Cameron Watters Musings of a Proto-Millennial Software Engineer in the Pacific Northwest

On Brand Naming

The word "brand" has so many meanings now, some more whacked-out than others, that using it has ceased to be useful. — Hugh Macleod

Some marketers seem to believe that the quality and effectiveness of a brand is a function of the evocative name they assign it and the nifty messaging they supply alongside it. Unfortunately, this isn't the case. Marketers may be able to pick the name, but nothing influences a brand more than the execution behind it.

No amount of clever messaging will convince people that Microsoft is tops when it comes to security. And Microsoft is certainly not pushing the idea that the Zune is a clunky turd, but that's the word on the street.

The names associated with the brand need not be spectacular. Sure, occasionally, someone comes up with a truly great name, and it certainly helps. And, of course, there are truly terrible names — names that are hard to remember, hard to pronounce, or just plain confusing.

If you're really lucky, your customers will help to choose your name for you (FedEx). If they do, embrace it. Or, if you give your customers multiple potential names to associate with your products and services (say, a product name AND a corporate name) and one of them emerges as the clear winner with customers, adopt the one they embrace and consider leaving the other(s) behind (as Oracle, Motorola, and Xerox did).

A less-than-perfect name—backed by stellar execution—is dramatically more valuable than a clever name and average or weak execution. Instead of arguing endlessly about naming strategies, adopt a name customers understand (assuming it's not derogatory), and then focus your energies on executing the hell out of your product(s).