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Stop Obsessing Over the Verbing of Your Product Names

by Dan Cohen  |  
March 15, 2016

The popularity of "verbing" has seemed to increase lately. For example, when we start a new naming project, inevitably a client will reference the possibility of verbing very early in the discussions. That shifts the focus to selecting a final product name that has the perceived flexibility to one day become a verb.

Google, Seamless, Swiffer—all are proper nouns that have transitioned into popular verbs that describe the action of using the product or service.

Verbing is seen as the pinnacle in the modern branding world, but if you're picking a name specifically for its "verbability," I say, "Don't!" When naming, you should focus on developing a name that best fits the product it will describe. And if the product is superior, the verbing will be (pun not intended) seamless. Why?

You can't force verbing

The process of your product name to becoming a verb has to be organic. The transition from noun to verb must be driven by users and cannot be an artificial creation by marketers and branders.

Just look at the 1990s ad campaign, "Do you Yahoo?!" People never Yahooed, and they certainly do not Yahoo now. It was never a term that made it into the cultural lexicon, partly because of the service and the forced attempts of verbing.

Becoming a verb has to be the result of the superiority of the actual product, not a result from the creative minds of advertisers, which the public feels inauthentic and insincere.

Ultimately, verbability does not come down to the specific name, but the actual product or service itself. If the company is offering something completely different, the word for what it describes may simply not exist yet.

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Dan Cohen is senior namer at Siegel+Gale, a global brand strategy, design, and experience firm.

LinkedIn: Dan Cohen

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  • by DG Tue Mar 15, 2016 via web

    Damn! They just Ikead me!

  • by Becky Scheinert Tue Mar 15, 2016 via web

    Great advice, Dan! Everyone has opinions and wants to "name the baby", so the factors you've pointed out brings some due diligence to the process even though there's no six-pack.

    Another factor is when to apply naming. Developers often get miffed when the name they have used during development is not carried over during launch, yet a company shouldn't waste the time on naming unless the product/service is actually going to be launched and the full scope of the product/service is defined. Perhaps we should use whimsical internal development names that make it obvious that Marketing will need to rename before going public.

    I like to provide the naming committee (and yes, it takes a committee) with a summary of considered-but-discarded names to keep them focused on the most refined and true definition and name options for the functionality.

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