The Mind-Numbing Tedium of Product Names, Taglines and Conference Themes

jmsb@johnsanfilippo.com

www.johnsanfilippo.com

I’ve been blessed with the ability to write high-quality case studies, brochures, white papers and other lengthy marketing documents with relative ease. No, I can’t churn them out as quickly as Kim Kardashian can churn out selfies or Kanye Kardashian can churn out stupid comments, but I am reasonably proficient.

Which projects give me the most fits? Oddly enough, it’s the ones that involve the fewest words. I’m talking about things like product names, taglines and conference themes. If you’ve ever been in a position to come up with one of these, you know how frustrating it can be.

Product names are especially problematic. Sure, the name you choose will probably not move the sales needle – unless you choose something really stupid. But beyond having to come up with a reasonably good name, you have to come up with an original name – at least if you want to avoid trademark trouble down the road.

One shortcut to product naming nirvana is to make up a word. For example, I firmly believe that Google is the greatest product name ever. Since it’s a made-up word, it was certainly easy to trademark. Plus, it has the added advantage – and a very important advantage, IMHO – of working great as a verb. Today if you don’t know something, you Google it. It even sounds fun. I honestly believe that’s one of the reasons Google has been able to maintain its search edge over Microsoft. Really, who wants to Bing anything? I know I don’t.

In any event, trademarkability should be your primary concern when naming a new product. The United States Patent and Trademark Office provides a plethora of useful information on the topic. You can find it all by clicking here.

Naming add-on modules, on the other hand, is quite easy – as long as you follow the Really Big Chicken Sandwich Principle. Never heard of it? Click here and start paying attention when the video hits the 30-second mark. The lesson: Just call it what it is. For example, when Symitar developed a tapeless backup solution, I named it Episys Vaulting. Simple.

You can find plenty of advice online on how to develop a good tagline. Forbes provides such advice here and Inc. provides more here. If you need more than that, go ahead and Google it. (I wouldn’t recommend Binging it.) If you want to skip all that reading, I believe that it can all be reduced to this: Choose a tagline that speaks directly to your value proposition. For example, when I was at Bluepoint Solutions, I came up with Powering the Paperless Credit Union. I still like that one.

Of course, for every rule, there are a million violations. Avis Car Rental has gotten plenty of mileage out of “We Try Harder.” I think that’s one of the weakest taglines ever, but Avis made it work. Go figure.

Every year, I dreaded coming up with a theme for the Symitar conference. And every year, I thus pled my case to the powers that be for a themeless conference. And then one year, it happened. We got rid of conference themes for good.

Guess what. With that burden lifted from my shoulders, I realized just how important a conference theme can be! That’s right. I got what I wanted – and then decided I didn’t want it after all.

What I realized is that a conference theme –even if it’s a theme that’s repeated from year to year – provides a framework upon which you can build your user experience. The conference theme, corny though it may be, guides the attendee journey and allows you to reinforce your brand by reinforcing that theme. Bottom line: I know it’s torturous, but don’t skimp on the conference theme.

That is all.

#productnaming #taglines #conferences

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Email me at jmsb@johnsanfilippo.com

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© 2015 by John F. San Filippo

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