Names. Part 1: Let the name do the work.

You may have noticed a theme in my blogs over the past few weeks. That theme is don’t make the reader/audience/potential customer do the work. Do the work for them.

This is why you keep consistency in an identity – so if someone looks at a piece of collateral they see it’s from you. That’s why I advocated not using abbreviations, acronyms or indeed initialisms! And that is why this week’s blog is about names.

Let names do the work.

Names should function like the title of an email – they provide the short hand for what’s contained inside. Apple are the masters of this: Apple Mail (email), Apple Notes (notes), Apple Watch (I don’t think I really need these parentheses). There’s barely any work to be done.

We call these descriptive names task management. And they’re everywhere. Even some names that at first don’t look that descriptive, because we’re so used to them, are. Coca-Cola, was named for the kola bean and the coca leaf, original ingredients. Diet Coke is the diet version. Coke Zero has zero sugar.

Any amount of time spent explaining a name is wasted. If you find you are having to explain a name then you have to ask yourself: could there be a better name for this? Can we call it what it is? Does it need a name at all?

But aren’t there some names that function perfectly well with no pre-association? Starbucks is a household name and it’s not because of the character in Moby Dick. McDonalds is one of the biggest brands in the world and it makes no mention of hamburgers.

Aside from the millions of dollars these companies have spent building the name recognition, you should dig a little deeper into how these brands name their products.

A Big Mac: it’s a large hamburger from McDonalds. A quarter pounder is a burger that weighs a quarter of a pound pre-cooked. A Sausage and Egg McMuffin is, well, a sausage and egg in a muffin.

And for Starbucks? They just use the proper names for coffee and Italian words for sizing.

At a product level, even these companies get the names do the work.

What’s your favourite descriptive or clever product name? Let me know in the comments below.