April 24, 2019

Consumer Testing Product Names to Increase Sales

In the past, we’ve discussed how to structure your packaging design for maximum shelf appeal, and how to leverage your packaging to be more engaging. But today, we’d like to talk about one design element that we believe doesn’t get enough attention in the design space: your product name.

What’s In a Name?

In many ways, your product names are no different than any other aspect of your packaging design. They should be decided carefully, taking into account your brand image, your target market, and the features of the product itself.

And just like your packaging design, you’ll be doing some market research on your top options to see which resonate best with your target audience. In other words, it’s time to consumer test your product names.

Consumer Testing Your Product Names

The best way to test your shortlist of product names is to undergo a multi-stage process of qualitative and quantitative research, usually done through a combination of consumer studies and surveys. The idea here, just as it is with your other packaging design elements, is to tap into your customers’ minds and get a feel for how different names might influence their decision-making process, purchasing intent, and brand engagement.

Start with your shortlist of names. “Short” is key, here—it’s best to have 5 to 10 good candidates during your initial testing phases. Too many name options and you can begin to confuse participants or create the need for lengthy segmented studies.

Early Assessments

There are a few different ways to test out your names. Start by utilizing a broad screening measure that lets you separate the wheat from the chaff quickly. Ask participants to review each name and categorize them based on “strongly like,” “like,” “no opinion,” and “dislike.” We’ll get more detailed in a moment, but for now, this is the simplest way to identify your top performers. And best of all, this is easy to implement whether you’re doing online surveys or in-person assessments.

Detailed Preferences

Next, take the remaining options and work with your focus groups to gather more data. A good strategy is to use what’s called a “fixed sum allocation” review. Here, you’ll give each reviewer a pool of 30 points to spend, asking each reviewer to grant points to each option relative to his/her preference.

This strategy goes beyond mere ranking to give you insight into how strongly each consumer feels about the different options. While the above assessment is great for narrowing the field, the fixed sum allocation offers a detailed view into each customer’s preferences that will be crucial throughout the name selection process.

Testing Goals

During the consumer testing, you’ll have the chance to drill deep into your customers’ mindsets and learn what specific thoughts they have about each product name. This is the qualitative side of your data collection. Come up with a list of questions to get insights for based on your brand’s goals. Here are a few good concepts to explore:

  • Generally, which names do they prefer, and why?
  • How do they use the products?
  • What other notable brand products do they prefer?
  • How memorable are the names?
  • What associations does each name put into their minds?
  • What makes them prefer one name over another?
  • How often do they consider product names when purchasing?

Work to engage respondents with these questions and try to get them to talk freely. The more open and honest they are in their discussion, the more insight you’ll get into which names resonate.

Make sure to tie your quantitative data into this process. For example, if a certain customer indicated that she “strongly liked” a particular name in the earlier phase, ask her to expand on it in the discussion. Get her to explain what, in her view, the name communicates, and her perceptions are of the product.

The Final Decision

Put some thought into how much weight you’ll give each of the above questions. You’ll likely find that many different consumers have different perspectives that make it hard to determine a clear winner. We advise devising an objective scoring model that helps make these responses a bit more consistent.

And don’t forget to work your product name into your marketing campaign! Try coming up with a few mock-ups of various templates, images, banners, and imagery that showcases different product names in their natural habitat.

Ideally, you’ll also test and validate these mock-ups with consumer studies also, as seeing product names in finished advertisements can help eliminate some of the comparison biases people experience when comparing options in a sterile environment. (Quite similar to the simulated retail environments you used to test the shelf appeal of your packaging design!)

The Legal Disclaimer

Keep in mind that, even when you do find the perfect name, it will need to be researched and cleared by your legal team. The last thing you need interrupting your launch is a trademark dispute. And while your legal team can’t review every product name on your list, you should be aware of this issue and try to get ahead of it.

Work these details into your competitor research and see which names may already be taken. It can be a frustrating hurdle to overcome so close to the finish line, but once it’s cleared, you’ll be one step closer to finding the perfect product name for your brand.


by Kevin Smith
SmashBrand helps brands create, optimize, and launch successful products, services, and customer experiences. Our data-driven process is the key to accelerating sales and minimizing risks.

We use a strategic combination of market research, design, and consumer testing to solve complex brand problems more effectively, create differentiation, and forge more meaningful connections with customers.

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