New product ideas need a code name. After all, we have to call it something. But beware: a “good name” sticks. We all have experience with a project code name that left the building: employees mention the project to customers and then you start getting inquiries on the status of “MUD” (Multi-Unix Deployment) or “Mobility.”
While names for products should be meaningful, use obscure names for projects (ie., products or releases that have not been launched). You don’t want employees or customers to fall in love with a name only to find the name isn’t what we actually take to market. You don’t want to waste cycles training your employees and customers to stop saying “MUD” for what is now “Deployer.”
Product names should evoke the positioning of the product. You need to research the name to make sure you can get the URL and the Twitter handle and so on. You’ll want the name to be meaningful and unique. Project names should be obscure.
For projects, one company uses cartoon characters—Snow White, Goofy, Scooby-Doo. Google uses foods for Android projects (version 8 was Oreo; version 9 was Pie.). For operating system releases, Apple likes to use deserts (Mohave) and mountains (High Sierra) after a long series of animal names (Snow Leopard).
For years I’ve recommended slightly offensive names like body fluids or diseases so no one will mention them to clients. Even so, it’s really hard to have a conversation with leadership about the “earwax project” or “heart valve replacement.”
Here’s my new favorite approach. A client made this suggestion: Crayola colors! There are dozens and dozens of fun names. (Personally I like “Wild Blue Yonder.”) For a list of names of all the available Crayola crayons, see
Project names should be obscure; product names should be meaningful.