Archive for January, 2009

If You’re a Regulator, Your Regulatee Is Not Your Customer

January 12, 2009

I’ve blogged time and again about the danger of using the popular oversimplification “internal customer.” Follow either of those links if you want, but the gist is this: your customer pays you money and you have a responsibility to provide value in return.

OK, the flow of money and value is not always easy to follow. I get that. And I am a free marketeer whenever that can be achieved without unreasonably compromising the public interest, so I get that we need to keep those troubled airlines flying and on a path to profitability.

But I don’t get this. Evidently FAA regulators have considered the airlines they regulate to be their “customer.” Coffee, tea or relaxed regulation?

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By Any Other Product Name

January 12, 2009

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We went through a small naming exercise at the new gig last week and it went smoothly. I was slightly surprised. Naming products ought to be fun and easy. Sometimes it is. But why is it sometimes like a root canal?

If you’re like most marketers, you’re tempted to say “because everyone gets involved instead of standing back and letting the marketers work their magic.” If so, you’re wrong. I’m not offended when people (marketers or otherwise) bring opinions to the table about anything. You’d think metrics, for example, would be cut and dried – but people have a host of opinions about why we hit or missed the lead goal. That healthy discussion is how things get done.

The reason we marketers don’t like naming discussions is because our opinions on naming are rarely any better or more informed than anyone else’s. It’s fun to be the marketing guru holding court on how the recent change to Google algorithms affected traffic. It’s much less fun to be on equal footing as people trash the naming idea you thought was really cuil. C’mon, it’s pronounced ‘cool’ and means ‘knowledge’ in Ireland. Don’t you people get it?

Thing is, cuil really wasn’t a bad name…if they had traction. Google wasn’t inherently a great name for a search engine. It’s a great name now because you know it. My friends from Apple tell me that the name iPod was not well received internally at first. The cry went up (as it always does)  “The name iPod doesn’t say what it does!” The fact is that most “good” product names are neutral, at best, until the product succeeds in the market.

So your new product name probably won’t be great unless your product is. Work with others (remember, you’re equal to everyone else in this endeavor) to generate a long list, and then put the candidates through the following tests:

  • Does the name work in all relevant contexts? Pen Island was great for a custom pen seller – until they went online. I don’t care how great the product is, I am NOT going to that url
  • Is there potential for confusion? This is most likely to happen with things that seem obvious internally but aren’t well known to external audiences – in the case of last week’s discussion, a number as part of the name that could have been confused with a version number
  • How does it test with a target group? Find a few people who fit the customer profile and run it by them. Don’t ask your mom unless she is part of the target market. I trust my mom’s advice on many things, but she doesn’t buy network management software, so I’ll go to my geek friends instead

Name it, don’t sweat it. Launch it. Market it. Google, Apple and Amazon took decent naming choices and made them great in the marketplace.

Photo by ViaMoi