A Good Name is Hard to Find!

With the recent announcement of the Microsoft Zune I just felt a need to talk about naming products. I’ll give Microsoft a little credit. It’s really hard to name a product these days. Most of the good names are already taken by something. That leaves new products stuck with either made up names or names that squish two words together and pretend that it is one word (yes…we’ve done this too…I know).

Now, some of the made up names end up being quirky cool, like WOOT! and Google. Unfortunately, it seems that this has led big corporations to think that a wacky new word for their product name is the smart way to go.

Take the now infamous decision by Nintendo to rename their REVOLUTION! game system “wii”. (“wheeeee!”) I mean, seriously. Revolution was something I could get excited about. “Join the Nintendo Revolution!” “Become part of the gaming Revolution!”

But wii? I’m almost embarrassed to walk into a store and ask about this system.

“Hi, do you know when you’ll be getting the wee’s?”

It would be so much cooler to walk in and ask:

“Can you tell me when you’ll have THE REVOLUTION!?”

Back to the Zune. apparently Microsoft hired the same ad agency to name their Argo media device. The name “Argo” had power. It filled my head with images of going on adventures, of legendary journeys, and excitement. But Zune? I guess it’s a little like “Zoom” and that’s sort of cool. I don’t know. All I can think is that the big corps have a room full of suits trying to figure this stuff out:

Suit 1: “OK…what’s happening on the web and how can we tap it!”
Suit 2: “Crazy product names!”
Suit 1: “Good one Bob…now think crazy…what’ve you got?”
Suit 3: “Um…zerbert?”
Suit 1: “No no…crazier!”
Suit 4: “Zuh…zuh…zune?”
Suit 1: “YES Johnson! Now that’s crazy!”

And of coure there is the Origami. While the name “UMPC” isn’t a terrible name, it doesn’t evoke the same cool image of flexibility and zen comfort as Origami does.

I guess what I’d really like to know is what they are thinking. Is it really the scenario I described above? Or maybe some market research company in India calling thousands of people in the U.S. and asking them how the word Zune makes them feel? As I said, I know that it is hard to pick names for new products. Still, these guys seem to pick great names and then toss them out at the last minute.

Well, enough of the naming rant. I’ll close with what I thought was a pretty funny quote about the Zune from James Kendrick’s Blog, JKOnTheRun . It’s the very quote that got us on the subject of product names over here at Ilium Software.

I don’t know if I like the name Zune or not, but I thought Microsoft would come up with something like Ultra Mobile Audio Media Adapter (UMAMA).”

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About Marc

I'm the product manager here at Ilium Software. My responsibilities include designing how our software works, overseeing the development, and coordinating testing.

4 thoughts on “A Good Name is Hard to Find!

  1. PatrickJ

    I like the ones where the new name comes out to great fanfare, and soon after it turns out they didn’t do their languages research – and they discover that the name of their new kids toy means ‘slaughterer of kittens’ in Spanish – or similar …

  2. Microsoft Zune

    I think its great Microsoft has jumped into the market against iPod. I like the Zune name myself and I think they will do well with it. It’s no iPod but there are tons of ways to play on the name. i myself like zune tunes

  3. ZuneIt

    zune is an ok name, better than some other things i’ve heard. i think that would be kind of cool, kind of mysterious, kind of everything. it sounds just right.

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