The critical art of mobile branding

The critical art of mobile branding

Summary: Choosing the right brand for a mobile device can make all the difference in gaining the attention of a market being bombarded by many such gadgets.

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TOPICS: Mobility
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We are a society of consumers, and sometimes it seems we go out of our way to find the next doodad to buy. In the mobile space this is particularly noticeable, as the latest and greatest often makes the "must buy" list for many. As fascinated as we are with mobile gadgets, we are drawn to those with good branding. Choosing a brand/model name is vitally important to the producers of gadgets in the crowded mobile space.

The objective of choosing a name for a gadget is three-fold: make it appeal to the mass market, have it convey a broad idea what the product can do, and extend an existing line of products if they exist. The first in the list is the most important, as an unappealing product name becomes an obstacle of the company's own creation. Remember the Kin? It was a product name that didn't resonate with anyone. Unfortunately for Microsoft the phones had a name that matched the product too well.

When you think of the art of branding, Apple always comes to mind. While the spread of iDevices is often fodder for jokes, that simple letter in front of any name firmly identifies the product as Apple's. The brand is widely recognized across the board, whether referring to the iPod, iPad, iPhone, or iMac. Simple, yet brilliantly conceived and evolved over time with new products. Heck, iDevice is even noted in Wikipedia.

Another successful brand is the ThinkPad brand, originally the product of IBM and now belonging to Lenovo. While this brand doesn't follow the guideline to convey what the product does (laptop), it does conjure up the image of a pad-shaped device for people that think. This has worked well as the line has always been firmly aimed at the buttoned-down enterprise market, but the brand implies the products push it outside the box.

Where Lenovo falls short is in the actual product names. The ThinkPad X220t is unique, but it's not exactly catchy. The company gets by with such staid product names due to the enterprise nature of the line. Products that are consumer focused wouldn't do so well with pure model numbers as identifiers.

We see a lot of companies in the mobile space that try to put too much information in product names. Smartphones are small gadgets, getting smaller all the time, but that's not always the case when it comes to device names. It may fit in your pocket, but the Samsung Galaxy S Epic Touch 4G is a mouthful to get out.

You might use that little phone with the big name alongside your Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, or its smaller sibling the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9. While its clear what Samsung is doing with these tablet names, they don't incite any brand excitement. A short, snappy name would go much further to capturing consumer attention.

Another great example of an artistic brand comes from Amazon. When the original Kindle eReader was released, many ridiculed or questioned the product name as too abstract. Now the Kindle brand has global recognition, most recently expanded with the Kindle Fire tablet. The brand firmly represents Amazon and ebook readers, and that is as it should be.

There are lots of mobile devices that have names that don't do the maker any favors. The intention here is not to pick on these few, rather to use them as examples. Branding is important to help a product gain market attention, and should be approached with that in mind.

Topic: Mobility

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4 comments
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  • "We are a society of consumers"

    Man is born free but is everywhere in chain stores...
    jorwell
  • Better than Atrix

    I think one of the better examples is the Asus Transformer. In spite of the fact that virtually every tablet offering -- including the iPad -- has some sort of keyboard or keyboard/docking accessory, Asus has managed to con a bunch of people into thinking they have a unique concept there.
    Robert Hahn
  • RE: The critical art of mobile branding

    IBM (now Lenovo) has always been tone-deaf about marketing. Remember that great "butterfly" keyboard laptop they had way back when ... rather than call it the "Thinkpad Butterfly", they called it the "Thinkpad 701".
    chapelhillice
    • Too expansive to check

      I've seen that issue from the inside. Big companies that sell stuff worldwide are wary of cutesy names for several reasons, the biggest being the expense of making sure you won't infringe somebody else's trademark in any of the countries where you do business. Plain vanilla model numbers make that issue go away.

      Then there's the issue that the cutesy name that plays so well in the English-speaking countries means "kills your grandmother" in five other countries. (Like the Chevy Nova. "No va" in Spanish means it doesn't go... not a good name for a car).
      Robert Hahn