Naming and the consumer
I’ve blogged recently about the problems with researching names and how current methods fall short of reducing risk at the most appropriate point in the development of a brand (which is normally at the very end of the development process).
I talked about the three main out-takes from research; gaining reassurance that a name actually resonates; that it is in keeping with a core brand idea; that there is acceptance before committing to execution. These are sound reasons to do it, not least, being able to tell internal stakeholders that your target “gets it”. Beyond this, what you learn could be crucial in informing or even breaking stakeholder perceptions (because they may be the most reluctant participants in this whole sequence of events).
We all know how qualitative research helps to unlock expression and comprehension of an idea, letting it breathe, adding meaning and depth and even bringing it to life. Projective techniques help respondents associate with an idea and allow them to express their understanding. Qualitative research is perfect and, I would argue, essential for naming; it also allows huge flexibility in methodology. Big changes are afoot in how Qual needs to adapt to manage how it is perceived and used by clients, but it is still a highly effective tool. Personally, I strongly believe that it is unwise to choose a name on the number of votes cast – life is full of examples of music, talent and politicians gaining the most votes – this does not make them good.
This is why Design Bridge have taken the time to develop a new methodology, in partnership with Pete Laybourne, Chairman of Fathom International; to shake up the way that names are researched, to devote energy to making consumer input meaningful. To strengthen an argument for a chosen word.
I don’t usually try to sell you anything through this blog, except my own outlook on brand naming. But Peter and I have been challenged to recommend a methodology (beyond my general tips from last time round):
First off, you absolutely need to know what the brand story is before you go into naming research.
It simply has to exist in terms of positioning and personality, in a way that a consumer can get their head round, easily. How else can they tell you whether the name fits the brand? If the personality is vague, or is still open to multiple-choice questions, how is the respondent going to match a name to it? Will they get all of the personality from the name? Your ‘brand’ should be clear – and non-negotiable by this stage in its development. You need to know what it is, so that you can judge whether the consumer gives you responses that will build the kind of brand you want to it be.
What are the best tools to use in your consumer test?
You could just show them a list of words and get them to work it out for themselves, but that would mean that you don’t really care too much which name they pick as long as they pick one. This is not words on a pack, or a sign, or a poster. It is the name itself. Names need context, but they do not need to hide behind unnecessary stimulus. Please, don’t make them pick from a list. How can this possibly do your new names justice?
Give them time to familiarise themselves with this new “thing” before you jump into asking what it’s called.
Next, let the respondents give their own meaning to the words.
Their first reaction will be to reject the words, because this is their natural response. People reject “made up” and unfamiliar things, so weave them into stories to help them see and say them differently, to become familiarised. Absorb them.
Try simple word and picture play to give the names meaning, to act as prompts and to help them to understand. Pete’s breakthrough thinking on this is to take popular television panel games to base the games on, where the format is highly familiar to everybody and the stimulus is easy to grasp. You need tools that don’t need too much explanation.
Using word and picture content forces the respondents to reassess the words you put in front of them. The games can help them probe, without relying on simply “I like”, or “I don’t like” – likeability should not be your lead criterion. Games can provide wider terms of reference, even a bigger vocabulary, to describe what they feel. Good stories can take them beyond what they expect to see in a category, and beyond functionality.
We believe that ninety-nine out of a hundred times, you do not need the name to tell us what the product does. That is why God invented descriptors. What is the supporting descriptor? How much other support and explanation will they need to get what it does for them?
Always remember that research is a totally artificial environment. The consumer will never be exposed to a name in this way, so it is unwise to try to pretend that they will react normally. In the real world, they probably wouldn’t bat an eyelid, the name will just be there. Don’t forget that, when the ‘world’ rejects a new brand name, it tends to be a media driven story, not genuine consumer rejection. What probably happened in those cases was a positive response in research groups, so you have to ask yourself; what kind of research was carried out? How could they be so wrong?
We would argue that you don’t want them to react normally. You are not looking to average out your name, you are looking for a strong emotional reaction to prove that your name will reach out and attract attention.
Now that they’ve lived with it, how do they feel about it? You will always notice a very different response at the end of the session to their first thoughts. Can they say it – and does it matter (unless it’s sold in an environment where they have to say the name out loud)? Isn’t it more likely, in the real world, that they remember a name because they can’t say it? If it is a variation of an existing product, won’t it need something to add new dimensions, not simply be the same as everything that has come before?
If you are looking for numbers to support your decision to go with a particular name, run a survey. You’ll get a dry and largely meaningless response. You will not learn how people feel about your new name. Surely that is an important thing to know before the brand appears in store?
Research is increasingly important in removing subjectivity from naming and making sure that the words work, before committing further investment to them. You have to decide if you want to make sure the name is right or if you want to test everything else you have developed for the brand (positioning, product concept, graphics, physical packaging and comms work, too). We would argue that all of this other work is going to be more successful if you have sorted out the biggest variable in advance.
Name research is not about reality. It is about reaction. Anything else you learn is a bonus.
Andy Kirk, Design Bridge & Peter Laybourne, Fathom International
In: Brand communications, Brand Strategy, Naming, Viewpoints · Tags: Research