Crowdsourcing Your Product Name

Product naming is hard.

Too many factors come into play when looking for a name and it’s almost impossible to decide on the right name once you’ve stared at the same list for a week straight. This is the kind of thing that keeps you up at night, even after you’ve made the decision.

And asking opinions is fine, but more often than not the people you ask are not in your demographic:

“Hi Mom. Things are good, thanks. Hey while I have you on the phone, what do you think I should call my enterprise level encryption engine?”

About two months ago Patrick Thompson, a member of the Micropreneur Academy, was in search of a name for his speed reading eBook reader for the iPhone. We emailed several times about the process he followed to find his optimal name, and given his creative approach I wanted to share it here.

As an aside, his application launched last week and you can find it at or in the iPhone app store under the name “QuickReader.”

The Approach
A while back Patrick contacted a handful of Academy members and asked for opinions on potential product names. Our task was to choose a few names we liked from a long list of ideas. From this data he culled a short list of potential names – around 40 – and put a survey on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. He got the idea from these two links: here and here.

He asked people to view a screencast of the application, offer suggestions for the name and give their feedback on the app. He received 29 responses and paid a total of around $7.

With a successful test run in his pocket he put out a 14-question survey looking for 500 respondents. He paid $.055 per survey (including Amazon’s $.005), and had 50 respondents in the first 3 hours.

The Findings
Five days later Patrick had 250 responses and enough information to decide on a name, but let the survey run because he was receiving solid information from the other (non-naming) survey questions, as well as leads who were interested in being notified when the app launched. At the time of this writing he’s at 460 responses.

While the purpose of the survey was to choose a name for his application, he (wisely) took the opportunity to also ask about demographics. Among other things, he found that:

  • A slight majority of respondents were female
  • Nearly 75% were between 18 and 35
  • 63% were in North America; 20% in India
  • 28% of respondents were in his target market (meaning they owned an iPhone or iPod touch)
  • 25% of respondents had ever read a book on a mobile device (not bad!)
  • More than half had an interest in speed reading
  • 21% volunteered to beta test and provided their email
  • 20% asked to be notified when the app was available and provided their email

Obviously the population taking the survey was skewed towards a younger, technology savvy audience. But it’s close enough to his target market to work.

Regarding the product name, which was the original purpose of the survey, a list of 40 names was given to each respondent was asked to choose up to 3 names. While QuickReader wasn’t the top name for the entire population, it was a close second among people that had an interest in speed reading and 3 of the top 5 overall names had the word “quick” and “read” or “reader” in them. And QuickReader works well for some of Patrick’s future plans for the app.

The top name overall, throughout the survey, was iReadFast. While he decided not to use this for the product name (as it doesn’t fit well for a general e-book reader), he did grab the domain name to use as a blog or education site in the future. I’m surprised the name was available.

Lessons Learned
Overall, Patrick said that using Mechanical Turk for the survey was a great experience and obviously quite cost effective. It cost him $27.50 for 500 responses ($.05 per respondent + .005 per respondent for Amazon’s cut). He was able to decide on an app name. He found out something about what devices Turks use and their attitudes about reading and speed reading, and he got a list of close to 100 e-mail addresses of people wanting to be notified when the app launched.

And finally, here is the advice he provided from his research and first-hand experience:

  • Always do a small trial or 2 of your survey task before you start the real one
  • Try to make it interesting for the Turk
  • Providing a link to a screencast of the app was a good idea (the Turks enjoyed it)
  • Provide a confirmation code in your survey, on the final thank you page, once they have answered all of the questions. This is what the Turk enters in a form at the end to prove that they took the survey.
  • Executing the survey in an external survey site, rather than doing the survey directly in Amazon’s form, allows you to use the built in reports of your survey provider (rather than just getting the excel data.)
  • Keywords are important. When you publish your task, try to add as many relevant keywords as possible.
  • Even if your goal is narrow (e.g., selecting a name), use the opportunity to find out more about your potential users and market.
  • Always have a question asking how you can improve the survey.
  • Pay Quickly. It annoys Turks when you don’t.
  • It’s addictive. It is hard to keep yourself from constantly checking to see if new results have come in.

Patrick’s search for a product name demonstrates a creative approach for Mechanical Turk. He invested a few hours and around $20 and wound up with a name he knows is a good choice for his market and a nice list of prospects to notify about his launch.

The reason I like his approach comes back to my desire to measure and quantify marketing. If there’s one thing wrong most people miss about marketing, it’s measuring and tweaking everything: your message, your copy, your videos, your tagline, even your price.

And while you can’t easily tweak your product name, Patrick took the next best approach by measuring in advance instead of thinking about it for week and going with a gut feeling. Quantifying these kinds of things will improve sales and, trust me on this one, will allow you to sleep at night.

Start Small, Get Big
Growth Secrets for Self-Funded Startups. It'll Change Your Life.
What you get for signing up:
  • A 170-page ebook collecting my best startup articles from the past 5 years
  • Previously unpublished startup-related screencasts
  • Exclusive revenue-growing techniques I don't publish on this blog
"The ideas and information Rob provides should be required reading for anyone that wants to create a successful business on the web." ~ Jeff Lewis
Startups for the Rest of Us...
If you're trying to grow your startup you've come to the right place. I'm a serial web entrepreneur here to share what I've learned in my 11 years as a self-funded startup founder. Luckily several thousand people have decided to stick around and join the conversation.

For more on why you should read this blog, go here.


#1 Mike Lewis on 10.30.09 at 11:28 am

Phenomenal idea! I’d never even heard of MTurk.

I’ve been looking into VA’s and small-task freelancers for a project I’ve been scheming up recently. I’ll have to see if there are any parts that might be better crowd-sourced.

#2 Rytmis on 11.02.09 at 3:12 am

There’s something wrong with your feed. I’ve now had the most recent 20 items show up as new things three times in the last week.

#3 Thomas Williams on 11.02.09 at 8:34 am

Hi Rob – +1 to Rytmis, and there’s 5 lines of Ëmail this”, “Subscribe to feed, “Bookmark this”underneath each blog post.

#4 Rob on 11.02.09 at 12:03 pm

The feed issues have been resolved, please see my next post:

Sorry for the inconvenience.

#5 Scott Olson on 11.02.09 at 2:32 pm

Great use of MTurk. I posted about how I have been using them for interview transcription recently here:

I have always been very happy with their results and using them for product naming is a great idea.

#6 Pras Sarkar on 11.03.09 at 11:40 am

Great idea to use MTurk for creative uses! What was the survey provider that worked well with MTurk? i.e had confirmation codes.

#7 Patrick Thompson on 11.03.09 at 2:18 pm

Any survey provider will work or you can do everything in Mechanical Turk. I used an external survey provider because I liked the summary graphs and tables that make it easy to follow the survey as it progresses. I used (and like) SurveyGizmo, but, again, any one would work.

For the confirmation code, I used a random word; I think I used “kodiak” for the main survey. You put the confirmation code on the Thank You page, so they can only see it when they submit the completed survey. Then they just copy and paste the code into the HIT.


#8 The lazy CEO’s 10-step guide to crowdsourcing every business task | Traders & Markets on 05.14.10 at 6:17 pm

[…] need a name for your business. One iPhone developer put the task of naming his e-reader out to the crowd through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, and $27.50 and 500 responses later came up with the name […]

#9 The lazy CEO’s 10-step guide to crowdsourcing every business task – VentureBeat « Tech4buziness – Eng on 05.17.10 at 12:31 am

[…] need a name for your business. One iPhone developer put the task of naming his e-reader out to the crowd through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, and $27.50 and 500 responses later came up with the name […]