Nov 28, 2013

Testing A New Brand Name: Is It Sticky?

Naming is one of the hardest and most time consuming activities in marketing.

The right name can make all the difference in making your business relevant, engaging and desirable. It can keep your products top of mind, and help them cut through the clutter. So getting your brand name right is worth the effort.

In 2004 I rebranded my family’s business from Miller & Associates (M&A) to LEAPJob. The name change was driven from several business decisions:

  • New market: we were repositioning the firm from IT staffing to recruiting sales and marketing professionals.
  • Another Miller: I was entering the firm, and with both of my parents working in the company we felt there were “too many Millers on the door.”
  • Non-descript brand: The M&A identity was indistinguishable from any accounting, legal or professional services firm name. It was just a name.

We developed our business strategy, and set out to rename the firm.

The naming process

I am jealous of any firm that can find a great name in a few brainstorming sessions. Every product, service or company I have named has been a challenge.

We went into the naming project with a few guidelines:

  • The name couldn’t include the words “recruiting” or “staffing”
  • We had to get the .com
  • No invented words like Acura or Cingular
  • We wanted an expressive name versus a functional one
  • Be less than ten characters

The guidelines were all reasonable, but the .com requirement made it painful. We didn’t have a budget to buy an existing domain name so we had to be extra creative. To build a shortlist of two names took over 250 hours.

Testing assumptions

We identified two potential identities for the firm: LEAPJob and Fox Hunt. We developed logos for each, and then deliberated which way to go.

Fox Hunt Logo LEAPJob Logo

Internally we all loved the Fox Hunt identity. It was experiential, it spoke to the chase of recruiting, and we liked how it sounded. It had hard consonants to make it easier to say and easier to remember. But our opinion wasn’t enough. We needed to test it.

The test process had 3 phases.

In the first phase we tested the names. We printed 4 names — Fox Hunt, LEAPJob, Miller & Associates and Sales Search Partners — on individual pages. They were printed in 72 point Helvetica, and all in capitals. The pages were placed in a manilla folder, and presented to a group of prospects, clients and colleagues.

We asked each individual to rank the names by sorting the pages in order from favorite to least. Afterwards we asked them to explain why they selected their favorite, and what they liked about it. We also asked why it was different from their least favorite.

We captured the responses in a short survey that recorded basic demographic details, time to complete the exercise, the ranking and their answers.

In the second phase we approached a different group of people, and tested just the LEAPJob and Fox Hunt identities. The exercise was essentially the same as the first phase. We printed each logo in color on a page, and placed them in a manilla folder. We asked the recipient to pick their favorite, and explain why.

Finally, we conducted one more test. We went back to as many of the people we surveyed as we could a week or so later, and asked them to recall their favorite name. We wanted to know which name was stickiest.

Be prepared for a surprise

The results surprised us. The overwhelming favorite was LEAPJob.

Fox Hunt brought up several unexpected negative connotations: blood and guts, violence and animal cruelty. It did well with men, but women by and large disliked it.

In the name recall test we had another surprise. Instead of recalling the words “leap job”, people remembered “leap frog”. The funny part was when we corrected them the experience made the name memorable. We’d have a laugh over the mix up, and that little experience made the name much easier to recall.

Give yourself time

Finding the right name for your brand can elevate it from just another company to something memorable and exciting. It becomes the container that represents what makes your company, culture and products remarkable.

But the process is time consuming and hard. It takes a lot of creativity to find a short list of compelling names, and then it takes guts to let your market react to them and guide you to the right outcome.

Give yourself the time and space to choose the name that sticks.

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