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Posts Tagged ‘high technology’

The 50 Most Influential Gadgets of All Time

In Brand Name Development, Brand Naming, Branding, Business, Consumer Goods, High Technology, Naming on June 1, 2016 at 2:18 pm

As new technologies fundamentally change the way we live – from autonomous vehicles to surgical robotics – it’s good to look back at how far we’ve come. That was precisely the point of Time Magazine’s recent retrospective on “The 50 Most Influential Gadgets of All Time.

As a branding company, we thought such impactful inventions would likely have compelling names. After all, life-changing, culture-shifting concepts spring from fresh thinking, and it’s helpful for consumers to see that impressive thinking reflected in a product’s identity in the marketplace.

We analyzed the list with a brand-naming lens and discovered, not shockingly, that a lot of the appellations of these iconic consumer goods possess three characteristics of great brand names:

Seemingly Simple Yet Powerfully New
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These compound names draw on basic English vocabulary – words that are recognizable and easy to learn, even in areas of the world where English is not well known. However, what makes these names so memorable is that they fuse commonality to create a fresh context. Before Sony enabled cassettes to be played on the go, on-demand portable music was not part of the consumer conversation. What a stroke of genius to put that idea in the marketplace with two easy words, never before seen together in the electronics space: walk for portability and man for a companion we could relate to. Sony was so pleased, it repeated this stunningly simple strategy with Discman and Play Station, both of which also made Time’s top 50 list.

DeskJet, FitBit and Palm Pilot are also profoundly effective and simple in construction. Through a little bit of poetry – a near rhyme with repeating e’s – HP introduced the first true desktop printer to the world. The poetry of FitBit is even more transparent, supporting a discreet companion that can measure your wellness goals. And Palm Pilot compels you to imagine the first computer-in-hand experience, with the device as your captain.

Takeaway: Simplicity can be pithy when the proposition is truly novel.

Economy: Small Names, Big Ideas
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Huge changes to entertainment came from these four devices with names as compact as their dimensions. Roku means ‘six’ in Japanese and was chosen because it’s the sixth company that its CEO was engaged in starting. The meaning hardly matters when the form and function tell us that this device is different from anything else on the market. However, the name’s effortlessness, length, syllable patterning, and pronunciation all work in perfect harmony to position a product that is simply, intuitively, and efficiently designed.

Wii is another one of those short, sweet names that invites speculation and garners consumer interest: do the two “i’s” stand for people sitting together, gaming? Does the name refer to its English sound-alike “we”? Is the name a corruption of the spelling of the onomatopoeia “wee”? Regardless, its buoyant nature makes it feel meaningfully different than the harsh sounds of Xbox and PlayStation – which helps support its differentiated proposition.

TiVo merely says “TV” with some an full “o” sound; and the near-blandness of the word iPod almost seems like an undersell for a device that all of a sudden put a 1,000 of your favorite songs in your pocket. The lesson is that the name does not have to communicate such grand meaning, as long as it feels different and the product that comes in tow is meaningfully different, too.

Metaphorically Speaking
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As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. But sometimes it’s enough just to suggest a picture. All of these names take us on an excursion from the bland and predictable by associating a product with an image that seemingly lacks any logical connection—and yet that stimulates and rewards our imagination. Better still, this technique helps us remember the names, as we know from popular memory-training exercises that pair an unexpected image with the thing to be remembered

Two of these names are based on physical resemblances. The BlackBerry has little black buttons shaped like the drupelets of the fruit, and the Brownie is a playful nod to the vivid and whimsical cartoons of Palmer Cox. The way Rift deals with the cutthroat gaming console market is to announce a complete break with the competition. The Nest collapses two images—comfort and home—into one.

These metaphors are original yet accessible, and they don’t exhaust what these winning names communicate. Every word has unique powers of suggestion. Kindle sounds thin and light—due to its particular consonants and vowels as well as to the ending it shares with spindle. BlackBerry sounds friendly. Rift sounds quick and strong.

These gadgets display inventiveness on the part of their creators and enable inventiveness on the part of their users. But the ultimate invention is language itself. Having evolved over eons, it’s equipped with unlimited subtlety and power. Language is totally up to communicating what’s great about a product, even a product the likes of which we’ve never seen before.

-Will Leben and Michael Quinn

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Pepsi’s Spire: Branding and Design Go Hand In Hand

In Brand Naming on May 20, 2015 at 12:58 pm

An Unexpected Brand Experience

Milan is synonymous with high design. A mere mention of the iconic Italian city instantly conjures up visions of haute couture from the most revered names in fashion. But a lot of the ooh’s and ahh’s from Milan’s Design Week came not from gowns and glitter, but from the clean lines and minimalist-chic aesthetic of PepsiCo’s new soda fountain.

Second to the market, after Coke’s Freestyle, but arguably first in class, this wonderfully designed machine elevates the soda fountain from a mere commodity. And that’s because PepsiCo boldly decided it’s not just about dispensing a flavored beverage into a cup anymore – there’s a larger brand narrative to be told. And to communicate this bigger, richer experience, PepsiCo invested in design, engineering, and an innovative name developed in partnership with Lexicon: Spire.

PepsiCo was intent on differentiating their offering from the clunky Freestyle machine. That’s why it opted for an elegant and modern look; a clever, intuitive user interface; and mixing intelligence – vetted by food scientists – that can deliver 1,000 flavor combinations (compared to Coke’s 140). That’s also why they opted for an unexpected and brazen brand name.

Getting the Brand Right

Mauro Procini, the Chief Design Officer behind this project, put it best: “Good design is when you’re able to surprise people.” The same can be said for branding. When tech companies were using alphanumerics to talk about microprocessors, Lexicon helped Intel develop the new ingredient-technology brand, Pentium. When car manufacturers were looking to the American West to communicate ruggedness in SUVs, the Sausalito-based specialists named the Outback for Subaru, a locale far from the States. And when music-streaming services were going for playful, coined solutions, the branding strategists delivered the elegant real word, Tidal.

So when PepsiCo approached Lexicon, the goal was not only to outperform Freestyle, it was also to help communicate the newness of the fountain machine. Looking at its distinct visual and functional attributes– from its stately form to its ability to turn consumers into soda mixologists –the creative teams at Lexicon converged on a name that was equal parts well-composed, lean, and transformative. Spire is a real word with Old English origins that refers to the top of a tower – and also a word that seemingly doesn’t belong in the food and beverage category.

Instead of locking the machine into one experience – à la Freestyle – this expansive name allows for the consumer to imagine what the experience could be. Consumers in Lexicon’s proprietary naming research made the more obvious connection between the long, lean design of the fountain and that of a tower. But they also made connections to inspire, which is perfectly fitting since this device is all about putting your imagination to work and creating a beverage that is distinctly yours. They even made connections to liquid-related terms like spew, spout, and splash. The phonetics of the name also resonated with the target audience; the alive, highly energetic consonants signaled a fun, engaging machine.

After this research, which illuminated the richness of the name, both parties concluded that Spire could deliver on this grander brand experience. Said another way, it was a name that supports “a meaningful, relevant story for consumers,” which was the guiding design principle behind this whole initiative.

– Will Leben and Michael Quinn

How iPad is Naming the Game

In Branding, Business, High Technology, Naming, Trademarks on January 20, 2011 at 1:55 pm

Lots of pundits took their potshots at the iPad as it was first coming to market in early last year, with even video sketches on YouTube mocking the name as some kind of hightech version of a feminine hygiene product. Now, a year later, with Apple reportedly having sold 15 million of the devices, no one’s laughing — at either the product or the name. The high technology industry as a whole, instead, is realizing that Apple’s not just changing the game of what was perceived as pretty much a niche market, but they’re in the process of renaming the game.

For the past few years, since tech companies have been R&D’ing the future of the computer, there’s been a lot of focus on tablets. Microsoft’s been yapping about one for years. As has HP, Samsung, Dell and anyone else with a dog in the fight. Everyone’s been gearing up but — as is often the case with emerging technologies — none of the big leaguers wanted to be the first to go all in. But one thing was “for sure”: The new form factor was going to be called, generically, a tablet.

Then came Apple.

And they were not just making a leap in technology, but one in category as well.

They’d already established a readily i-dentified beachhead, brandwise, with the iMac, iPod and iPhone lines. These device brands traded on a couple of equities. The first was Apple’s successful transmogrification of the baseline devices — PCs became Macs (by way of Macintosh), MP3 players were now pods, and the cellular telephone smartened into simply phones. The second, subtler point was the practice of tagging that initial — and lower case — i to the front end of a single syllable word.

It doesn’t take an experienced branding person to figure out that the hypothetical iTablet name that was floating around pre-announcement would not be the name of the new device. Given Apple’s naming heritage, they would either pioneer something new — as they did with pod — or else co-opt something relevant yet unexpected. The only thing keeping anyone brand-savvy from laying down even odds on pad being the way they were going to go was not its association to menstrual pads but its similarity to their already popular iPod line.

Confusion in the marketplace is what you want to avoid, and that one was clear to see. On the other hand, while certainly humorous, no one was going to confuse a product from the tech category with a generic descriptor for feminine hygiene products relegated to a very specific aisle at the supermarket or drug store.

From a head-to-head standpoint, as it turns out, pad has it all over tablet in terms of public usage. According to Google’s (relatively) new Ngram Viewer, the usage frequency of “tablet” has been somewhat stable over the past 200 years (with a surge from roughly 1870 to 1930), whereas “pad” has been on a more or less steady rise since around 1840. “Pad” overtook “tablet” in the late 1930s. (Of course, since “pad” and “tablet” each have a variety of meanings, it’s difficult to determine exactly which meanings were used more frequently when.)

Google’s Ngram shows “pad” vs “tablet” frequency of usage

Then there’s always Apple casual vs. Microsoft formal. Calling the products in question “pads” conveys a much more casual, friendly, and even playful tone. A “tablet”, on the other hand, comes across as a bit more formal, technical, or more refined.

The war of words isn’t over yet, with most major high-tech heavyweights still gearing up to come to what is obviously a much more robust market than anticipated. (In a recent TechCrunch article it was revealed that even Apple fanboy bloggers undershot the mark by at least half when it came to predicting iPad sales.) “Tablet”, though unlikely, may yet win the day. Even if it does, usage will surely affect the reactions we have to the word — “tablet” may soon sound just as casual and friendly as does “pad”.

— Lexicon Branding