How Not to Name Your Product

Preface

My first business, Mirror Lake, failed succeeded failed. The business did get to a state of profitability but failed as an investment. That means we were making a profit month-to-month when we sold the business, but never covered our initial capital. I’ve decided to share what I’ve done right and what I’ve done wrong. Each post will be an independent lesson so don’t worry about having read the previous entries.

Mirror Lake is a laundry and press service done differently. It was a new concept in Kuwait. The idea was based on a subscription model where you get scheduled pickups once a week at a fixed time slot. For example, you could be subscribed to pickups every Monday between 7 and 9pm. You don’t have to pick up the phone, use an app, or do anything. We’ll pick up your laundry every Monday, of every week, between 7 and 9pm. Drop offs would be 24 hours later (in this case, Tuesdays between 7 and 9pm). Here’s where things get better: you pay a flat-rate monthly fee in exchange for filling up your weekly laundry in a bag we provide. You don’t have to worry about separating colors from whites or dry cleans from regular wash clothes. We’d take care of it.

The Story

I called my laundry business Mirror Lake. Yea, I know. It sounds more like a Chinese restaurant than a laundry business. Naming my business Mirror Lake was one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made. My justification for the name was as follows: I decided that my target market was expats living in Kuwait. That they would be mostly American expats. The concept of the service, I thought, was best tailored for them. That is why I decided to name my laundry service something that reflects that. Mirror Lake is a popular little lake located in Ohio State University’s campus. Students would jump in the lake prior to one of the biggest rivalries in sports for good luck. I had attended Ohio State, and jumped twice in two separate years.

And that pretty much sums up the story.

Like I said, I know that the naming was horrible and that it did not aid in the spreading of the concept in Kuwait. Furthermore, the pronunciation of the word “mirror” is quite difficult for Arab speakers in Kuwait (My choosing of expats as the initial target market was completely off). I had to change my target market only 2 months into the business. What didn’t change? The name, Mirror Lake.

The Lesson + What you should do

The name of your product or business is a positioning opportunity, and you should take advantage of it. There are many tips and tricks on how to name your product. You can simply google that query and get a flood of ideas and opinions. One thing that I learned is not to name your business in relation to a target market. Instead, you need to link it to your value proposition. I’ll give you an example.

Let’s play a little game: I will write the name of a product/ business, and you should guess what the value proposition is. Let’s go.

HotelTonight

I’d like to think that it’s obvious that HotelTonight has to do with booking hotels. Hence the “hotel” in the name. I’d also guess that it has to do with last minute bookings. Hence the immediacy of the word “tonight.” The value proposition I’d expect this website to offer is immediacy of booking hotels. So if I’m in a situation where I have to book a room for the night? HotelTonight is where I’m going. Hotels.com also exists. Booking.com is a very popular choice. But you know what? HotelTonight feels right as the primary solution for when I’m in an urgent situation because my bet is that the website is completely designed with that in mind – and it is. Their slogan? Last minute hotel deals at great hotels.

HotelTonight

Air Wick

My guess is that this is a product that freshens the air. Hence the word “air” in the name. “Wick” gives me the impression that the act of cleaning the air is done quickly. Now I’ll admit that I personally use Air Wick products so I already knew all of that. However, that doesn’t negate the fact that it’s a well-chosen name for a brand of air cleaning scents. Again, the value proposition is clearly stated in the name.

Air Wick

Amazon

This is a website we’re all familiar with. The giant online retailer that virtually carries every single product you can think of. Now let’s go back to the early days of this company when the naming came into play. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, had chosen the name Amazon because it is “exotic and different” and that the Amazon River was by far the biggest in the world. Keep in mind that Amazon started as an online bookstore. Now let’s dissect this together. The word “amazon” does not, by any means, resemble books. But let’s look beyond that because apparently, Bezos’s plan from the get-go was to have the largest online store, regardless of what product he sold. I personally believe that Amazon succeeded despite the name and not because of it. The value proposition at that time was: the largest selection of books available online. The word amazon gives an indication of the vastness part of the value proposition, but there is no indication as to the vastness of what exactly. Amazon is a great name in hindsight, but I’d argue that it wasn’t in foresight.

Amazon
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