Let’s ban “cool” codenames that don’t pass search test

Last week I had a great meeting with the guy (David Webster) who runs naming for Microsoft. He enumerated the ways that fun code names suck. Why? Cause he has to do a few things to any name that we use:

1) It has to be trademarkable. Even after his team does a trademark search they still get into trouble over names that other people own.
2) It has to test well in most markets (they do focus groups and other testing to make sure they don't pick a name that accidentally turns off people in a marketplace — even with all this testing finding names that work well everywhere is really hard).

What got me to write about it? Chris Smith talks about his favorite code names (and about Nintendo's "cooler" code name).

What's the answer? Well, he has a whole bunch of rules for product teams as they make names. For one, he wishes that teams would talk with him before coming up with "fun" code names. For two, he wishes that teams would come up with names that don't exist in Internet searches. Remember my "Brrreeeport" test? When I put that name on my blog there were zero results on Google and Live.com. Today it has 169,000 results, according to Google (yes, we know that isn't true, but let's go with it anyway, heheh).

He says that if companies and teams come up with names that simply don't exist in Google and Yahoo and Windows Live that they'll have a pretty good chance of surviving any trademark search that you come up with (it's a rare trademark that doesn't make it to Internet search engines).

I think the day is coming near when companies simply ban any product name that doesn't pass this test.

What do you think?