There are very different ideas about when you need to think about naming your new product.  Some might have a name when the idea is but a twinkle in someone’s eye; others might have everything but the name to show to investors in a couple of weeks.  Is there an ideal time to start considering names, and if so, when is it?

It is important to allow enough time to obtain the right name.  Naming is a surprisingly lengthy process: it takes much longer than most people realise to do it properly, successfully and legally.  Within the process there are stages of name creation, rejection, selection, testing, and maybe going back to the drawing board…  There’s a lot to consider.  You also need to think about what needs to happen after you have the name.  Trademark registration can take months.  Will you need to test the name with your concept on consumers?  You may prefer to have the name sorted before you think about design.  You might have no concrete ideas what the overall brand identity will be, and want the name to be the first step in defining this.

So should you be naming that twinkle?  Only if you have developed the concept far enough.  A lot of things might eventually influence the name you want for your product or company, including product features, brand identity, positioning, and the result of consumer testing on your concept.  It might be tempting to name your idea before it has been given any real development in these areas.  The problem with this is twofold.

For one thing, as your concept begins to be implemented, you may find yourself ultimately changing what it’s all about.  You might have a great idea for a product, but by the time the product becomes reality it is something totally different from what you originally imagined, because in the real world your idea wasn’t sellable in its original form.  If you named your original idea, you now run the risk of the name not fitting the evolved concept.

The second problem with naming too early is that, if you don’t have a clear idea about what you’re naming, or what role the name will play in the overall communication strategy, it is going to be very difficult for you to say “yes” to anything anyone comes up with.  That is to say, you may like or dislike various suggestions, but there will be no other particular reason to commit to or reject any one name.  From a creative agency point of view, it’s very difficult to create and refine ideas when the brief is not well-defined.

There is no clear rule as to when is the best time to think about a name.  It depends on what you’re planning.  Make sure you know what you’re naming, but, importantly, leave enough time to find the right name.  The chances are, the name will be with you even when other brand elements have evolved.