The Name Game

A big part of my job as a Product Manager is to talk and discuss and gossip in the office (ok, so I’m bending the truth a little bit, but when my boss asks me about this next week, I can easily attribute it to a typo :)). So yesterday, some of us colleagues were just passing time by chatting (in between coffee breaks, I might add). Pete had a new product coming out and wanted to throw out some possible names for it and get our opinion. I won’t get into the dirty details, but the surprising thing was that we all had different views on what a good name would be. But we did have some common favorites and some that we all hated.

This got me thinking: how important is a product or company name? Umm…very. “The Name” is a powerful part of your branding, your company strategy and your value. “The Name” is one of the few things (maybe the only thing) that will stay with your company/product throughout its lifecycle.

Some key things “The Name” can do for you:

  • Unique positioning
  • Effective/targeted message
  • Add to the “recall value” (lasting impressions)
  • Create a branding that propels your marketing/sales
  • Define the work culture

Many more I’m sure. But is there one mantra for a good and successful name? Absolutely not. Different naming strategies have worked for different companies, and in the end it is the quality of the products (amongst other factors) you sell that will make your company/product successful. But “The Name” still defines your company, and will always walk ahead of you to greet potential customers.

Looking at the origin of some big company names is not only interesting, but an excellent way to pass Friday afternoon (when you just can’t wait for the weekend to begin!). Here are some interesting ones from Wikipedia and other sites:

Debian was named after the founder’s girlfriend

Volvo means “I roll” in Latin

LoJack  – "LoJack" (the stolen-vehicle recovery system) is a pun on the word "hijack" (to steal a vehicle).

Skype is a mix of Sky and peer-to-peer

HP – Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard tossed a coin to decide whether the company they founded would be called Hewlett-Packard or Packard-Hewlett

Cisco – some say it is short for San Francisco

 And then there are the ones who simply used a “real word” or their own names: Tata, Amazon, Adidas, Yahoo and Dell.

And then there is one of the costliest names in the world: Apple Computers (later changed to Apple Inc.) that went through several lawsuits and settlements. There are many versions of the story, but it sums up to this: Steve Jobs really liked the fruit apple and he also liked Beatles. He told his colleagues that if they did not come up with a good name for his company by the end of the day, he would just name it Apple.

Do you have a good story behind your company/product name?

And do you know the story behind the "Interactive Intelligence" name?

Ritu Maheshwari