Technology brands are not often good in coming up with their product names. They also tend to focus more on building the best products and put much more emphasis in communicating what the products or services do, from a functional point of view, rather than going for the conceptual or creative approaches.
This is even more so if the technology startup brand is an innovative concept. Conveying the functional side of the product will deem to be more crucial at the early stage of the brand development.
GoToMeeting, Box, WeChat, YouSendIt, Summly…YouNameIt.
These many not be the coolest brand names but they did exactly what the startups need to achieve, especially in an increasingly cluttered marketplace.
There are no one-size-fits-all guide in building a technology brand, but we can certainly learn from the journeys that some of the brands had gone through.
Sometimes, certain names did catch on even though they set out to focus on communicating the functional side. Skype derived their name by cleverly condensing the meaning of ‘Sky Peer to Peer’. The brand Skype is easy to pronounce, with potential of leveraging on the images of ‘sky’ in both messaging and design (the cloud graphics). Nowadays, the brand name has become a verb – ‘Skype me’, as we say. It’s also fair to say that it has travelled well internationally.
YouSendIt, the cloud storage service, has just announced that its name has changed to Hightail. This is to signal the new vision as led by the new CEO Brad Garlinghouse. In his official announcement on their blog, he comments that the new identity represents the current breadth of their services and also marks the fundamental changes that have happened at the company since he took over as CEO just over a year ago. The move is hardly surprising. The name ‘YouSendIt’ will indeed be very confining, and does not carry the connotation that appeals to their core professional users.
WeChat, the mobile text and voice messaging communication service developed by Tencent in China, first released in January 2011. The original name of the app ‘WeiXin’ (微信) literally means ‘micro messaging’. It had grown from 4-5 million users in 2011 to over 100 million by 2012. The growth was phenomenal and hence the ambition to go global. Quickly in response to that, they rebranded as WeChat for the international market in April 2012. This move allowed the international audience to get what the product is quickly, sharing the same universal language. WeChat is a true big global brand in the making, but will they re-define their product in the future and will ‘chat’ start to become a limitation? Time will tell.
So what are the guiding principles when developing a tech brand? Here I share with you some of my thoughts:
Define your brand early: Tech startups need to be as crisp as possible in defining what their point of difference is because they’re entering a very cluttered marketplace. They should also take full advantage of being starting from a blank canvas and refine their brand early. I also argue that sometimes it should start with a brand before developing the product. Once you have identified what people really needs, everything will flow into place.
Be world-ready: From the brand name to the representation and various interpretations of the brand, embrace diversity and have a world-view on what the identity means to people in different cultures. A brand name needs to have the capacity to endure velocity of the marketplace and the swift changes in people’s needs. Do it with foresight, not hindsight.
Which tech brands do you think have got their branding done right? What are the differences between branding for tech startups versus other products and services? I like to hear your thoughts.