What is one of the major problems facing companies when they want to expand their range of products or services?

To find a name that is relevant for the range and that hasn’t been taken by the competition yet!

This problem usually comes in two different forms.

The first one: company A develops and is about to launch, say, a product in one or a few more markets but doesn’t think of expanding further. Fine. They choose a name that suits their needs and it is available to register on those markets. Still fine. However, after a few months/years, company A decides to launch this same product on more markets and there, can you guess what happens? Exactly: uh oh! The name isn’t available on those markets and company A now has to find a new name, quick.

Second form of the problem: company B develops a product (but this is also true with services) and doesn’t think too much about any further products in the same range (maybe it is not even considering to create a range yet). They select a name – there were others they liked but this one is definitely the best for the product they have right now so they only register this one. The name is brilliant, everyone loves it and people love it so much actually that the competition starts producing the same type of products with names that are quite similar or along the same idea. Now company B decides to expand its range. When comes the time to name it,… uh oh! All the potential new names that fit with their existing one have been registered by the competition (or at least something close enough to stop the new name from being registered).

Why do these problems occur? My answer is simple and can seem a bit harsh: it is because company A and B didn’t anticipate enough. I know it is hard to anticipate everything; but this is where lack of anticipation can lead: a dead-end or the re-planning of the company’s naming strategy (which is not very convenient as it usually delays the whole planning).

There are ways to avoid this problem though. Take Orange UK for example. From the very beginning, the name has nothing to do with mobile phones or broadband. Now let’s take a look at the name of their mobile phone plans. Monkey, Dolphin, Canary, Racoon, Camel, Panther. Animal names. In my opinion this can be a brilliant strategy.

First, they can expand pretty much endlessly and secondly, Orange has pretty much prevented any other competitor in the same sector from copying them. Indeed, if a competitor was trying to get down the animal names route too, they would probably get into trouble legally but they would also get the consumers confused and to associate animal names with Orange. Thanks to good strategic planning, the names of Orange UK’s plans are – just like the name of the company – unique. It is interesting to note that it was maybe a bit risky at first to choose such names. I mean: ‘Dolphin’ or ‘Racoon’ don’t tell you what you have; but you will probably agree that those names are more exciting than just saying ‘free internet and texts’ and ‘low cost calls and texts’. Those names are more exciting, they are original, and therefore they stand out from the crowd. And as I was saying earlier original names offer a lot of naming possibilities in the case of future product or service development.

There is another advantage about choosing an original name as opposed to a more obvious one: it helps you to get noticed. Now for those who are scared or worried about taking risk, consider the following: take the first time that you asked someone to go on a date with you. It was super risky and scary, right? I am sure that many of you had questions starting with “How do I…?” and “What if…?” popping into their head – if you didn’t, I did. Nevertheless you took the risk, didn’t you? And no matter whether it worked out or not in the end, surely, by taking that risk you got noticed by the person you fancied.

Don’t get me wrong, if you decide to go for an obvious name that’s fine and has its advantages; but if you decide to be bold and to choose an unusual name or at least, a name that is not straightforward you have all the chances in the world to get noticed. Consumers might not always understand what your name means or stands for at first. They are likely to be surprised. Nevertheless, you will also get them curious about what you do and who you are. After all, who needs to know what the name Kijiji means to use the website? Most people use it without knowing what it means and they seem perfectly fine with that (OK, because it’s you: it means ‘community, village’ in Swahili). The same is true for innocent, the juice and smoothie brand. In this case the meaning of the name is easy to get but why innocent for smoothies? People buy their products even though some people may not be sure if the name is meant to reflect the ‘untouched’ nature of the product or if it is supposed to reflect on you as a healthy user.

Exciting and enticing brands make people want to participate, buy, or at least try. Then it is up to you to do the right thing so that from trying they start participating or buying on a regular basis.

Be careful though, original names don’t work in every sector. I am especially thinking about sectors like banking and finance or sectors involving security and where trust is required (would you trust a secured payment system called Purple Gekko?). However, even for those sectors it is still possible to use the power of evocation and association to convey the right message whilst being different from the competition (for example Egg is a name that evokes security and protection while nurturing your finances).

So remember: descriptive names do say what the product or service is about indeed, but original – that some people would call risky – names are noticeable, intriguing, exciting and memorable, and can make it easier to expand your range in the future.