How not to name your product

Aug 01 2013

Say “NewsLing.”

Now, say it again. Did you hear the “g,” or did it sound more like a “k” or nothing at all? If you heard the “g,” congratulations and please let us know. If you’re like many of the people we’ve talked to, though, you didn’t hear it.

This has been a problem for us throughout the summer. After picking a name early in the summer, we found that many people had trouble understanding the name when we first said it.

When people saw the name before we said it, they had no problem understanding the name (and most of the time they quickly figured out why we picked it). The problem only arose when we said the name with no visual aid.

So when this happened again in back-to-back meetings a week before Pitch Day, we panicked. The group started to ask if we should rename our product. The PR major in me got nervous.

I thought, “Really? Now? You want us to rebrand our entire product a week before presenting it?” To give you some context, we had sent out countless emails and flyers with our name. We had also met with broadcasters (our potential clients) and pitched our service as NewsLing. The invitations for Pitch Day had been sent out to hundreds of people with our name and a web address for our product.

Besides confusing people, my concern was that this would indicate some change about our team or product. Many of the most successful rebranding campaigns were in response to companies’ desire to correct image issue or change the brand’s perception.

We at least needed to talk through the issue, though. So we went back to the drawing board. We looked through the sheets of possible names that we had once considered but ultimately not chosen for one reason or another.

One option was to change the name to NewsLink. The “g” issue would disappear, but what did it have to do with our product? There was no logical association between that name and our service. Our eyes were drawn to another name that had been heavily considered early on: LinGo. It still had the link to language that we wanted and the added connection to mobile, but it had nothing to do with news. We are pitching a news product, so it seemed important to us to retain that aspect.

Our conversation came back to the original problem and what it would look like moving forward. It was clear that everyone was hesitant to change the name at this point. The solution became obvious: keep the name. There were two main reasons behind this decision.

  1. On Pitch Day (and anytime thereafter), our name would only be heard in conjunction with a visual representation of it. Never again would we sit down and pitch our product with no visual component.
  2. It went against a core principle of our brand: it’s a white-label product. Our idea was for broadcasters to rebrand the service using whatever they wanted, anyway. Our research showed that they wanted their brand on their content.

Now, had this problem presented itself in week four or five, we may have changed the name. I may have even encouraged it. WSJ’s Startup of the Year documentary series actually challenges startups to change their name.

The guidelines given in Jay Samit’s video for WSJ about choosing a name, tagline, and logo are something that I hope to apply when we try this again in the fall. But I think the NewsLing brand still meets most of the criteria mentioned by Samit.

Ultimately, I’d rather our name have a silent “g” than sound like the “g” in “enough.” At least our pronunciation makes sense.


One comment on “How not to name your product

  1. Yascherch says:

    thanks for all this great and valuable informtions …

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