We’ve all been there – needing a name for a new product or even more importantly, a new company. There are a number of schools of thought about naming. For example:
- Name it for the doctor who invented/founded it. (covert endorsement or the medtech equivalent of vanity plates)
- Just pick something generic and get it out there (Wile E. Coyote’s Acme Products company)
- Smash two words together with a capital or two in the middle. (“CamelType”)
- Make an implied promise with the name. (Intuitive Surgical, da Vinci)
- Make up a serious sounding, semi-scientific name. Make sure it has a trendy consonant in it or is loosely based on some obscure Latin word. (the Immunex factor)
- Let the engineers name it. (any number of unmemorable names)
- Pay a naming/branding consultant a lot of money only to find out the .com URL is taken.
- Convene a cross-functional branding brainstorming team to identify alternatives, then: a) have an all-employee company vote or (less likely to have long-term negative repercussions) b) let the CEO pick his/her favorite.
- Use the code name of the development project. (more often than you would think)
It’s extra difficult in the medical device space, especially if you are in a “hot” segment like digital health. There are lots of other companies casting about in the same pool of potential names and with the same requirements that you have. And, ours being a Serious Industry, I doubt that we will see the medical device equivalent of “Cheezburger Network” in the near future.
Takeaways: Naming and branding is a lot like coming up with the perfect name for your first child. You put enormous thought and effort into finding the perfect name, perhaps even creating a unique name just for your offspring. You obsess over what message the name will send and how your child will be perceived, perhaps for the next century. Big stakes, I know.
The reality is that most kids make their names fit them. Most people use the name as an association to the child and the child’s personality rather than the other way around.
The same holds true for product and company names (as long as you stay away from the really outlandish stuff). Pick a name without endless consideration of the implications. Then, spend your time and effort making the company and product fill the promise of the name to reinforce positive experiences with the brand by customers and other stakeholders. Soon, the actual meaning of the brand or product name will fade and be replaced by the (it is to be hoped) positive attitudes toward the product/brand.
It’s also helpful if, in addition to not being similar to another company or product in the same segment, the name or brand doesn’t require a lengthy explanation about what it means or how it came to be. Just think back to an acquaintance who insisted on telling you the derivation of the name of their son or daughter.
Here are a few examples about names of companies in digital health. I’m sure all of the people responsible for naming these companies had great intentions and thought their names would stand out. Unfortunately, at least one other person in another company had the same expectation and created a confusingly similar name: