Choosing product names that can be verbed and acronymed

If ever I get to work on a product that has its own brand, I’m going to fight long and hard for a verbable product name – something that people can naturally use in everyday conversation to describe the action of using the product. This gives legal team fits – both Hoover and Xerox will officially hate you forever if you verb their product names, since they then have to run around worrying about “dilution of trademark”. Thankfully the world is not run for the benefit of legal teams, and I suspect that their marketing departments are just fine with the name recognition that results from the universal verbing of their product names.

The power of a verbable name can even survive the death of the product itself. Our internal bug-tracking database used to be called RAID (geddit?). This resulted in great verbing: "Did you RAID that bug?" Recently that database has been replaced by one called Product Studio. Do you think people now go around saying “Did you Product Studio that bug?” Of course not – they still say “RAID”.

Same thing for scheduling meetings. In long-distant times Microsoft used Schedule+ software, and although this was a clunky name it was soon both shortened and verbed, so that “s-plus me?” became verbal shorthand for “please include me on that meeting invite”. This shorthand is still understood even though Schedule+ was thrown out and replaced with Outlook before I arrived at Microsoft, seven years ago! Fear the power of a verbable name.

In the meantime, even though I’m working on a product that won’t have its own brand, I’m still going to fight for a name with a good acronym. Let’s look at a couple examples from my own organization:

  • Microsoft Operations Manager reduces to “MOM”, which as Dean Harding commented is pretty effective – the name itself is the requisite combination of descriptive-and-boring, but the acronym reminds you that this product is watching over hundreds or thousands of your data-center servers, taking loving care of each one. Wouldn’t you like a mom doing that?
  • Systems Management Server reduces to “SMS”, which is not so great for two reasons – three syllables is at least one too many for a good acronym, and they’ve got an acronym collision with Short Message Service. Try a web search for SMS and you’ll find that everyone else is using it to refer to teenagers with over-developed thumbs sending out text messages at 150 wpm.

Summarizing: try to pick a name that reduces to an easily-pronounceable, easily-searchable acronym. And bonus points if you’re as cunning as the MOM team and work in a positive interpretation of the acronym!

For more Microsoft bloggers talking about RAID and S+, try Eric Gunnerson on the persistence of nomenclature, Korby Parnell on how to get meeting invites accepted at Microsoft (just add beer), Sara Ford’s description of three days in her life as an SDET, and KC Lemson on the Microsoft vocabulary.

Ok, I swear that’s the last entry on product names until we actually pick one. Got it all out of my system now 🙂

Comments (4)
  1. AndrewSeven says:

    Remember the Remote Object Proxy Engine that came with the VB6 SOAP toolkit?

  2. couple of things-

    1. an example – agitar software, a java unit testing outfit, are trying to get people to "agitate", rather than unit test. the founder worked at google so the connection is explicit.

    the MOM thing is interesting becasue Michael Emanuel does indeed call the old girl Mum….

  3. I’ll have to go ask Michael if the choice was explicit, or just a happy coincidence 🙂

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