Branding is about engaging consumers, and it all starts with a name …
A brand name is the first thing people encounter when they engage your company; it’s the ‘hello,’ the opportunity to create a positive first impression. So that name needs to be memorable and on point with your overall message.
But, in my experience, most businesses struggle with deciding on names, no more so than loyalty program names. An understandable problem, considering just how important making the right choice is and the difficulty of figuring out how well it’ll work.
First off, I think a mistake many businesses make is not giving it enough attention … In my last article, I talked about inertia (yep, I’m still with the Co-op …), and I think that has a big play here … people often just pick what’s ‘safe.’ Rather than going through a proven process — like we use with our clients — marketers choose a name based on subjective criteria, like “gut feel” or the personal preferences of their company leader, or simply what’s easy.
But does a name really matter?
Yes. Companies and brands like Google, Uber, Yahoo had names that didn’t make any sense to consumers except the ones they advertised and marketed to. Whatever name is given to your loyalty program, you need to own it … you need to market it … you need to stand behind it and push it consistently to your consumer base.
Naming rights … the different types
I have a kind of spectrum that I refer to – Generic, ‘left-field,’ and creative.
Generic is a Starbucks-style approach (that’s ‘Starbucks Rewards’ if you’ve been living under a rock). Sweet and simple, but perhaps a little lazy? It works well enough if you’ve got a good following, no doubt.
Someone like Plenti.
A huge Coalition loyalty program in the U.S. with a completely unique name. This takes guts, but they have done a good job in branding themselves in becoming somewhat of a household name.
My personal sweet spot… something familiar and fun that doesn’t leave any ambiguity. I’m a big fan of Sephora Beauty Insider (VIB), not that I’m personally a customer … or maybe I am? They’ve used their brand name with their personality but have created an emotional connection with their audience simply through their program name.
Eventually, it’s good practice to conduct some market research to test the phrases you’re considering.
But when you’re deciding on the candidates, you can already bring objectivity to the process by analyzing some simple areas. For example, we recently worked with a healthcare brand on their program, and this discovery was a key part of our framework to help them decide on the best name.
7 key areas to focus in on
1. The program objectives
Usually lost in the name talk, start with what your program is trying to really achieve and grow from there. Without knowing your foundations, there’s nothing to build on.
Don’t get shy; there’s no such thing as a bad idea in the early stages. See what you’ve got and what it can be molded into.
3. Is it memorable? Stand out from the competition
Have a name that stays easily top of mind, especially in a time where there’s so much program competition. That means that it should be short, easy to pronounce, and easy to spell. It’s also pretty helpful if the name creates a vivid mental image in customers’ minds. It never hurts to take a look at what the competition are calling theirs …
Don’t settle on a name that can be mistaken for any other brand’s program … And try to find one that is unique enough that it actually encourages curious attention! Again, be sure to check out your competitors … something as simple as a quick Google to make sure the name isn’t being ‘more creatively’ used by someone else. A ridiculously simple thing to do that can save a ton of pain.
5. Does it have a positive connotation?
Everyone associates certain feelings with certain words. Obviously, you don’t want to include a word that has widespread negative implications. And if you’re considering rolling this our internationally, take special care for how words are interpreted throughout other languages and cultures.
6. Will the name stand the test of time?
Be careful about choosing slangy or faddish terms that may lose much of their meaning over time. With Millennials now the largest gen in the U.S., it’s also important to consider whether a name appeals enough to their tastes sustained over the coming decades, as Millennials’ purchasing power only continues to grow. A pretty damning statistic is that 29% of Millennials rated “too many programs to keep track of” as one of the top three things they dislike about loyalty programs — they’re overwhelmed with business communications, so brand naming is doubly important.
7. Does it reflect the brand’s “personality?” & values?
Depending on a company’s industry, mission, brand strategy, etc., program branding can range from fun and light-hearted to a serious tone. A soft-drink company, for example, will have much more humorous and entertaining tones than you’d get for “lots on the line” industries like insurance, financial management, or medicine … So it’s important to match the tone of the program to the tone of the brand. And don’t let your legal team bully you! If we listened to legal on all branding & marketing decisions, we would have the most boring program names around. I mean, who would join a loyalty program called …
‘Somewhat Appealing Rewards
*rewards are not guaranteed to be somewhat appealing‘
Brand naming is one of the most important decisions a business will ever make … it should never be rushed. By extension, your loyalty program name should receive a similar amount of attention, especially in the current marketplace. Rather than relying on opinions on their own, you should take a more careful, objective approach, like we use at IC Group, really asking and answering questions that will lead to the best name possible.
Own the name, own the game!
I’m the VP of Sales at IC Group and loyalty program strategist.
I’d love to get your take on this article. To talk more, you can email me at email@example.com