technical products this can be a good idea. It makes it immediately obvious what the product does. If you are marketing a new umbrella, however, you probably won’t get far by calling it Umbrella.
- They make it obvious what your product does
- They are only suitable for certain types of product
- If your product evolves and changes they can become confusing
We spent a long time trying to think of a name for our online document viewer. We wrote all the suggestions we could think of on a whiteboard, and eventually someone came up with a name that sounded right. We went with the blue-sky name BuildVu. Although it is a made-up word, it is also descriptive (it is a viewer that you can build into your solution) as well as being associative (it makes us think of progress and structure, as well as sight and vision).
The best advice we can give is to come up with as many ideas as possible, and don’t worry too much if they sound strange at first. In the end it matters more if the product is good than if the name is good.