Naming Tips – Number 39 in a Series

Here are a few comments and opinions about naming product features. First thing is, like most issues, there are pros and cons to naming features. And also there’s the ultimate weasel phrase, “It depends”.

So let’s explore names for features.

First of all, is the feature a product in and of itself?

Certainly the GM North Star system is a feature of higher end autos, and an option for lower-priced vehicles. As an option North Star is a product. As an included sub-system it is a feature. And because this system is exclusive and has become a valued reason to buy a GM car or truck, it has been promoted and advertised as a product. It helps differentiate the vehicle from competitors in a significant way. So, yes, naming this feature/product makes sense and contributes to the success of GM vehicle sales and profits.

But not all features deserve a name in my estimation. Many product features do not differentiate the product in a meaningful way. The marketer may believe that naming a feature common to a product category will make a difference, but I believe that kind of naming strategy only drains credibility from the offering – at least in the eyes of rational, informed buyers. 

I was once involved with evaluating names for four features being incorporated in a new line of lawnmowers. The features were all common to most high-end power mowers. Once we looked at the list of “winning” name candidates, we found there was no real advantage in naming them, particularly since the common descriptive phrases were already known and accepted by the respondents to the survey.

Having a list of feature names people are not familiar with, coupled with a product line name and a model name is just too much for a buyer to handle.

So here’s my rule-of-thumb guide to whether to name a feature or not: If the feature is truly a differentiator like North Star, and you plan to promote that feature at least at the point-of-sale, name the feature. But if it’s a “me-too” feature you just want to hype, forget it.

Also, keep in mind buyers want to simplify the buying process. By introducing a new name into the mix is just another factor to weigh, and may make the decision more difficult.

Remember, a confused prospect will not buy.

Martin Jelsema

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