Naming guidelines. Every client wants them. Few, if any, need them. Not the traditional style we all know, anyway. At face value, developing guidance on how to name products and offerings within a company that has a large portfolio makes perfect sense. And it’s certainly useful to reference a nicely-designed PDF when you’re telling someone they can’t name their new, small hidden feature ZOINGO.
But, experience suggests that few of the intended product or marketing folks ever read naming guidelines. Perhaps even worse, they rarely understand them. That’s because people who live and breathe marketing, branding, and naming spend months writing 30-50 (or sometimes even 100) pages of insider speak that gets into the nuanced specifics of naming. And we are very proud of the finished result.
However, in today’s world of 140-character attention spans, perhaps we need to give more thought to the intended audience, and how best to convey rules and guidance to them. Here are four suggestions on how to create better, stronger, shorter naming guidelines:
1. Keep it simple. Summarize.
Most naming guidelines end with a summary of the rules included in their vast volumes. Everyone skips to it anyway. And that summary is still a lot of information to parse. We know it’s sacrilegious to say, but I recommend that your public guidelines contain only a simple summary of naming rules. It will increase chances that it’s read and understood. And it saves the brand management team and their product teams time by cutting to the chase and making the rules very clear.
2. Do it. Don’t do it.
Product and marketing managers usually just want to know what they can name their product. Keep guidance in simple do/don’t terms. This provides actionable advice that can be referenced easily and quickly. Do use descriptive terms. Don’t make up new words. Do make things simple. Don’t complicate your portfolio with unnecessary names.
3. Be an interpreter.
Two or three pages of guidelines will accomplish A LOT, but there will still be questions. That’s where strong guidance from branding comes in! No amount of written rules will solve every naming question. Brands and portfolios are too fluid and complex for any set of rules to apply completely. Be a strong brand manager who can interpret the general gist of the naming guidelines to each unique naming request and need. Be comfortable bending the rules (just a little though). But more importantly, be comfortable saying “no” when the rules call for it.
4. Back it up and make it last.
As the brand grows, managers of brand, product, and marketing come and go. So, having a slightly more robust, internal-only set of rules is helpful. That way, when a new brand manager comes along and wonders why the rules are the way they are, there are additional pages of insider-speak that help them understand and become the new interpreter and defender of naming standards at their organization.
The world is changing. People are changing. Brands are changing. Ultimately, the way we manage brands must change too. Simple naming guidelines can create consistency in a portfolio or products. But these too must adapt to the times and become simpler, smarter and more empowering for those who use them.
Aaron Hall is director, naming at Siegel+Gale. Follow him on Twitter: @brainwoosh