Innovative new products are sometimes hard to describe to the business or consumer purchaser. Naming the product or category is key to communicating your message.
For years we have “Xeroxed” when we photocopied or listened to our “Walkman” when we meant a portable CD player or asked for a “Kleenex” when we want a tissue. Letters have come to be shorthand for whole categories such as “e” in “e-commerce” or “e-zine” and “i” as seen in “iPod” or “iMac.”
The new “iPad” from Apple is named in a way that tells you what it is. But when the iPod was named, how did anyone know what it was? The iPad name was a natural evolution in the naming process that Apple employs. Think iTouch, iPhone and iTunes.
Naming New Categories
Let’s consider a few examples of naming new categories.
- Horseless Carriage: A horse and carriage was a standard mode of travel for many years. The carriage evolved but was always powered by horses. What do you call a carriage without a horse? “Horseless Carriage” was invented to define a whole new industry. Of course, we now call them automobiles. A legacy of the term is still used to define the power of the engine – Horsepower.
- Segway: One of the early models was the i/67. They utilized the “i” trying to explain the product. No one saw anything like it and did not know how to define it.
- Cameras: Cameras that stored pictures on a medium other than film were called digital cameras. The name reflected the marriage of a camera with digital technology.
- Memory Devices: PC memory storage was named a hard drive. When portable storage was invented they were named, “floppy drives.” The reason was because the physical product was flexible or floppy. As technology advanced the flexible case became hard or rigid. Hard Drive was already taken so the “hard” portable drive is still called a floppy. As memory morphed into different shapes, terms like “Memory Stick” for devices that look like a stick or thumb drives because they are about the size of a thumb.
Breakthrough products or categories are hard to define for the audience. A descriptive name can break through to potential purchasers.
That is what is on my mind. Over to you.
- How do you name your products?
- Do you use made up names like Exxon or actual words to name the products?
- How have your naming guidelines changed over time?