It Costs A Lot To Say Nothing

NEC and Hitachi merged their memory operations. They’re going to call the company and its products Elpida. Just wanted to let you know so you wouldn’t think that high-tech Spanish insects were now in the RAM business.

Companies actually pay big money to people who come up with these non-names, a half-million dollars or more sometimes.


Sure, a bad name can hurt, but do you really need an army of consultants to figure out that you shouldn’t name your new perfume “Vomitia” or your women’s fashion line “Immensa” or your computer products “Shortcircuitron?”

Don’t these companies have one reasonably literate person who could figure out problems like these in ten minutes, if not ten seconds?

Or if they need to be concerned about different languages, can’t they just ask a couple people who speak that language and make sure the name doesn’t mean “we want to rape your dogs” in that language?

Now maybe names are important for what are essentially emotional purchases. You don’t pick one perfume over another based on chemical analysis. Most don’t buy sportswear based on testing in the great outdoors. If you’re buying essentially for mood, a proper product name can help that along.

But computer parts? How many of you ever bought or not bought a computer anything because of the name? And if you did, why?

If you met a stunningly attractive wonderful woman who was crazy about you, and you found out her name was Bertha, would you dump her?

So why do it for anything else?

If This Is All A Game, Then Let’s All Have Fun

These names are supposed to make some sort of impact without saying anything. Isn’t that a contradiction in terms!

There’s nothing wrong with names being meaningless. So is most entertainment. But how much fun have you ever had with a corporate name?

Maybe corporations should leave entertainment to entertainers.

Why don’t they let rock bands name their products? You have to admit they often come up great names for their bands. I’d bet they’d be an improvement.

Better yet, why should consultants have all the fun? Whose product is it, anyway? They just make it; you own it. You name your dog. Name it yourself.

Why not? Think about it. Whom are you ever going to mention the name to? People who know what you are talking about, and those who don’t.

You can’t fool the ones who do with any names. The ones you can are clueless and will believe anything impressive-sounding. So why not have some fun?

“You bought a new computer.”

“Yeah, I bought a machine with an Intel Hyperspace processor and a NVidia Supernova video card.” That sounds just as good as anything the consultants have come up with, and a lot more fun when the dodos go out to the stores and try to find one.

Be careful with video cards, though. Video cards nowadays get names that are synonyms of general acts of mayhem and destruction. Just don’t ever name them after specific acts of mayhem and destruction. “Obliterator” and “Eradicator” are fine. “Final Solution” or “Hiroshima” are not.

Outsourcing Blame

Do you know why companies really do this? They’re outsourcing blame; hiring professional scapegoats.

They’ll take full credit if things go well, of course, but if a product doesn’t do well, it’s much more convenient to blame the name than anything real.

Much easier to point the finger of blame out rather than in. Everybody inside the company can agree on that. But you hired them and agreed with them? Shhhh.

Go out in the cold without a jacket and catch amnesia. If no one remembers, it didn’t happen. Blame someone outside, and we won’t have to get into hand-to-hand combat to blame someone inside the company before we can actually fix the real blunders.

Nor do the consultants really care; they got paid win, lose or draw. Took the money and ran a long time ago. Not like they’re in it for the repeat business.

It’s company cowardice, a lack of corporate cojones.

What I Would Really Like To See

I want to see somebody who’ll make fun of this. Subversive, ironic humor is big nowadays with the younger people who actually recommend, buy and use computer equipment. So why not entertain them?

The next time you name a product that will be used mainly by people who like this sort of thing, give it a subversive, ironic name. Like “Dia Ria.”

You can’t make it too easy, of course. You’ll have to pronounce it “Deea-Reea” to keep the brain-dead that way. To be on the safe side, have an innocuous second name ready for the PowerPoint presentations to the board and ads in the “serious” publications.

But people love being in on an inside joke.

A name like that will get you a whole lot more word of mouth than any consultant’s syllable jumble. An ad campaign would be like shooting fish in a barrel: you’d have to restrain, not strain your brain on that.

Wouldn’t you have a LOT more fun with that name than “Pentium” or “Infineon” or “Agilent?” Wouldn’t you find a company nuts enough to come up with that pretty cool? Wouldn’t you try really hard to buy one just so you could say “I got Dia Ria?”

Of course, the product has to be good, else your initial support will just dribble away, but if you’re desperately trying to spread the word, this might open up a crack in some corporate doors and give you a chance to purge your competition.

What do you think? If you ever saw this, all else being equal, would you be more or less inclined to buy or recommend the product? What do you think the general reaction would be? What ad slogans could you come up with? Tell me

Email Ed

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