Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me (much)

I was walking down Oxford Street and struck by how the LG Chocolate stuck out from the rest of the phone models in phone shops that seem to have sprung up like weeds right along the road from Regent Street to Tottenham Court Road tube.I am not a number, I am a free man

Whilst I am sure that LG would assure me that Chocolate is the cats meow, and I am sure that they have bought prominent placement with discounts and shelf space payola, I think that it stands out cleverly because of its name.

Motorola has played at this with the SLVR, RAZR and PEBL; an ironic take on text-speak and talking about the tactile properties of their phone. LG with its challenger status as a mobile handset manufacturer can afford to be daring and has gone much further.

Chocolate implies:

  • A certain size and is an interesting (maybe unintentional) reference to the way customers used to describe the Sony CMH 333 a decade before and the industry term of ‘candy bar’ to describe the classic Nokia form-factor of the late 1990’s and early 2K’s
  • An affordable luxury or indulgence providing the product with a certain cache
  • Implies the easy-to-hand convenience that a mobile phone provides to on-the-go lives, which the role chocolate plays for them as food

Product naming is a tricky and lucrative business with people who advocate numbering pointing out the success of BMW. Numbers also prevent arguments based around subjective criteria that everyone who can be bothered getting involved has an opinion about; I launched a web-based product where senior management changed the name of the product 72 hours before launch.

Bringing a consultant, usually a move to get around the internal choke points outlined often just makes the whole thing worse as the Royal Mail / Consignia debacle proved.

However for every BMW there is a 100 companies that you know the company name but the products themselves don’t have a distinctive brand personality (the Sony CMH 333-example being a case in point). Only my most nerdy friends would be able to tell you what model number of Motorola StarTac phone they had, but they remember that they had a StarTac, I bet it will be the same way with the RAZR.

I remember when I was working on the launch of the Palm m100, Palm’s entry-level PDA designed for college students and first-jobbers; its project codename was Kelvin.

We hoped that it would launch with this name as Kelvin gave it a personality that matched what the product wanted to be.

Eventually the company adopted what are to my mind bland and meaningless range names: Tungsten and Zire and then inherited Treo from the Handspring acquisition; but what do these names mean to the average consumer?

If you want to continue the debate on names or numbers, free free to leave a comment below.