Product Management

Product naming

April Dunford had a good post last week about Product Naming. She summed it up quite well with the three kinds of product names. Back in the day (circa 2000), on of my products was the focus of a corporate rebranding, and we spent a whack of money on a new company name, a product name, and a brand architecture. It was a real education for me personally, as I got to work with Interbrand, which is one of those companies who, like April described, just gets the naming and brand-image thing.

We ended up with two new names: Sitraka (company), and PerformaSure (my product), along with some nice graphics, logos, corporate colors, and a “voice” for the company. It was really slick, but also very expensive. There are some very creative people and small firms out there who can do this kind of work for a lot less, but with Interbrand, we knew we were going to get a great result.

Eventually it paid off, when the company was acquired. I know that the branding and the vision we were painting made us look much bigger than we really were, and attracted a great stable of acquirers. Or maybe it was just the great product we built!

I’d be interested in hearing from you (in the comments below) about some:

  • great, but inexpensive, branding you’ve done. Shout out to the companies you admire for the great job they do on a budget.
  • mistakes, flops, or bad names that you’ve seen or developed.

I’ll start the ball rolling: When I was at Fortiva, Evoke re-made our web presence. They did a fantastic job in a short time period, and again, really helped the company project an updated and large image. Here we are in their gallery.

And in the mistakes category, everyone has heard of how the Chevy Nova played in Latin America, or perhaps how “Roots” came across in the Sydney Olympics. But here’s one in Chinatown that made me laugh:

Unison Academy of Music

Curiously, the store appears to be out of business. Perhaps with such a concrete name, they couldn’t adapt to the market, which is focused on polyphonic harmony, going forward.


  1. April Dunford

    Hi Alan,
    I wish I had a great story to share but, alas I don’t. I have worked with a few companies on web site design but there isn’t one I would recommend. One of my pet peeves in that area is the company that redesigns the web site but then leaves you with a home-gown tool for updating the site that is restrictive and buggy. I’ve been involved with a couple of those and for the money we spent we could have hired a web developer and a graphic designer on contract for a year.


    P.S. Thanks for the link!

  2. Jens

    Hi Alan,
    I think “Unison Academy of Music” is a perfect name for a music company thinking of unison as the interval of a perfect prime which it is.
    But I have been wrong before with my judgement on product names. I worked for a german company called AVM some time ago and they decided to introduce “Fritz!” (with the exclamation mark) as the brand name for a whole range of ISDN and DSL related products.
    I immediately thought that this is a stupid idea and that they must fail miserably. But on the contrary – their products became a huge success.

  3. Alan

    Sorry for the delay in my response Jens, but thanks for your comment.

    Here’s a horror story that I heard about after the fact … I joined KL Group after this event, but Saeed or April might have more color on the story. They hired a big branding agency for their Windows-based products, and came up with the name “Fenster Meister”. I think it means “Windows Master” in German. But the founder was so dismayed by the recommendation that he fired the agency and named the components Olectra… a fine name for the time, and free.

    I have chosen at least 2 names that I personally really like:
    – In the early 90s I wrote the code for a tool kit that did image processing on assembly lines. It had a lot of features, but the basic idea was to snap a shot with a CCD camera, then run some alglorithms to find “edges” in the image according to certain parameters and guidance, then calculate the dimensions of the part. It was a high-speed non-contact measurement system. The company name was “Xiris”… so I suggested the name “XCaliper”! I still love that one, and it’s still available here:

    The other name I created was “JProbe Memory Debugger”. I had to fight the founders for that one, but it’s still being used. Their argument was that you “don’t debug memory”. Using some win/loss analysis, I found that most evaluators were coming to our site to solve memory problems, and in those early days of Java, developers were struggling with the unique challenges of memory management in a Java Virtual Machines, where you don’t explicitly manage your own memory.

    The other argument was that “Memory Debugger” was part of another product and not a separate product in and of itself. While that was technically true, I argued that the product or set of capabilities had unique value and needed to be called out.

    I won the argument using some powerful market inputs. It was an early career highlight!


  4. Alan

    Regarding the Unison school of music … I don’t know. I guess in a way it could make sense. But I think “Harmony” is preferable to “Unison” in music… at least after the first year of training.

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