Whether it is your portfolio of products, services or solutions, most marketing executives and branding professionals are well acquainted with the concept of brand architecture. They may be less familiar, however, with the related concept of naming architecture. While the two approaches are similar, there are significant differences in both purpose and process.
At its core, a naming system or naming architecture is created to simplify navigation of a suite of products, services or solutions, usually created via clear and concise names. It is important to create names that have SEO considerations in them from both a long tail and short tail perspective. In practice, a smart scalable naming systems enables a company or organization to guide the naming of its capabilities and offerings so that customers can readily understand what is being offered. You want these names to be accessible in the following three core components:
- Accessible to customers
- Accessible to search engine spiders
- Accessible in all markets you hope to target
Organizations most frequently need to develop a naming architecture or naming system when they are a startup or newly formed division or have merged with another organization and need to clearly present a new or combined set of products, solutions, capabilities and offerings. It is also required when an existing portfolio has become so inconsistent or burdened with proprietary names that it is too complex to comprehend or navigate.
A good naming hierarchy is useful when organizations can create a new offering and the naming of it is swift, painless, and builds on top of the naming system of its current offerings in market.
While developing a naming architecture may involve creating new names, it’s actually more critical to focus on creating consistent naming criteria, hierarchies, and constructs. In fact, this process often results in streamlining the number of proprietary names in a portfolio.
Here are four critical steps to creating and/or simplifying a naming system or naming architecture:
Model Your Portfolio
Analyze your current product suite as a starting point for understanding the naming challenges being faced and identifying opportunities for simplifying things.
No two companies are exactly alike, and no single architecture model fits all. This auditing process provides the framework for restructuring the portfolio and determining where different types of names fit.
For example, when WellNet needed to simplify their complex and evolving portfolio we helped them develop a framework by first organizing offerings into four broad categories: Health, Engage, Prescribe, and Advise. This enabled WellNet to offer a clear, comprehensive integrated solution to the market to achieve their growth goals.
Define Criteria For Naming
After analyzing the current suite of names, the next step is to determine the criteria for selecting the right types of names. When are generic or descriptive names most effective? When are suggestive names — names that evoke an offering’s purpose or benefits — more appropriate? When should you consider using arbitrary or made up names instead, given that these, while distinctive, are less meaningful?
For example, Inspirata. When entrepreneur Satish Sanan (who sold his previous enterprises for close to $1Billion) needed a branding firm to bring his new cancer diagnostics venture to market, he turned to Bluetext. Working with his extended management team, Bluetext created the name, messaging, brand, logo, visual identity, responsive website, family of videos, and process infographic to most effectively share with their target audience the impact of their solution. The name Inspirata was rooted in two key words. Inspired Data. Part of Satish’s vision was to inspire the medical industry of what’s possible when we curate, manage, and analyze big data using advanced technologies and methodologies. For Inspirata, SEO was not a focus out of the gate. Their business focuses on executive relationships with the world’s leading cancer centers. Capturing business opportunities through Google and other search engines was not a KPI thus he wanted a name that engaged and inspired their customers / partners as they build out their full vision.
Once the naming system criteria have been determined, the next step is to rationalize how the names will fit together within the suite of products. This step has two parts. First, one needs to determine the overall structure and hierarchy of names. Next, one needs to create consistent naming constructs. Here you consider the individual parts of a name. Typically, a naming construct will include a masterbrand, a specific product name (based on the naming selection criteria), and a descriptor. It may also, in certain cases, include a modifier that indicates the audience or specific area of solution for this offering.
For example, for our client Sourcefire you will see how we helped drive a smart scalable system for their products naming them as firePOWER, fireSIGHT, fireAMP, and fireCLOUD. This product naming system replaced naming from acquired brands like Clam AV, Snort, and Razorback.
With all of these systems in place, it is critical to ensure the naming architecture will endure the test of time. This is accomplished by developing internal governance procedures, future naming frameworks, style guidelines, and other tools to aid decision-making and compliance. You want to make sure that moving forward, everyone involved follows the same process and guidelines when it comes to naming.
At the end of the day, the key goal is accessibility, clarity and consistency. By developing an effective and enduring naming architecture, a product portfolio becomes more understandable for customers, while reducing the cost and complexity of creating and managing names as a unique process each time.