By woodjr on Jul 17, 2007
Imagine that Coca-Cola followed the tech industry's lead for product naming. Since they bought Minute Maid in 1960, you could have ended up drinking out of this thing each morning.
Tech companies love to mash a bunch of stuff together under a top-level brand and then slice things up with sub-naming, suites, and special editions. Here at Sun, this approach has has given us product names like:
- Sun Java Desktop System
- Sun Java System Access Manager
- Sun Java System Directory Server Enterprise Edition
- Sun Java System Web Proxy Server
- Sun Java System Web Server
The argument for this approach goes something like this:
- It concentrates our efforts on building the strength of a few key brands (such as Java and Sun).
- It yields descriptive names which people are likely to understand from the first time they're heard.
Even if we concede these points, I would argue that they're far out-weighed by negatives:
- The names are too long.
- There is a reason that "Beautiful Child, Genius Edition" never makes the list of popular baby names. Parents may think it perfectly describes their child, but they're still pragmatic enough to realize that it won't fly as a name. People just don't talk that way. They don't even write that way. So if someone does mention one of these products, chances are they'll do so using their own incorrect abbreviation or permutation of its proper name. Every time that happens, we miss an opportunity for real brand reinforcement. And with today's search-driven information access, it also makes it hard to learn about the products. (Do I Google for "Access Manager" or "Sun Java System Access Manager" or "SJSAM" or "OpenSSO" or ...?)
- They're stretching to tie products to a top-level brand where there is little natural connection.
- What's so Java-ish about the Sun Java Desktop System? The windowing environment certainly isn't written in Java. The majority of the apps you'll use in it aren't written in Java. Java is a great brand which represents great technology, but is it really applicable here? Or are we doing the equivalent of slapping a soda brand onto a juice carton?
Of course, not all tech products follow this pattern. Open Source software projects and Web 2.0 service offerings tend to use names composed of just one or two unique words (often inventing new words or spellings in the process). And Ina Fried of CNET reports that even Microsoft is rethinking their naming strategy. The company has already simplified the name of one major new offering (from "Windows Presentation Foundation/Everywhere" to "Silverlight"). And they have a team working to reeducate the entire company on branding. Among that team's favorite tools is a poster they're plastering around Microsoft's buildings. It shows a box of Band-Aids and the caption: "You wouldn't call it Wound Healer 2.0."
Hmm... Wonder if they printed any extras.