Marketing 101: Where Silly Product Names Come From or Your Worst Nightmares Confirmed...
Last updated: 6/16/2002; 10:21:39 AM
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Marketing 101: Where Silly Product Names Come From or Your Worst Nightmares Confirmed...

[Note – This memory crawled up into my conscious brain during
this morning's shower.  It's damn amusing.  And it's 100% true.  I was there.]

Most of my readers are technical folk.  This article will, without question, tell them that their worst fears about marketing folk are, actually, true – in about 90% of the cases (hey, I'm kind of a marketing person).  Here's the situation:

  1. In a board room far, far away, in a publicly traded company that's no longer in business, I sat in a 2 - 3 hour discussion of a new product and it's name.
  2. Present were:
    • Me as an advisor
    • CEO / Founder / Chairman
    • VP of Marketing Services
    • VP of Public Relations
    • Product Manager
    • Product Marketing Manager
  3. The product in question was a highly sophisticated electronic publishing tool really for making CDs but with some features for Internet publishing and LAN publishing.
  4. Names ranged from the creative to the functional.
    • A creative name for this might be "Zandar" or "MaxPub" i.e. a name without a real tie to what the product does.  This type of name can ultimately build a stronger brand but is hard to establish.
    • A functional name for this product might be "Electronic Publishing System" or "Insert_Company_Name_Here Electronic Publishing System".  Functional names are boring but clear for customers (and that's good).
  5. After a long, long time the following situation and conversation occurred:

The CEO didn't really like any of the names.  The VP of Public Relations said "It's an electronic publishing system.  Why don't we add Management to the name.  That always makes things sound like they can sell for more money."  And, so, a new product name was born:


Electronic Publishing Management System**

Two obvious problems:

  1. The product didn't really have what our customers viewed as management features.  In the context of the document world, "management" really means check in / check out / access control / accounting for documents.  This product really had none of this.  This forced our sales force into "spin doctor mode".  And, if you've ever had an aggressive sales force, you know where this leads: Telling customers what they want to hear.  Sales folk generally get their commissions when the sale is closed – so they have an incentive to cheat the system (they can quit before the customer realizes what they bought).
  2. EPMS?  Enhanced PMS?  Anyone else out there get this?  I thought it was funny as hell.



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