Kill A Killer Product

Thanks to April Dunford’s tweet for pointing out this entry on her blog pertaining to how to kill a killer product. One thing she leaves out and I have been meaning to mention for a while is — in the consumer space — the importance of naming a product effectively.

For example Apple is a master at selecting simple, easy and trendy product names. iMac, iPod, iPhone. Sony is one of the companies that uses too many letters in its product names. The company recently ran an ad touting its noise cancelling digital headphones which are according to user tests better than comparable models from Bose.

While Bose has names for their headphones like QuietComfort 1,2 and 3 – Sony chose a non-intuitive name — MDR-NC500D — the problems with such names is – when someone sees you are using these headphones and asks if you like them and what they are called, what do you say? Oh yeah – I love these headphones and the model number is the MDR – uhhh, well, NC MDR, uhh. Forget it.

Even if the owner of the headphones remembers the name, the person asking won’t. What on earth is Sony thinking?

This is the same problem I have with the HTC/UT Starcom XV6800 phone I use. People ask me what it is and to be honest it is branded as a Verizon phone but is made by HTC and distributed by UT Starcom. People ask me what it is called because they want to buy one and it is not easy for me to answer. Do I just say XV6800? Verizon XV6800? I mentioned that the XV6700 the predecessor to this device should have been called the mobile office or something similar. I still think when companies have what they consider to be a “killer” product, the name should imply simplicity and name recognition is crucial.

I would like to finish this entry by saying that the consumer and business markets are converging in my opinion and using simple and catchy names in the b2B space is as crucial as in the consumer space. Don’t name that new IP-PBX the IPB-20131JHP, call it “IP Simplicity” or “Productivity1” or some other cool name. I know this may seem silly but product selection and purchases are more emotional than you may first think.

  • Michael Graves
    November 21, 2008 at 9:18 am

    Do you know the history of Nissan? In some circles they’re known as “The Z car company” as their first critical success was the 240Z. I’d love to own a 300Z myself.
    However, in Japan the car we know as the 240Z was actually first called something entirely different. The literal translation in English was “Elegant Lady.”
    The US CEO refused to use the name he was given from the Mother Corp. He had every car delivered to US distribution rebadged with the 240Z name.
    Of course, this didn’t sit well with Japanese management, whose culture was very much “do what we tell you.” That US CEO was fired. Yet, even now Nissan is The Z Zar Company.
    As you suggest. Know your market. Name products effectively for the market, not the engineering group.

  • April
    November 21, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    Hi Rich,
    I couldn’t agree with you more! All of the research shows that personal recommendations are a huge factor in purchase decisions so it makes sense for marketers to think about how easy (or difficult) it is for a customer to recommend a product to others. That’s a bit tricky if nobody can remember what the actual name is.
    Thanks for the link too!

  • Rich Tehrani
    November 22, 2008 at 9:01 am

    April, if this is not only common sense (well perhaps only to some of us) and the research backs it up — why on earth aren’t more companies embracing these concepts? Is it a simple matter of not having marketing involved in the naming process or are the marketing people generally not aware of these concepts?

  • Rich Tehrani
    November 22, 2008 at 9:03 am

    Michael, great points and great story. I wasn’t aware of the Z story but it is a great example of smart product branding.

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