—Mark Prus, Principal, NameFlashSM Name Development

There is a local furniture store in Pittsburgh called Colonial Modern Furniture. Its slogan is “It’s Colonial. It’s Modern. And everything in between.”

This demonstrates one of the biggest mistakes people make in picking a name—developing a name that tries to speak to everyone. I’m sorry, but apart from air and water, I don’t believe that there are products for everyone, and that is precisely why picking your target market is a critically important part of developing a name for your business.

The aforementioned furniture store used to be called Colonial Furniture. I get that. If I want colonial furniture I know where to go. Somewhere along the way they started adding more modern furniture so they decided to change their name to Colonial Modern Furniture. Big mistake. People who want modern furniture (like me) will run away from a store that has “Colonial” in the name. If you really wanted to tell the world that you had every type of furniture in your store, then why not choose a name that says “everything under the sun” (although “Amazon Furniture” might draw an infringement lawsuit).

I had a naming client in the weight loss category who thought his target market was the one-third of all Americans who meet the definition of having obesity, or even the 68% of all Americans who are overweight (imagine the potential market—all we need is 1% and we will be billionaires)!

Through some fairly inexpensive research I conducted, I managed to prove to the client that in fact most of those people are not interested in his product. But I did find a core group who was passionately interested in the product. I ask you what’s better: a) developing a name that targets everyone who needs to lose weight, or b) developing a name that speaks to the people who are most interested in what you have to offer. If you ever have taken a marketing course, you know the answer is b).

So obviously when we begin a name development project we concentrate on key strategic marketing decisions such as target market identification. Developing a great name for the masses is much less effective than developing a good name for the narrowly defined target market you have identified!

And when someone asks me “is this a good name or a bad name?” I always have to consider the strategic marketing foundation of the brand and what the company is trying to do.