This is a guest post written by Kim Kohatsu. Kim is the Director of Marketing at PickFu, an instant polling service that e-commerce sellers use to optimize product listings. With PickFu, online stores can quickly test product photos, description copy, and UI layouts with shoppers who reflect their target demographic, including Amazon Prime members, those within a certain income bracket, or people based on traits such as homeownership, marital status, or exercise habits.
Naming a product is like naming a baby. It can be a long, gut-wrenching process, but it’s important to get it right. After all, names influence destiny. Studies have hypothesized that a person’s given name may affect her chosen career, company rank, and even juvenile delinquency. There’s a fancy term for it, too: nominative determinism, or literally, “name-driven outcome.”
When it comes to your products, names can be an essential asset to branding, marketing, and ultimately, sales. Product names can be evocative of the kind of customer the product is for, a unique selling proposition, or the value it offers to buyers. No matter what imagery your product draws upon, one thing is certain: your product’s name is its calling card. And that calling card can work for you or against you.
Optimizing your Product Names
As an e-commerce seller, you have no doubt done extensive keyword research and experimented with various page titles and shopping feed techniques. And while this type of testing is essential, it takes into account only one audience: the search engines. It ignores your human customers.
No doubt, the search engines and your human customers influence each other. If a search engine features your listing prominently, more people will look at it. If lots of people look at and buy your product, search engines will take notice and give your listing top billing. The signals reinforce each other. But if you’re only paying attention to what the search engines want, you’re missing a big opportunity.
Each Audience Thinks Differently
What does each audience want in a product name? Search engines think in keywords and straightforward descriptors of what your product is or does. Human customers like names that are memorable, catchy, and easy to pronounce.
Your page title is likely going to be a combination of a memorable product name and some target keyword descriptors. On Amazon, for instance, you can use up to 200 characters in your title. You want these characters to be readable and appealing to humans while still including keywords that will indicate to the search engines information about the product.
Consider the Snuggie, the cultish cozy wrap of the late aughts. The makers could have called it something search-engine friendly like “The Blanket with Sleeves,” or “The Wearable Blanket,” but they went with a name that was shorter and unique. A similar product, the Slanket, actually beat the Snuggie to market. What caused Snuggie to overtake it? Its cheesy ads didn’t hurt, surely. But it could also be that while Slanket’s name focused on its product attributes (a combination word of sleeves and blanket), Snuggie’s name emphasized its product value (making you snug). And by being cutesy about it, it sets a brand tone at the same time.
What should you consider as you name your product?
- Name length: In general, the shorter, the better. Shorter names are easier to remember and to integrate into everyday speech. Plus, you’re bound to run into character limits almost everywhere, including page titles, email subject lines, social media promotions, etc.
- Longevity: Is this a name that will endure? Or can my name follow current trends? (for example, many “trendy” names end in –ly or –io or use slang terms).
- Messaging: What does my name convey? Does it say something about what the product is, how it will make you feel, what value it will add, or who it’s for? Are there any negative associations to the name?
- Misspelling: Product names are often intentionally misspelled, especially in an effort to claim trademarks or domain names. Google, for instance, is a misspelling of the word googol, which is the number ten to the one-hundredth power, a reference to the many search results that Google delivers. Lyft is a misspelling of lift, as in “catching a lift.” Other times, however, misspellings can seem accidental (Downy’s Unstopables is inexplicably missing a p) or off-putting (such as ending a plural with a z instead of an s).
- Pronounceability: Ice cream brand Häagen-Dazs invented its name entirely to be “Danish-sounding,” even though true Danish never uses an umlaut (the accent over the a) and would never put the letters z and s next to each other. Sometimes a hard-to-pronounce name helps you stand out. Other times it may alienate part of your customer base.
How to Test Product Names
Once you’ve ideated a list of possible product names, it’s important to gather feedback. Make sure to get outside the bubble of your immediate colleagues and friends.
One fast and effective way to test product names is by running surveys with PickFu. On PickFu.com, you can poll hundreds of people in just minutes. Poll respondents can be targeted to resemble your customer base using behavioral and demographic traits like age, gender, exercise habits, mobile device, home ownership, pets, diet, and Amazon Prime membership.
Using PickFu, you can discover how people react to your product name. Oftentimes, you’ll be surprised by the associations that surface. One business owner used PickFu to test two potential names of a fire ant pesticide: Diatoms or Frustules. In under an hour, 50 respondents showed a decisive preference for Diatoms. Not only do poll respondents vote on their choice, but they provide a written comment that provides insight into what they like or dislike about each name, such as:
- “Diatoms sounds more scientific and tested.”
- “Frustules doesn’t sound appealing. Frustules sounds like a part of a body (I think it’s because of the –ules ending).”
- “DIATOMS sounds like a substance that will kill insects when you say the name aloud. It sounds powerful, simple, and to-the-point.”
- “The first syllable [of Diatoms] sounds like ‘die’.”
Pronounceability is especially important to test with audiences. A foreign language education company geared towards children used PickFu to test two potential names: Studio Doulos or Brain Nomad. Brain Nomad was preferred by 72% of those polled, with pronounceability often cited as the reason:
- “The first one seems hard to say/pronounce”
- “[Brain Nomad] is easier to pronounce”
- “[Brain Nomad] is simpler to remember and pronounce. Any person who has heard of the company will remember the name easier in order to tell others about it or ask others if they’ve tried it.”
Remember, it’s not just about search engines
When it comes to your product page titles, keyword tools and website split tests are excellent ways to test variables like the order in which you present information. But don’t ignore human feedback when it comes to product naming and branding. After all, search engines don’t buy your product. People do.
People’s motivations and desires are usually more mysterious than comparing click-through rates and other raw numbers. Conducting polls on PickFu combines qualitative data in the form of votes or star ratings, as well as qualitative data in the form of written comments. Reading through the comments, common themes and reactions to your product names and ideas emerge. Respondents might uncover blind spots you may not have known were there. You’ll get a sense of whether you’re headed in the right direction, or whether you should try something else.
Polling doesn’t just help to validate product names. Using PickFu, you can optimize all parts of your product listing, such as featured photos, product descriptions, UI layouts, call-to-action buttons, and more. One seller used PickFu to test two product photos. In less than 20 minutes, he saw that 50 female respondents preferred a new photo over the one he had been using by a 3 to 1 margin. Once he updated his listing with the new photo, sales of the item jumped 209%.
A product’s name is a central element to its branding and marketing. Names can evoke images, feelings, or desires to impart a lasting identity on your product. Therefore, it’s important to remember to test product names not only for search engines but also human customers. By surveying potential names, you can uncover what people read into a product name, whether they find it difficult to pronounce or remember, and what tone it sets for your messaging. Optimizing product names in this way may help boost sales and contribute to a product’s success.