Product names with a personal touch
By: Hannah Butcher
Have you ever stopped to think about the name of the product you’re buying, especially if it has a “human” name?
Here’s an example for you: I shop at New Look as it’s hard to find well-fitting petite jeans in many places on the high street. I go back to New Look time and time again for the same jeans as I know they fit me. My favourite cut is high waist super skinny, but at New Look they’re also known as Hallie jeans. They’ve created names for their main styles to make it easier for customers to remember which jeans they regularly buy. Clever stuff.
Product naming in practice
This isn’t necessarily a new angle in product naming. Boohoo.com used to have pages and pages full of dresses with human names. If you wanted a tailored midi dress, you could find one called Olivia. If you wanted a printed shift dress, then a Naomi might have been the right one for you.
The Boohoo naming conventions seem to have moved on since then for very literal (and SEO friendly) product names. Now you’re much more likely to find a “Glitter Velvet Twist Front Plunge Bodycon Dress”, or a “Petite Metallic Square Neck Mini Dress”. It ain’t catchy, but in a time when website traffic is so valuable, and competition levels are so high, it makes perfect sense.
But it may be that the use of human names in products works for other brands, and there is one personal example that I want to share with you.
Searching for a present...
My niece is coming up to her fifth birthday, and I wanted to find her a present that she would use, love and treasure. I stumbled across the perfect item when I was doing my weekly online food shopping order on Sainsbury’s: The Lego Friends Mia’s Tree House.
Despite the product being advertised for children aged 6-12, I knew that it would be the ideal present for my niece. Firstly, because she’s very advanced for an almost five-year-old, but more importantly, her name is Mia and she loves Lego.
I’ll be honest, I was feeling pretty smug with myself that I’d managed to find a birthday present that ticked so many boxes. How lucky was I that there was a product named the same as my favourite (and only) niece? It took me a couple of days to realise that I probably wasn’t as lucky as I thought, and that’s down to a little thing called data.
When I was registering the birth of my own daughter, I remember seeing a sign on the wall behind the desk. It read “most popular baby names in 2016”, which was the year before my little girl was born. The list was only 10 names long, but I remember seeing Mia on that list, alongside Ava and Olivia.
This memory forced me back to my laptop to do a bit of research; was the name “Mia” a happy coincidence, or was it actually a clever branding idea by Lego? Here’s what I found out…
LEGO Friends character names
There are five main Lego Friends characters in the sets; although apparently there are a couple more in the animated series. As Lego Friends are primarily targeted towards girls, it’s no surprise to learn that the main characters are also a group of girls. They’re named Mia, Emma, Stephanie, Olivia, and Andrea.
Remember when I said that the Lego sets were targeted to children aged 6-12? Well I thought I’d look into the most popular baby names between 2006 and 2012. For data consistency, I used the official U.S. list available on Babycenter.com for each year.
Mia – Lego Friends character
Let’s start with Mia, as that was the character in the set I was buying for my niece. Was it as common in the U.S. as it was here between those years? It turns out it was; the name ‘Mia’ was in the top 15 most popular girls’ names for each of the seven years I checked. It peaked in 2012 as the 8th most popular name.
Emma – Lego Friends character
Next up was Emma, and this turned out to be a very popular name. In fact, it was the most popular of all the names in the Lego Friends collection, and even in the whole of the U.S. in 2008. It sat in position 2 or 3 in the top 100 charts for all the other years I looked at.
Stephanie – Lego Friends character
Here’s where things got a bit strange; Stephanie was in the top 100 baby names in 2006 and 2007, but dropped out completely for the rest of the years. In 2006 it was the 70th most popular name, and was 88th in 2007.
Olivia – Lego Friends character
Back to some more compelling data for my theory; Olivia helped to make the case for why the Lego Friends had the names they did. It was in the top 10 for each of the years we looked at, peaking in 2009 as the third most popular name in the U.S.
Andrea – Lego Friends character
Finally, we come to Andrea. Now here’s another one that’s a bit different, because although the name does appear in the top 100 baby names each year, it gets progressively further away from the number one spot, ending in 2012 at position 100.
What does it all mean?
Based on the baby name data from 2006 to 2012, we can see that Mia, Emma and Olivia are all highly popular names. Therefore, it seems like it may have been a shrewd move to give products these names to attract a large number of children who were given the same name at birth. Especially for a brand like this which has such a global reach.
The two anomalies, or so they seem, are the names Stephanie and Andrea. Why have these names been chosen? Well we’re hypothesising of course, as it could just be something as simple as a person being the inspiration for the character, but here’s a couple of other theories…
The first is that the names may be more popular in different markets outside of the U.S. For example, Andrea is a given name worldwide as the feminine form of Andrew or Andreas. It’s not unusual to see it used in the U.S. but it is also picked by families in Hungary, Bulgaria, Croatia and Germany, amongst plenty of other countries.
And another theory is that these names might be targeted to the parents (or even uncles, and aunties like me!) buying the Lego sets. If you look at data for the names Andrea and Stephanie, you can see that they were at their most popular in the U.S around the 1980s as shown in the following images, respectively.
So, maybe a couple of the Lego Friends names are actually targeting a different generation. Perhaps it's because of the way we feel when we see our own names in action somewhere. Even if we don’t have either of those names ourselves, perhaps we know someone who does. The product may then make us think of them.
Either way, it made for an interesting little study.
If all brands chose the same names based on popularity, it would get a bit boring. New Look have chosen some names that have slightly different spellings, or are less popular girls’ names. This may help for the purposes of search marketing as it makes it easier to appear in organic and paid Google listings for queries like “jenna jeans”, New Look's mid-rise skinny cut jeans.
This can help a one-time customer to become a repeat customer, instead of straying to a competitor when simply searching by the type of jeans, rather than the name of them.
Product naming therefore needs to be a lot more scientific than simply pulling a name out of a hat; it’s something we can and do help brands with here at The Escape (get in touch if you need a hand!).
We’d love to hear from you if you think there are some other good examples of product names out there. Get in touch with us on Twitter, and we’ll retweet your suggestions to our followers.