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How important is a product name?

I'm looking at Bloomba, an email client recommended on here. I like it, but I'm given pause by the name - *I* wouldn't have problems using it, but I'm not sure I can recommend an email program named "Bloomba" to professional clients and colleagues.

Do you think a product's name can seriously impact a product's success? Or will quality win out every time?

If you were advising the owners of Bloomba, would you be pressuring them to change the name?

Philo

Philo
Monday, June 02, 2003

Being a musician and in and out of bands, I know the importance of a good name.

But after a while the name begins to lose it's associations with the words you originally associated with and begins to take on an association with the new name.

Quick, where's Amazon located?

What was your previous association with Amazon? Was it Amazon Women on the Moon? Wonder Woman?

Luckily names for human beings don't have to be as unique as names for software products, and like Micosoft products, our names inherit our parent's name as well.

Mark Wieczorek
Microsoft Word
Bloomba

It's kind of like the authors whose books start to have their name larger than the title.

TOM CLANCY's
bathroom reader.

www.MarkTAW.com
Monday, June 02, 2003

Mark - I agree with the association issue - Amazon, Windows, Flash. But those words carry the appropriate connotations (or neutral connotations).

But to me "Bloomba" is like "Monday" or "MarchFirst" - laughter fodder or head-scratching and little more. "I'm sorry, did you say your email client is named after women's underwear?"

Philo

Philo
Monday, June 02, 2003

A name is what you make of it.  A name doesn't make a brand, it's the product that makes the brand.

a made up name
Monday, June 02, 2003

MarchFirst is a joke because they were a stupid company that made shitty products.  Google isn't a joke, despite the name, because they made a product that works well.

a made up name
Monday, June 02, 2003

My point with Amazon is that for some people it didn't have a neutral connotation - a B-movie, comic book association.

Yahoo! is an utterly silly name and the #1 internet property.

www.MarkTAW.com
Monday, June 02, 2003

Good call on Google... though Google was named after a mathematical concept, even if they did get the spelling wrong.

www.MarkTAW.com
Monday, June 02, 2003

A really poor name can kill a product, as evidenced by business failures of ReallyUselessSoftware Inc., WeCrashYourSystem A/S, and OurSoftwareIsWorseThanAVirus PLC :-)

While these are made up, I'm sure if you read a marketing or branding books, you will probably be able to find real examples.  Additionally I'm sure you could find claims of situations where a product's name undermines the marketing message.

When I first read your post, I misread the app's name as "bomber" for a fraction of a second.

S. Tanna
Monday, June 02, 2003

or the famous Chevy Nova as a hot seller in Mexico.

No Va = No Go

www.MarkTAW.com
Monday, June 02, 2003

Or, alternatively, it sounds like Bloomer, which is not something you want software pulling.

So, yes the product name is important, so in quite different ways, is the project name.  A dumb project name puts people off it that have to mention it a gazillion times a day.

Simon Lucy
Monday, June 02, 2003

At Camel I almost got the HR system named "Employee Resource Organization System"

One of the managers did the acronym just before it was approved and set aside. Dammit.

Philo

Philo
Monday, June 02, 2003

The times you get pissed off is when your beloved product name already exists in something at complete right angles to your own product but they still want to behave like a dog in a manger and not let you use it.

There was one product I was responsible for that we'd had all the marketing collateral done and branded and we had to change the whole thing.  Good name too.  If twere my company I'd have gone ahead anyway.

Simon Lucy
Monday, June 02, 2003

Ultimately, you need a name that "sticks".  It can be clever, it can be common, it can be just about anything other than overtly stupid (MarchFirst) or repulsive - oh shit, sometimes that works ("Jackass").

At the end of the day you need a name that people will remember, for just about any reason.

Mitch & Murray (from downtown)
Monday, June 02, 2003

"... though Google was named after a mathematical concept, even if they did get the spelling wrong. "

But the average computer user didn't know that. Hey, I'm an electrical engineer, with some passing familiarity with math, but I didn't get the meaning of the name for a long long time.


A good name should be, above all, MEMORABLE. Ideally, it should describe the product in some way, but that's sooo difficult these days because all the good names are taken.  So, if it isn't perfectly descriptive, then if it at least describes an ASPECT of the company, that helps. 


A good book on the subject is : Positioning: the battle for your mind.  It's about marketing.  Old, but timeless.

Clay
Monday, June 02, 2003

Clay - all the good names have always been taken.

I was joking about the Google thing. I forgot to put the <sarcasm /> tags in.

So how do Yahoo!, Google, and Amazon describe their product?

The names are so generic as to be laughable.

Billions of dollars are put into the art and science of seperating us from our money. Much of it is directed at naming products. Zima, for example, was named by a company whose sole job it is to find names for products.

www.MarkTAW.com
Monday, June 02, 2003

Let's not forget something I consider one of the most colossal naming failures of the dotcom era:
PWC spent a LOT of money on consultants to find a name for their consulting branch spin-off. After the consultants delivered their product, the CEO blew it off and picked the name himself:

Monday.

Why? Because he thought Monday had positive connotations. Would *you* hire a consulting company run by someone who thinks "Monday" has positive connotations in the workplace?

It's such a shame IBM bought PWC Consulting before the name was implemented.

Philo

Philo
Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Names (like "Bloomba") usually can only hurt a product.

pb
Tuesday, June 03, 2003

I've never liked the name Linux. Just a personal thing.

Anon.
Tuesday, June 03, 2003

"Monday" was supposed to evoke feelings of "new startness".

The kind of people who hire that sort of company are the kind of people that think it's a good name.

I used to work for a company called Parasol. Which was an umbrella company for consultants. You'd be amazed how often we had to explain that one...

At one point I was involved in a company called Code for Effect which wrote military simulations. No-one got that either. Nor did they understand the product name: "Digital Kreigspiel"

At least I no longer have to explain the company name to people - everyone in the UK has heard of "Egg" (We're a bank for those of you in the US), but I'm really not sure it evokes the "safetyness" and "futureness" that the naming consultants think it does...

Katie Lucas
Tuesday, June 03, 2003

I've always thought the name "Acura" was extremely clever. It's not a word, but it evokes positive associations in our minds - "accurate." Plus it sounds good to the ear.

Another good one, believe it or not, "Viagra" - same type of associations - "vital," "viable," (full of life) and memorable of a really big and powerful....waterfall.

And then there's the guy who named his software consulting company Pomoxis Systems. Kinda memorable on it's own.... and also tongue in cheek. Pomoxis is a species of fish.

I'll let y'all figure it out.... ;-D

good luck finding a name that does all this!

Lauren B.
Tuesday, June 03, 2003

"Code for Effect"...very clever name.  I'm sure the military people understood it.

"Digital Kriegspiel" is almost clever, but doesn't quite make it.  I suppose a WWII buff might get it, or someone who spoke German.

At least it's not one of those recursive acronyms that were all the rage for a while.

Steve Barbour
Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Katie - a bank named "Egg"? When I think "egg" I think "Fragile"
I also think "don't put them all in one basket," which is contrary to a bank's business model ("No, keep all your money here!")

I think people come up with a name on some certain angle, and they get fixated on "their angle" to the exclusion of what other people may think. "Monday" is the perfect example - the CEO thought "ah, Monday, a fresh start to the week" and never listened to the legions of people laughing because the author of Garfield has made a fortune reinforcing the idea that Mondays suck.

(I had a friend who worked at PWC consulting - there was a pool as to how long before the "No Garfield cartoons on the wall" memo came out)

Philo

Philo
Tuesday, June 03, 2003

OK I give. What's so clever about Code for Effect? Is it so blatently obvious I get it and just don't think it's clever, or is it so clever I don't get it?

www.MarkTAW.com
Tuesday, June 03, 2003

It's interesting isn't it? I think "Egg" is a quirky and interesting name for a bank, which normally have boring names. It didn't persuade me to bank with them though. I think "Acura" is a very dull name that brings absolutely nothing to mind.

John Topley (www.johntopley.com)
Tuesday, June 03, 2003

I heard that Macromedia "Ultra Dev", unfortunately, translates into Japanese for "Big Fat Slob".

oops.

runtime
Tuesday, June 03, 2003

The "No Va" thing is an urban legend.

http://spanish.about.com/library/weekly/aa072301a.htm

Phillip J. Eby
Tuesday, June 03, 2003

My Japanese is rusty, but "debu" which is how Dev would be pronouced is one of the worst insults you can say to a woman.  Somehow its a corruption of "debutante" but came to mean fat chick, only lots worse.  I jokingly called my friend this and she was horrified.

I don't know if "Ultra" would carry over, but it might.

Lee
Tuesday, June 03, 2003

I thought Japanese had no 'L' sound.

Of course, I'm also under the impression that Chinese has no 'R' sound without any real justification (I'm not even sure if I mean Mandarin or Cantonese or both).

It's a truly magical and wonderous thing that I'm able to delude myself into thinking I'm a lot smarter than I really am...

The Word
Tuesday, June 03, 2003

As I've long suspected (and just verified--thanks, Google!) the Chevy Nova story is an urban legend.

http://spanish.about.com/library/weekly/aa072301a.htm

Michael Eisenberg
Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Not entirely.

In the U.K. General Motors called their small car the Vauxhall Nova for years, whilst in Europe it was the Opel Corsa. It's now called the Corsa across Europe. I guess they thought that people thinking "coarser" in Britain was the lesser of the two evils.

On a similar theme, apparently Rolls Royce once planned to launch a car called the Silver Mist, but in German that's something you're likely to step in!

John Topley (www.johntopley.com)
Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Today's a slow day.  Ultra pronounced in Japanese would be "urutora" and has the same meaning in both languages.  So literally Ultra Dev = "Ultra Fat Chick".  Might make a good comic book. 

Lee
Tuesday, June 03, 2003

... you mean Manga.

Back to the subject at hand, I know a guy whose nickname is Tweeter. He's a musician, and I think it's a reference to speakers - woofers and tweeters, but I can't help but think of tweety bird and drag queens and other strange things like that.

I've known him for 5 years now (mostly from shows and what not, I talk to him every once in a while online too), but I still can't shake that imagery from my head.

And when you talk to him, he's one of the most plain seeming guys you'd ever want to meet.

Some of you may know who I'm talking about, he has a manhattan cable access show that goes by the same name.

www.MarkTAW.com
Tuesday, June 03, 2003

It's not software, but it's a true story:

A while back the Canadian Alliance and the Reform Party of Canada merged... and so, at great expense, image consultants were hired and lo, they did sit and ponder for many days before coming up with a new name:
the "Canadian Conservative Reform Alliance Party"
No one noticed the rather accu^H^H^H^Hunfortunate abbreviation until about two hours *after* it's public announcement... said image consultants were fired, party leader resigned... names are important people! :-)

Christo Fogelberg
Wednesday, June 04, 2003

"OK I give. What's so clever about Code for Effect? Is it so blatently obvious I get it and just don't think it's clever, or is it so clever I don't get it?"

Maybe I'm easily amused...

Basically, if you are calling for artillery fire on a set of co-ordinates they will fire one round, and you will then give them corrections to bracket the target (ie you have them shorten their range to fall slightly short, then lengthen to fall slightly long, etc).  Once the artillery rounds are falling on target you give the order to "Fire for effect", which means in short, your rounds are falling on target, now blow them to hell.

In other words, the name is saying that the company is focused on the correct target and is now going balls to the wall and demolishing it.

Like I said, it's possible that I'm easily amused. 

Steve Barbour
Wednesday, June 04, 2003

There are several practical considerations for names that I'm surprised no one has mentioned. (Of course, these are not hard and fast rules and will not on their own make or break you, but you might as well have as many advantages as you can.) You should be able to guess the spelling by hearing it. (Knight, night, pear, pair.) It should sound good when said out loud, and be easy to say--think of how often you'll need to tell people your web or email address over the phone. ("States Systems" is an example of what to avoid.) Spelling it out loud should roll off the tongue if it isn't clear from the name how to spell it (see above)--compare the impacting sounds of 'PBS' with the confusion of 'SSC' (ssc? sse?). (Although avoiding P/B, M/N, etc. is a plus when you have to spell it over the phone.) Similarly, the spelling should lead to one pronounciation (does 'tear' rhyme with 'fear' or 'bear'?) especially when combined into one word--isitraining.com = 'ISI Training' or 'Is It Raining'? (Did some work for them once, now they're gone.) As people have mentioned, watch out for acronyms--avoid Special high Intensity Training, and try not to have it wind up USA, FTC, NRA, etc.

For domain names (closely related) get one without hyphens, or get both versions--mycompany.com and my-company.com. Avoiding spelled-out numbers is good, and for God's sake, don't mix them, like designfive20. And try to get a .com--yes, people know what .net is, and you can get away with .cc or .tv or whatever, but the default is still '.com' and if someone is typing your name or email address with only half of their mind on the task at hand, they're likely to type in '.com' out of habbit. If you're a netowrk provider and want to remin pure with a .net, fine--get both .com and .net. (And put the same content on both pages, not like bellsouth.com/.net.)

This might be spilling out of product naming into business naming, but many software products have their own site--and many of those that don't, should. (Why doesn't photoshop.com lead me to adobe.com/photoshop?)

And, of course, design for your audience. Unless you're 100% positive that you never want to go beyond the 7337-hax0r market, give it a conservative, business-friendly name, or at least one that you wouldn't be embarrassed to say in front of your boss. (Oh, how I would love to develop an asset management system and call it ASSMAN. Even without the Seinfeld reference, it's a funny name. But I wouldn't even want to tell my mom about it.)

Safest route--inoffensive to business, tech-y enough to have some credibility with techs, but not too fake-sounding like Technotronic. If it's unique in google, great, if not, look long and hard at the top 1,000 matches, else you run the risk of becoming the next Phoenix. (If in doubt, talk to similarly-named companies beforehand and get agreements in writing from somone authorized to make such a descision.) Avoid the temptation to be cute or clever--people won't think it's cute or won't get the joke. And the name doesn't have to be descriptive of the product if the product has an easily described and understood function--it's a database, it's a web browser, it's a spreadsheet, etc.

Or, just make a world-beating product like Apache or Google and no one will care. :-)

Random examples:
Gnu--If you say it with a hard G (guh-new) it sounds bad (and sounds like it would be spelled gunew) or you can say it with a Gnome-style silent G and it sounds like 'new', the world's most common word--even worse. (And don't even try to explain recursive acronyms to anyone who's not a geek, or at least has a geeky sense of humor.)
Mozilla--a bit embarassing (no sense mentioning the old splash screens) but at least anyone can spell and say it based on hearing/reading it.
Word, Draw: God, I hate names that are based on such generic words. Plus, they're all taken and surrounded by packs of lawyers.
Gigabyte (motherboards), .999 Fine (jewelry)--please, please don't appropriate an already-recognized industry term (999) or, even worse, do so in a confusing manner--will a 40 gigabyte HD work with one Gigabyte motherboard? Do I need 39 more motherboards?

brian
Wednesday, June 04, 2003

I'd never heard of "Fire for effect" - thanks for the explanation.

Brian - all great points. I interviewed for a company whose name was... Dealogic. When I first heard I thought "idealogic" as in ideology. Then I learned there was no "I" and I spent some time thinking - is it deal logic or idealogic without the i or... but I guess at least they got me thinking about the name.

Also don't choose a name that's common enough that you won't turn up early on a search engine until you overcome the other word's popularity.

www.MarkTAW.com
Wednesday, June 04, 2003

The other thing I learned from the 'Code for Effect' debacle is "pick something that you don't have to say nine times over the phone to people."

"Code for effect"
"Gopher what?"
"Code. For. Effect."
"Gold what?
"Pay attention, cloth-ears..."

And if Steve is easily amused, so am I because I thought it was absolutely terrific. Right up until we started getting mail addressed to things like "Cold for a Neck Limited"...

<sigh>

Katie Lucas
Friday, June 06, 2003

And as for the Egg thing, I recently reviewed some of the internal procedures in a document who's title was "It's An Omelette".

Jeepers.

Altogether FAR too many people looked quizzically at that.

Katie Lucas
Friday, June 06, 2003

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