What's in a name, indeed?

Note: I no longer work with IonLab since Nov 12 of 2009.

Vikram has written an interesting post on whether the name of a brand matters which got me thinking.

I don’t think it’s that simple. I believe that Company name doesn’t matter. Product name matters.

This is because the product’s name is not just a name, it conveys the image that pops into the person’s head when they hear the name.

For example:

  • Apple Macbook Air. “Apple” doesn’t matter. “Air” means light.
  • Maruti Swift. “Maruti” doesn’t matter. “Swift” means fast and light.
  • “Lifehacker” matters.  “Gizmodo” matters. “Gawker” doesn’t matter.
  • “Engadget” matters. “Gadling” matters. “Weblogs, Inc.” doesn’t matter.
  • Paypal. Pay your pal.
  • AllTop. All topics.

It can be argued that this is the result of the company promoting the company name more than the brand name, but then again:

  • Twitter vs. Yammer. For whatever reason, I intuitively like the former rather than the latter’s name.
  • MobileCrunch vs JKOnTheRun. Same reason.

If it doesn’t convey the right image, it can be a problem:

  • If a name evokes mixed meanings, then it has a bad branding. For example, Eclipse wants to be many things to many people, and not just a Java IDE. But, as Steve Yegge says, it is difficult to change that perception now.
  • If it’s a hard name, it will negatively affect uptake. For example, ebay has kijiji but now wants to change the name to something simpler.
  • Having a name facilitates emotions. I just find it hard to relate to the Nokia phone naming scheme such as N70 or N93, whereas I like names like Xperia, Dream, Storm, etc.
  • I just think a good brand name is like a marketing message.

Even if the name contributes just 10% to the “cool” factor of a brand, I think it is worth glossing over, as long as it doesn’t become a bikeshed debate.

It’s funny that this internal debate is now continuing in public.

What do you think?

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Jamie Larson