A good product name should be a unique identifier that evokes a sense of purpose. A great product name should mean something too. There are a ton of great product names out there, Windows is up there. It’s a graphical operating system that uses windows to convey information. Simple, effective, memorable. How about the Logi Dock? It’s Logitech’s Dock — perfect. It seems effortless for certain brands to crank these out, so why are others struggling?
Admittedly, coming up with a good product name isn’t exactly easy. Even the best of minds can struggle at times. For example, when explaining his brand’s pilfering of the alphabet’s ninth entrant, the original Apple Genius, Steve Jobs, once said it stands for “'Internet, individual, instruct, inform and inspire.” Thankfully, somebody in the room was paying attention and pointed out: “That’s four too many I’s, Steve. Nobody is buying the iiiiiPhone.”
Just because it’s hard, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. There’s an ever-increasing apathy toward product nomenclature, and, quite frankly, it’s starting to boil my piss. Whenever somebody asks me what I’m reviewing this week my mind goes blank and I’m suddenly awash in a jumble of letters, port options, and a range of nouns with sinister implications.
It’s like being consumed by a thousand intrusive thoughts and then developing dyslexia and vowel blindness. All I can do is reach out for whatever vague mess is in front of me and hope for the best. Apparently, the Anker TK56 UDS Bone Saw USB-C Killer Extreme 40Gbps Docking Station YY3 doesn’t exist. Yet.
I have three major pet peeves when it comes to product names, and I feel like I’m encountering them more than ever as of late. As such, I’ve been getting a little more hot under the collar about them than I normally would do, and considering how much therapy costs, I’ve instead decided to share my frustrations with you, dear reader. So here are my three major gripes with the lazy, uninspired world of modern product names.
1. Model number ≠ product name
Certain manufacturers seem to be embroiled in a never-ending competition over whose product can score highest when played out on a Scrabble board. It’s either that or they’re actually having really good ideas, but the person transcribing these meetings is doing so on a circa-2016 MacBook Pro butterfly keyboard — having not been able to successfully type a complete word for the last seven years they’ve likely completely forgotten what one is.
The end result is something like the KW X ULP. A product that sounds like it was named after the shake of a Boggle box. Big shout out to the team at Hasbro for helping name this one. Try guessing what that is by name alone. It’s actually the name of a Cherry wireless keyboard, though it sounds like a Xhosan hiccup, is impossible to recall, and does an otherwise outstanding product a massive disservice.
Hordes of products are buried under this blind jumbling of letters and numbers, doomed to exist in the darkest corners of the internet, only to be unearthed by the Googling of the inebriated. While it might be fun to stumble across a hidden treasure every now and then, you’re then left trying to get people interested in a product whose name looks like a barcode from ancient Rome.
It’s the mark of death for a company to let a product roll out under a name like this. These aren’t the names of hit products, they’re the serial numbers of Terminators — or a billionaire’s child.
2. SEO word salads
These naming conventions reek of a marketing team being called on during a meeting after not having done their homework. Drenched in brow sweat and adopting a say-what-you-see approach, they prattle off a bunch of SEO keywords they’ve memorized and hope for the best. And, having not done their homework either, in an attempt to save face, the product managers will praise this word salad as avant-garde and give the go-ahead.
That’s how you end up with winding and meandering names of products like the Plugable Thunderbolt 4 & USB4 Quad Display Docking Station With 98W Charging. That’s an actual product name. Or I should say, it’s meant to be. Because it’s less of a product name and more of a poorly constructed run-on sentence. Hold a little back, Plugable. Save something for the second date, at least.
I’m sure it does gangbusters in search results on Amazon, but it’s not exactly the easiest of product names to regurgitate 30 times over during a review. And try slipping it casually into conversation, you'll sound like an axe-wielding Patrick Bateman riffing about Huey Lewis and the News. However, I'll also confess that casually bringing up any docking station in conversation will have much the same effect.
In ‘23, Plugable released this; Thunderbolt 4 & USB4 Quad Display Docking Station With 98W Charging, their most accomplished docking station. I think their undisputed masterpiece is the UDS-7IN1. A dock so underrated, most people probably don't even know it exists. But they should, because it's not just about charging your iPad and the importance of port selection. It's also a personal statement about the brand itself.
After trying to source other ideas on how to avoid repeating such a title and popping up on everyone's psychopath radar, the best I got back was this: “The product number will do.”
Ffffffffffffffffffffffffff… (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻
3. "Our products are XTREME!"
Sabre, Viper, Scimitar… Yeah! Extreme! Give it a rest, gents. It’s a mouse. The efforts of manufacturers to name their products after vicious weapons or dangerous animals does little but leave a terrible stench in the air for me. The stench of Mountain Dew and Doritos.
I’ll give this type of product name some credit at least. After all, there is at least some effort being made to place an actual word or two in there. But with everyone competing to have the edgiest and most extreme name on the block they all begin to blur into one another. Is it Razer who makes the Buzz Saw Hell Wrench Gaming Mouse or is it MSI? I can never recall.
Of course, adding to my inability to remember these uber-extreme names is the fact that it’s scientifically impossible to look at their titles when your eyes have rolled toward the back of your skull from how cringe they can be. To me, something like the Razer Blade 14 is ideal. I’m aware of the brand, the size of the laptop, and its name implies something cutting edge. It’s perfect.
So why would the same brand then go on to christen something the Razer BlackWidow V4 Pro? Allow me a moment to reel my eyes back into their frontal position so I can continue. What exactly is this name supposed to convey? Is it poisonous? Will it give you the ability to type like a creature with eight appendages? If so, I hate to break it to you Razer but that’s two fewer appendages than my hands started with.
Either this keyboard is about to copulate with me and eat my skull, or you’re implying Scarlet Johansson is resting beneath my fingertips — a scenario which would also imply the FBI is about to break down the door and take me into custody. Neither one of which I’m very excited to experience.
So there you have it, three of the most annoying trends in modern product naming. I suppose now I’ve gotten that off my chest I can understand the risks of demanding every product have a name. There are only so many words after all — and if that rule ever came into play Apple would likely use its billions to buy up the remaining ones out of spite.
Still, can we just try a little harder? Any name beats no name, better still if it’s a name and not just a loose list of features, and full marks if it’s not also the name of something that could kill you. It’s a minor gripe, that much is sure. But I can’t be the only one, can I?
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Rael Hornby, potentially influenced by far too many LucasArts titles at an early age, once thought he’d grow up to be a mighty pirate. However, after several interventions with close friends and family members, you’re now much more likely to see his name attached to the bylines of tech articles. While not maintaining a double life as an aspiring writer by day and indie game dev by night, you’ll find him sat in a corner somewhere muttering to himself about microtransactions or hunting down promising indie games on Twitter.