We celebrate failure in our family. It’s a STEM thing. We like it better, however, when an epic failure belongs to someone else. (Thanks, mom, for the competitive gene.)
In the world of product branding, cluster flub-ups occur because we, as product marketers, value meeting deadlines and listening to the wisdom of internal stakeholders.
- “But the brand identity is due tomorrow.”
- “Budget constraint—yup, we can’t afford to test.”
- “Just ship it.”
- “This product is so good that it will sell itself.”
Product naming is hard—excruciatingly hard. Your creative team brainstorms a hundred names, and then you hear
- “Let’s just keep the prototype name.”
- “Why don’t we call the product ‘Max?’ That’s my dog’s name.
- It’s EdTech. Let’s come up with an acronym. Teachers love acronyms.
Lesson learned: Plan and start early. Leave time and budget to develop a compelling product positioning statement and a product name that aligns with your value proposition.
Make your product names easy for teachers to pronounce.
I learned this lesson personally—the hard way. Little me was named Dalelaine Muriela Crudo. Try saying that out loud.
Every teacher, every year of my life, uncomfortably stammered when trying to pronounce it.
Mom loved it. Dale and Elaine meant valley of beauty, which for her was highly descriptive of her firstborn. My middle name came from Grandma, and my Italian dad contributed my last name—Crudo (Croodo, not Cruhdo), which also happens to mean hangover in Mexican slang.
People called me Dee—short, one syllable, and not to be confused with getting drunk on tequila.
Lesson learned: Test your brand names with educators representing your ideal customer.
Choose short names—the fewer syllables, the better.
Research shows that when you name a product more than two syllables, people will change that product name you just spent months developing. Worse, this means that you lose control over your brand.
- For example, one of my clients developed an app under a National Science Foundation grant. Teachers adore it, but they can’t remember the name. Catapult X conducted in-depth interviews for their executive team. One teacher we interviewed raved about the features, but when we asked her to recall the product name, she said, “It’s the one with all the bubbles.” Colossal fail.
Let’s look at more examples.
Nike, Apple, and Google have two syllables. Can you recall hearing those names shortened? Coca-Cola is called Coke, but Pepsi stays Pepsi. (Sounds matter too. Check out the white paper from Catapult X.)
Lesson learned: Fewer syllables are better—ideally, one or two syllables.
Testing saves money.
Lean startups often choose to skip market testing to save money. Sometimes it works, but only sometimes.
If you have a branding budget, we suggest:
- Hire a pair of writers to work with your team, preferably outside creatives. Two writers amplify the creativity by allowing the creatives to riff off each other. This tactic ensures you get fresh ideas that meet your positioning and strategy.
- Create a matrix of possible names and map them to your positioning and strategy.
- Qualitative research reveals gaffes. Ensure that you test names with various customer personas and a broad section of demographics representing age, race, and gender.
My clients have the best outcomes when they add quantitative data to the mix.
- Education influencers are a good source of feedback because they can reach thousands of educators through social media to gather feedback.
- Survey educators, testing one variable at a time to gather objective feedback on 2-3 different names.
Our Favorite EdTech Names
Here are a few of our favorite EdTech brand names:
Verbs such as “achieve” and “amplify” make powerful brand names by implying the brand's impact on education.
When Pivot Interactives launched, the sitcom Friends was resurgent among teenagers, the company’s end user. Students across the US could be heard ad nauseam repeating Ross’s famous command, “Pivot!” That’s clever branding.
Across the world, physics educators have been teaching dynamics with sensors attached to carts until the Smart Cart launched. Now, the cart knows things. The cart’s internal sensors collect data that students analyze. Rhyming makes the name “sticky,” which helps with brand recall.
Check out the product names below. Which ones do you love?
- Little Bits
- Plan, leaving time and budget for iteration and testing.
- Make names easy to pronounce.
- Keep product names short, one or two syllables.
- Test, test, and test again to ensure brand alignment.
Colossal naming failures happen, but they are avoidable. Don’t be the marketer who named The Edsel. Your legacy may live for decades, so plan ahead, talk to educators, and test rigorously like the brand expert you are.
About the author
Daylene Long is the founder of Catapult X, a market and product development agency that consults exclusively with STEM EdTech Providers to catapult them forward using data-informed insights.