MANY CASUAL WINE drinkers know that Champagne comes from Chardonnay or Pinot Noir grapes and that Chianti hails from Italy’s Tuscan countryside. But even the world’s most educated sommeliers may have a tough time pinpointing the origins of Cheap Red Wine, Pancake and The California Wine Party. The vineyards and distributors responsible for these obscure brands are trying to change that by showcasing their attention-grabbing labels on store shelves.
At Click Wine Group, the Seattle-based owner and importer of such wines as Fat bastard, Clean Slate and 2 Up, easily pronounced names and consumer-friendly packaging are prized traits. “We start with the consumer and work backwards,” says Peter Click, the company’s founder. “This has been an intimidating product category for them… We make our brands very simple and easy to communicate,” he says.
Click is among many vintners aiming to keep their brands clear and unpretentious, says Josh McFadden, a partner at Proof Wine Marketing, a wine-branding firm in San Luis Obispo, Calif., that has helped launch 20 new brands of wine in the last year. While it’s important to produce quality wines that consumers can trust, coming up with an enticing product name has taken on a much more vital role in today’s crowded marketplace, says McFadden. “It’s all about standing out right now.”
Just as the wine business makes the case for devising clever monikers, any company looking to reel in new customers or clients can benefit from a few brainstorming sessions before settling on a product or company name. Here are six tips for picking names that stand out:
Avoid odd-ball words
Kooky company or product names like Google (GOOG) and Amazon’s (AMZN) Kindle can grab attention. However, most businesses that try this strategy end up picking zany, nonsensical names and spending substantial time and money explaining what the company or the product does, says Brenda Bence, founder of Brand Development Associates, a personal and corporate branding consultancy in Chicago. Instead, small businesses, which tend to have fewer resources than bigger firms, should stick to common concepts, she says. “This way, business owners can spend more time working for customers rather than working to explain things,” says Bence.
Use business or product descriptors
Names should correspond to what a product or company does, says McFadden. For instance, after consulting with a winery owner who samples assorted vines from outside vineyards to create new wines, McFadden and his partner Elly Hartshorn suggested the wine maker adopt the name Field Recordings Winery. “We wanted to answer the question: Why would someone buy this wine?” says Hartshorn. “Someone would buy this wine because [the wine maker] is the insider. He has hand-selected vines and made connections that few others can mimic,” she says.
Veer away from limiting language
Naming a company or a product after what it does will cut down on having to explain more later, but businesses should be wary of pinning themselves into too narrow a niche, says Bence. For instance, a company that caters mainly to other businesses, but not solely to them, is limiting itself by inserting “B2B,” which stands for business-to-business, in its name, she says. “This is only a good idea if you’re really, really sure that your company is going to focus solely on businesses,” she says.
Mind your audience
To select a company or product name that resonates with specific consumers, cater to their values, says Hartshorn. To determine what those values are, home in on the small details of their subcultures, she says. “Making labels that hit [potential customers] subtly — as though they were an inside joke — can often capture people’s attention,” she says.
Match price points
Your company or product name should also correlate to the price points you’re aiming at, says Paige Arnof-Fenn, founder of Mavens & Moguls, a marketing consulting firm in Cambridge, Mass. Higher-priced items often bear more sophisticated names and packaging, while less-costly items tend to be more playful and lighthearted, she says.
“Even at higher price points, however, don’t be afraid to be different,” says McFadden. Naming products or companies so that no one gets offended is outdated, he says. Arnof-Fenn calls names that follow this practice “boring wall paper.” She adds, “In this day and age, customers have to be able to remember it and spell it to break through the clutter.”
-Write to Diana Ransom at firstname.lastname@example.org
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