Naming Architectures

When a company launches with a free consumer product and then wants to add an enterprise version, naming can be particularly important, especially in an industry as fast-changing as mobile security. When Lookout decided to develop a full enterprise offering to secure an increasingly mobile workforce, the company came to us to develop a naming strategy that reflected its new direction.

We knew that with an established and successful consumer brand like Lookout, we needed to focus our efforts on making sure the enterprise products were immediately and clearly recognizable. As we went through the process, it was clear that in addition to a name, they needed help finding a story. Once we were finished, the company had both.

When companies make acquisitions, they often end up with a mix of brand names that confuse customers and thwart sales efforts. McAfee came to us with just this problem: a tangle of non-descriptive names, some incorporating acquired company names, but none helping people understand its product line.

We realized this was a project that called for the “clean-slate approach.” We retired almost all of the company’s product brands and moved them toward a masterbrand system. This approach gives the McAfee corporate brand all the power and relies on simple, descriptive product names that are easy to understand and compare. The proof the new system worked lies in its longevity: McAfee itself was subsequently acquired by Intel, and it is still using the masterbrand system we created today.

Long gone are the days of working for a company for 40 years and then retiring with a gold watch and healthy pension. Financial Engines, co-founded by a Nobel Prize-winning economist, came on the scene to help meet the financial needs of a changing workforce. Because the company was growing so quickly, it hadn’t been rigorous about naming its products. The result was what we call “rogue naming”: clients and sales people making up names themselves to try to make the offerings more clear.

We helped the company simplify its brand and message, creating simple, easily distinguishable product names for its main offerings. Together, these created a solid foundation that allows them to extend the architecture as the company grows and develops new products.

Blue Shield of California is one of the biggest players in our country’s competitive and highly regulated health care industry. When the company recognized a decade ago that major shifts in the industry were looming, the marketing team brought us in to clarify its names and shine a spotlight on its most important products.

Unlike many companies that come to us for naming architectures, Blue Shield actually had too few names; its lead product, the PPO, didn’t have a name at all. We tackled the PPO product first, naming it Shield Spectrum: “spectrum” to show the product offers an abundance of choice for customers and “shield” to help distinguish it from Blue Cross. We then went on to develop names for the Point of Service product (Added Advantage) and consumer choice product (Active Choice). We also created guidelines for future naming. The precise, yet simple, system helped Blue Shield navigate the turbulent health care waters with ease. They are still in use more than a decade later.

With well over a million hospital beds in use around the world, chances are you’ve seen the Hill-Rom logo, if only on your favorite medical TV drama. In business for more than 85 years, the company’s product catalog has grown substantially over the decades. Hill-Rom realized that to hold on to its significant market share and keep up with the demands of a changing health care environment, the company should clean up a product naming system that had become difficult to manage and support.

We recommended the company focus more on its corporate brand and on a few well-established product brands. Part of this strategy was to use an alphanumeric system of product naming to make it easier for customers to compare model features and benefits. Though the team was initially unsure about giving up some legacy names, we had the data to back up our approach, and they saw how powerful numbers can be, especially in the health care industry. The architecture we created makes it easy for customers to understand the product relationships and easy for the company to add new product names as it grows.