Product Naming Matters

If you have to tell your customers how it say it, your product better be good. That's all I'm saying.

Comments (18)

  1. Wine-Oh says:

    Good Point Heather. Since I know you are a die hard Apprentice fan there was one episode last season that illustrated this so well. Remember the challenge where the teams had to promote the movie "Zathura?" (An oh so memorable movie I might ad).

    One girl whos name I dont know and dont want to look up, couldnt even pronounce the title properly. How was she supposed to come off as believable if she couldnt pronounce the name of the movie.

    Companies pay lots of money for focus groups and reaserch for the right title, so if a title is hard to pronounce, it would come up there I am sure.

  2. HeatherLeigh says:

    Yeah, plus, the should just spell it "whee!" like I do ; )

  3. BlakeHandler says:

    But then again the ice cream maker "Häagen-Dazs" made up the word and added the umlaut over the "A" because it looked cool — oh yeah, I guess you’re right — it better be a GREAT product!

    Now if we could just get Häagen-Dazs to stop lying by saying that there are EIGHT servers per container! (^_^)

  4. HeatherLeigh says:

    Blake-yeah, that definitely qualifies as good. Have you tried Rum Raisin? I eat ice cream rarely (we’ve already discussed my weird eating habits, right?), but that is some good stuff.

  5. Mel says:

    – "That’s all I’m saying."

    LOL I love it. Very diplomatic way of puttting things.

  6. Bill Wagner says:

    Of course, a corollary could be:

    "If correctly pronouncing your product is a homonym for a common childish reference for a bio-break, your product better be fantastic"

  7. HeatherLeigh says:

    Mel-I have to work at that…I dno’t want to infer that we are the best product namers around or that I could come up with the perfect product name.

    Bill-yeah, that too!

  8. Paul says:

    Doesn’t matter how good the product is.  It also has to make sense for the product and its category.  A video game console named "Oui"?  Well, maybe if they spelled it in a different language.

    If you read it the way most normal people would, it says "Why", and that’s an even bigger problem.

    That is beyond bizarre.

  9. Aguasfera says:

    I was expecting a more ‘professional’ opinion on the subject, the way you have put it, Heather, sounds a bit biased (especially since you are working in MS).

    I don’t really like the name very much (I expected the name to be ‘Go’, after certain fakes surfacing all over the net) but I think people in general are just riding on the usual hateorade that comes everytime Nintendo does something. At least spanish speaking people pronounce it correctly, and that is no small feat.

    But yes, I can understand it’s a word difficult to swallow for english speaking people. Maybe if it had been named ‘pipí’ or ‘popó’ (equivalent of wee and poop in Spanish), I may have the same opinion as you.

    Anyway, I find your blog interesting, keep posting!

    PS: Isn’t it funny how the words the little kids use for their ‘needs’ are so similar in both languages?

  10. tod says:


    Have you seen what some of OUR products are named?  I’ve often wondered what the heck our marketing departments (or whoever makes those decisions) were thinking. I know it wasn’t you, but still the pot/kettle was the first thing that came to mind. 😉

  11. HeatherLeigh says:

    Aguasefera-see my comment above stating that we aren’t necessarily the best product namers around (trust me, I know!). As soon as they (marketring) start letting us staffing folks participate in the product naming process, I’ll provide a more "professional" opinion. Until then, I am just an observer; one outside their target market at that!

    tod-I know….again, I draw your attention to my comment above. There is a difference between too many words and some hard to pronouce word thing.

  12. Paul says:

    re: Microsoft naming.  What I find fascinating is that the product code names at Microsoft are usually (almost always) vastly better product names than the products eventually get tagged with.  Can anyone explain why that is?

    re: Nintendo name.  I’m with Heather on this.  If the name isn’t pronounceable in English, don’t do it.  English-speaking markets account for the majority of sales of almost any product.  Even in most countries that don’t speak English as a native language, most educated people can still speak and read English because it is the lingua franca of business.  (I was once at a meeting in Italy with partipants from 4 countries.  I was the only native English speaker, and although they were all speaking a version of English, I seemed to be the only one having difficulty understanding what was being said.  Not sure what that means, but I thought it was interesting.  Talk about a weird experience.)  English names may not be the best choice in different cultures (it depends on the product), but they are a pretty safe default around the world.  Anything unpronounceable and unintelligible in English is a bad choice.  Like the artist formerly known as Prince – you might as well ask people to interpret a symbol as a name.

  13. HeatherLeigh says:

    Yes, I can explain. The product names are made up by US based product teams and they have nothing to do with the product itself. They are created for an audience that requires nothing evocative, they just need something short and memorable. You only think they are good because they are shorter than our looonnggg prodduct names. : )

  14. Paul says:

    Boy, when you say something like that, and put a smiley at the end, you’re just begging me to respond.  Ok, I’ll bite.  No, I think they’re better because they are.

    I recommend the product namers get copies of "The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding", or "Positioning", both of which do a better job than I could of explaining why the brands would be more powerful, distinctive, evocative and a boost to sales if they were better named.  Does anyone notice a pattern in names like Coke, Crest, Tide, Intel, Sprint, Colgate — a couple of syllables at the most, and a distinctive sound, is what makes a good memorable name, and it helps if it creates an image in the mind.  Longhorn is colorful and short. Or how about Freestyle, a terrific brand name for the product it was applied to (which was replaced with Windows XP Media Center Edition 1.0 — omigod).  Or does anyone remember that old chestnut "Chicago", which became Windows 95?  You say the code names don’t need to be evocative, but it is the final release names that evoke nothing and are completely emotionless.

    Whatever happened to the good old days when a name like Powerpoint got through the gauntlet unharmed?

    Of course, your product teams are right on one point.  The phone companies never needed evocative names either when they were without competition.   I guess the difference for XBox is that it has to compete.  One should never take a monopoly for granted, though, because someday it might not be.  The only thing I have to concede is that there has never been a Microsoft name as bad as "Wii" — that took a really special kind of imagination to screw up that badly.

  15. HeatherLeigh says:

    I’m not saying our naming doesn’t need improvement. I’m just saying that a bunch of unresearched, throw-it-out-to-see-if-it-sticks code names aren’t the answer either. You miht not be the average consumer, Paul.

  16. Paul says:

    Ok. You got me there.  I’m definitely not average.

    Thought you’d be interested in what others are saying on the subject:

    I guess if all buzz is good buzz, then maybe Nintendo is cleverer than all of us.  Just like the Yukon folks with their "write your own words to our lousy film" commercial.

  17. HeatherLeigh says:

    Now you know I don’t buy that "all buzz is good buzz" stuff. Bad buzz is bad and it lasts and it’s expensive to overcome and it hurts your brand amnd makes you look bad and often, it’s totally avoidable. Nothing good about that.

    Not that I am someone who is going to buy something Nintendo, ever. I’m trying to imagine some acceptable circumstances under which I would be buying this Wii thing and nope, just cannot come up with a single scenario.  

  18. Paul says:

    re: good vs bad buzz

    GM might disagree.  In recently announced results.  Tahoe (sorry, it wasn’t Yukon — I can’t tell the difference anyway) sales in March were up 41% over February, and up 20% year over year.


    They are painting their campaign as a success.  Of course, they could be deliberately using the fallacy of causation (a happened, then b happened, therefore a caused b).  A more likely cause of a sales spike is the fact that the 2007 model is a redesign and was just released.

    So, did they get bad buzz that they’re able to portray as good and justify their stupidity ex post facto, or does it not matter that the buzz was bad?

    re: Wii.  So neither you, nor I, nor most of the posters on your blog are ever going to go Wii.  (My eyes keep fooling me into seeing WW1, which is probably an even worse association that a dog wii’ing on your sofa).  If we aren’t the target market, is our opinion of whether the name works or not valid?

    I’m getting all philosophical and comtemplative today.  I think I’m going to have to slap myself.  *#$ @#^.   There, I’m better now.  Bad buzz is bad.  And, Wii belongs in the toilet.  Wow, I thought for a second I was turning into a mush-headed wimp.

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