What's in a Name?
The owner of a multi location pet food retailer needed help in branding his line of bone broth, natural bones, and pet treats. He knew that consumer research was necessary to validate the names that he came up with and had already vetted several different names among his current customers and pet parent friends. With a lot of excitement, he shared his favorite name, which was fun and catchy, but yet shed a negative light on the product: Boneyard. What he did well was use the component of his products, bone, in the name. Yet, the dead connotation that it evoked overshadowed the cute name (death is not an image you want from a natural, healthy pet food).
We reviewed all the steps he took in his new product development phase and while most of his instincts were spot on, he needed brand management expertise to get to the heart of his consumer. The pet store owner was correct in evaluating his possible brand names with his customers and friends via an online and in person questionnaire, but his line of questioning in his survey was limited to perceptions on the name alone. It wasn't important that his customers 'liked' the name, Boneyard, it was important that they understood the key benefits of the product in the name. The issue with asking only whether consumers 'like' a name is that he already moved passed validating his assumption that his target consumer would understand the meaning and brand promise derived in the name.
After uncovering the past, we were able to embark on a new product development process that has worked well in the numerous brands I have managed in my past. First, we analyzed his existing marketplace, competitive set, and consumer need states for trends, winning products, launches that have failed and key opportunity areas that were untapped. These steps are critical elements in our first stage of advisory: SCAN.
The information gathered in the SCAN step is critical before moving on to our second step of SELECT: properly identifying the specified target consumer and unique product proposition. After evaluating the marketplace and consumer need states, we wrote the vision and mission for the brand. This includes capturing the rational and emotional rationale for the brand and product (including early assumptions, mood boards, and several other activities). The pet food owner had several going in assumptions about his product, but only by marrying these to what consumers are willing to pay for, results in a successful brand / product launch.
After completing all of the due diligence components (taking the time to think through the right target and relevant offering), were we able to brainstorm possible names. We distilled the list down to the one's with available URL's and trademarks. We then took this final list of brand names, market and consumer hypotheses, and reasons to believe and wrote a one page questionnaire. This survey was shared with the shop owner's existing consumers and a representative sample of the target consumer online. Post, we had a robust qualitative understanding of why (and why not) his target consumer would buy the product and what each final brand name stood for. We were able to match names with rational and emotional attributes, and select a brand name that spoke to his truly unique product offering. He decided on Harbor Hound because 'Harbor' is defined as a 'place of safety and comfort' and 'Hound' conveys a reassuring image of quality.