If you’ve spent any time in the technology industry, you’ve probably come across some seriously bad brand names. And what has always particularly bothered me is that many tech companies can’t just stop with one bad brand name—they attempt to create new brands for every single product, service, or sub-brand in addition to their corporate brand.
Take this to it’s extreme and you end up with something like:
Biotron™ Selectronix™ with SignalBoost™ technology
or whatever. I’m sure you’ve seen worse.
I say stop the madness.
The reason this doesn’t work is because getting people to understand the meaning behind one brand takes time, effort, and money. Every brand name that you add dilutes the time, effort, and money you can spend educating people about any one brand.
This is why technology companies end up with lots of sucky, worthless brand names that no one knows, understands, or values. Fortunately, I have a simple tip that can help you focus your branding energy and get you better results:
Call a duck a duck.
Here is what I mean: when it comes to creating brand names, focus your energy on one or two key brands, then choose simple descriptive names rather than creating a new brand every time you create a product or service. In other words:
STOP NAMING EVERYTHING.
When I was at Red Hat, this meant keeping naming mind-numbingly simple. In most cases “Red Hat” was the brand. Almost every other brand name was a simple descriptive name (an example: our flagship product, “Red Hat Enterprise Linux” was… you guessed it, a version of Linux made for enterprise customers).
Whenever someone would tell me how boring this naming strategy was, that they wanted a name that was more “fun” or “exciting,” I would tell them we already had one—Red Hat—and, by ensuring we didn’t name every single product we created, we would make that one brand even more fun and exciting (and more valuable in the process).
The thing that inspired me to write this post today was a conversation I had with my sister a few weeks ago. She was telling me how my nephew Benjamin (who is 3 1/2) names his stuffed animals.
He has a tiger. Its name is “Tigey.”
He has a giraffe. Its name is—you guessed it—”Giraffey.”
She tells me he also has “Pandy,” “Lioney,” and several other similarly-named animals.
I knew that boy was a genius.
By naming things exactly what they are, he makes it incredibly simple for us to know which animal he is talking about. We will never confuse “Giraffey” with “Tigey” when he is telling us stories about their adventures.
If a 3 1/2 year old understands the value of keeping a naming strategy simple, why is it so hard for thousands of trained marketing experts in the technology world?
If his mom lets him, I might start bringing Benjamin in on consulting projects around naming.
I’ll just have to make sure they are scheduled to start after his afternoon nap.
Imagine this: You walk into a pet store, looking for a canary, because, i don’t know, maybe your coal mine is having dirty air issues or something. The salesman, eager to please, walks you over to a cage with a duck sitting in it.
He says, “Do I have just the thing for you, check out this canary. He is a new, better breed of canary. He has webbed feet, can swim, quacks rather than sings, he’s bigger. We call this the web-footed hydro ultracanary. You’ll love him.”
So you buy the “canary” and take him into your coal mine, where he quacks incessantly. In fact, he is still waddling around quacking about ten minutes after you and all of the other miners are lying dead from breathing poisonous air.
In this case, the brand promise (a canary) and the brand experience (a duck with strong lungs) did not match. If you had been looking for a duck, this little guy would have probably been perfect. But as a canary… not so much.
One of my favorite brand rules is to call your ducks ducks. What do I mean? Make things simple for your customers. Don’t make them learn your language or analyze your intent in order to understand your message. Be straight with them.