What’s in a name?

Dec. 1, 2004
I was recently thumbing through an industrial catalog when several items caught my attention

I was recently thumbing through an industrial catalog when several items caught my attention. It wasn’t the products themselves that attracted me. It was their names: Everest, Baja, Sahara, Peak, Falcon, and Genesis. Now that sounds like a line-up of macho SUVs or screaming four-wheelers. The reality is that these are just various models of safety glasses, but they sure look stylish on an order form.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that marketing, branding, and image affects everyone, even the most analytical of us. And it’s found everywhere, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Think of the people who will order and/or wear those eye protectors. The colorful names will make the experience more satisfying — deny it if you want, but it’s true — than if the glasses had dull names like SGM-6021 or XTD-373. It’s also possible the items in question really are special, in which case the flashy names may help shoppers notice what they might have overlooked.

Compelled by my discovery, I sought out other examples of creative product naming. Some are presented here in the hope they’ll stir your imagination and help you design better products. Oh yes — coming up with a strong name at the outset of product development can be quite helpful in the design phase. In fact, inventor Ray Kurzweil says the first step in the invention process is to write the advertising brochure. Products, after all, are just the physical representation of thoughts and ideas tuned to market needs. So let’s scan the horizons of product space for those sparks of inspiration.

We begin with a pair of industrial-strength markers made by Sanford. One is called Mean Streak, the other Magnum 44. Judging by their names, these guys aren’t afraid of anything. Oily metal surfaces, wood, glass, brick — bring ‘em on. Mean Streak and Magnum are also the names of two roller coasters at Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio. Other coasters in the park that live up to their wild names include Top Thrill Dragster, Wicked Twister, Millennium Force, Power Tower, Raptor, Iron Dragon, and Blue Streak.

This next example is a bit more tame, coming from the business side of retail selling. Little do consumers realize that the shopping bags they carry home are as tastefully named as the items inside. One manufacturer of flatbottom bags offers shop owners such size alternatives as Rose, Cub, Debbie, Traveler, Vogue, and Queen. And they probably don’t cost that much more than small, medium, and large.

For the remaining examples, I’ll give the names first, then the products. Sort of Q-and-A format. See how many you can guess correctly.

— Larry Berardinis
[email protected]

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