At NorthernVoice on Saturday, Matt Mullenweg gave the keynote and spoke a bit on the naming blandness that goes on in software companies. He said that you’d never see companies like Procter & Gamble name their products the way tech companies do…and well, sorry Matt, I disagree. One example he gave was Tide’s Simple Pleasures. According to Matt, if it was named by a tech company it would be called Procter & Gamble Purple Laundry Detergent. Tide Simple Pleasures is just a step above that, but is essentially doing the same thing that Matt doesn’t like.
Well, P&G has a bit more brand clout in Tide than most tech companies have in their products. Here’s one of the first Tide ads that I found on Flickr. It’s not called Procter & Gamble Tide, but they sure are coming close to saying that. They’re using the P&G brand to help consumers trust it.
I understand what Matt’s getting at…we do choose some pretty bland names. He mentioned Amazon MP3 store as one tech name that should have been called something else. But it’s a fairly new industry with brands that are fighting to be top-of-mind. And when they do have that brand recognition, they shouldn’t jeopardize a product launch by calling it something completely new without the parent brand name and URL. There are only a handful of tech brands out there that your average, non-Silicon Valley person knows. (Matt and NorthernVoice attendees are not your average person.)
And we have to be super careful to ask ourselves if we’re naming a product or a feature. The MP3 store – that’s a feature, not a new product. The product is Amazon. The new feature is a portion of the site that sells MP3s. It doesn’t deserve a new brand name. And they already sell CDs. Anything like Amazon Music or Amazon Tunes would just cause consumer confusion. (I would hope that they did some focus groups on this to back up the decision.) And it would cost a lot of money to get brand recognition for the non-Amazon name.
Procter & Gamble doesn’t just mean laundry detergent anymore. Maybe once Amazon’s been around as long as P&G (and have the soap money), they’ll find that they’re going into many verticals and need to diversify their branding. But until then, they just need to conquer going from Amazon=online store to Amazon= personal store.
I think Automattic should be careful when naming their products, keeping a more holistic view of what they’re offering. Down the road you might have some brand architecture issues. And just because something has “press” in its name doesn’t mean that it came from Automattic, but other people may use it to catapult their product. This might cause you some issues down the road. You don’t have a trademark on “Press”. And we’ve seen other products using it already. bbPress might be better off being called WordPress BB.
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