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Etymology: Keeping Up with Tech Naming

Posted by: Fell Gray on July 26, 2013

eBay's Transformation

From the E to the I to the M: Keeping Up with Tech Naming

With the impending Internet of Things changing conversations across industries, many organizations are focused on developing their first “connected” products. From cars to door knobs, just about everyone is exploring how Wi-Fi or cellular capabilities will provide a higher order of value to their customers.

And with these new innovations, brands want to let everyone know they are a part of this new ecosystem. The natural place to start is naming. But that’s where brands need to be careful.

This is the third time in 15 years a new technology, or technology trend, has reached a large enough scale to disrupt non-tech categories. Each time, names have gravitated to a kind of shorthand. First came the e-names and then the Apple-inspired i-names. So it’s not surprising that we are hearing about m-names as mobile (or M2M) technology is integrated.

The challenge with adopting the latest tech trends in your naming approach is the speed of tech adoption. In a year or two, innovation will more than likely be recast as tablestakes—and your name might not hold up to changing expectations.

Then, Then Again, Now

Names that signal the technology can be a viable strategy. When technology takes on a new role, consumers need to change their behavior. And so, first-to-market names need to help with the heavy lifting of customer education. A good example: IBM. With e-business, IBM picked a name (and message) that would reassure their customers it would still be “business as usual,” just with the added efficiencies of being managed electronically.

Here’s the risk: as fast followers join with similar capabilities and take on the same naming convention, your name will get lost in a sea of sameness. To see where you might be a few years down the road, one only needs to look at the names that were prevalent at CES 2013—ipotty, isockets, iWatch Life, Energi .

Mobile, connected, smart—these kinds of words will not help brands differentiate themselves from one another for long. So, as you consider what your name can credibly claim today, be certain to stretch beyond today’s functionality. It will help you to stay ahead of the curve and connect with tomorrow’s demand.

This week's guest author, Fell Gray, is Senior Director of Verbal Identity for Interbrand New York. She is also the practice leader for Brand Voice.

Category: Etymology

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